The British Longhair is a semi-longhaired version of the British Shorthair, not often seen in the UK nowadays, although it is slowly gaining in popularity. Although the British Longhair originated in this country, it is not recognised by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF), unlike the British Shorthair, meaning that it cannot be shown at GCCF shows. However, it is recognised by The International Cat Association (TICA), gaining full championship status in 2009, and there are now a handful of breeders interested in developing it again in Britain. This breed is more popular elsewhere in the world, being known as the Britannica in most of Europe, and the Lowlander in the Netherlands and the USA.
The history of the British Longhair is quite a complex one and derives from its better-known British shorthaired cousins. The British Shorthair was first developed as a pedigree breed in the 1800s in the UK, having descended from cats brought over by the Romans in the First Century AD being crossed with the existing indigenous European shorthaired cats already living here. The popularity of the British Shorthair as a pedigree cat rose and fell during the twentieth century, although it has gathered great momentum again in the past twenty years or so. In the early days of the British Shorthair (soon after World War 1), they were mated with longhaired breeds of cats imported from overseas. This introduced the longhaired gene, and the longer coated kittens went into the Persian breeding programme, whilst the shorter coated kittens remained as British Shorthairs although the GCCF breeding policy stated that only third generation British Shorthairs with the longhaired gene in their pedigree could be shown. During the period around World War II in the 1940s, many pedigree breeds went into decline, and once again, British Shorthairs were mated to Persians to try and maintain the breed. As a result, longhaired kittens sometimes appeared in litters and resembled the Persians and Angoras of the early twentieth century, today’s Persian having a distinctively different appearance with a shorter head and longer, more flowing, coat. It is interesting to note that the Shorthaired Persian cat, known as an Exotic Shorthair, has a very different type to the British Shorthair, demonstrating that the Persian and the British in both longhaired and shorthaired versions are two completely different breeds now.
The only real difference between the British Longhair and the British Shorthair is in the length of its coat, having the same sturdy, slightly cobby, body and legs, fairly short tail and round head with small widely-spaced ears, together with large round eyes, a short straight nose and short, thick muscular neck. The coat is of medium length, still with the same plush texture as the Shorthair, and again, the colour and range of patterns is one of the most expansive of any breed, including white, black, blue, red, cream, chocolate lilac, tortie and even the newer colours of cinnamon and fawn, with the patterns of self (the same coat colour all over), tabby, tortoiseshell, bicolour, smoke, tipped, and colourpointed. Eye colour varies according to coat colour, and this breed can have deep sapphire blue eyes, deep gold, copper or orange eyes. The British Longhair can weigh as much as 18lb, although the females are generally slightly smaller than the males.
The British Longhair is a very laid-back relaxed cat, often perceived to be very independent although they will enjoy the company of an equally relaxed and likeminded cat. They are an affectionate breed, but very much on their own terms and tend to prefer to choose to come and sit with their owners rather than being picked up. At cat shows they prefer to be placed on the judge’s trolley or table, and breeders often describe them as ‘four feet on the ground’ cats. They are not as demanding as many other breeds, making them ideal pets for people out at work, although they will appreciate the company of another pet if they are to be left alone all day. They are happy and tolerant of the attention of children, who should be encouraged not to pick them up, although lifting a fully-grown British cat would be too strenuous for most small children. Kittens of this breed are naturally playful like all kittens, but once adult, the British Longhair can be quite sedentary, often preferring a snooze rather than having to chase a toy. They are not destructive and do not need to investigate every last cupboard, and are also softly-spoken, just meowing gently to mention that it might be time for another meal!
British Longhair Health
British Longhairs are strong cats, not known to have any breed-specific health problems and many live to a very good age in the mid-teens. As with all other breeds, they need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors.
Caring for a British Longhair
As with other breeds of longhaired and semi-longhaired cats, the British Longhair will need regular grooming to ensure that the dense coat does not become tangled or matted, particularly in autumn and winter when it tends to be fuller. It is recommended that their cats are combed through every day, which will alert owners to any possible problems, with a thorough brushing a couple of times a week, which will also help to reduce the amount of moulting onto furnishings and carpets. This breed will eat most good quality proprietary brands of cat food, but will also enjoy treats of cooked chicken, ham and grated cheese, but not too many extra treats! As they often lead a rather sedentary life style, care must be taken that they do not become overweight, which is especially true of the neutered pets that may not exercise off their calorific intake. It is generally reckoned that they need about 70 calories of food to every Kg of weight per day. Cows’ milk may give them a stomach upset, though less likely than for many other breeds, and a bowl of water should always be available.
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