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Unlike for dogs, there are not all that many breeds of cat which were developed from a combination of two different breeds, forming what are known as 'crossbreed' cats. Usually crossbred cats are considered as moggies, or non-pedigrees. However, several popular and wellknown cat breeds did originate in this manner. Here we will take a look at five of these breeds. All have now been accepted by the GCCF and most of the other cat registries. Note that these crossbreed cats were bred from different domestic cats, and therefore all of them are very different from Hybrid cat breeds, in which a domestic cat was crossed with a wild species of cats, the best known of these being the Bengal.
The Tonkinese is a cross between a Siamese and a Burmese. This breed was a first in the feline world, as it was accepted from the start that due to its genetic make-up it would never breed true. Two mutations of the same gene are responsible for the different points patterns seen in the two breeds, but neither form is dominant over the other. The result is that if a cat carries one copy of each form of the gene – ie it is heterozygous – it will show an intermediate pattern of pointing between the Siamese and the Burmese. The Tonkinese was recognised as a distinct breed in the 1960s, although since it cannot breed true, some people question whether it is a breed at all. However, it accepted by all major registries, and is an attractive, affectionate, and popular cat.
The Burmilla is a cross between a Burmese and a Chinchilla Persian. The original mating between the two breeds was accidental; breeder Miranda Bickford-Smith had bought a Chinchilla Persian which was due to be neutered, but he met a lilac Burmese...and changed the course of cat breed history. The resulting litter of four female kittens had the Burmese type but sparkling silver-shaded coats. Their appearance and temperament were striking enough for the Persian male to be given a second chance with another Burmese, resulting in a male kitten, and a breeding programme followed, outcrossing to Burmese to increase the gene pool. The GCCF recognised the Burmilla, which was originally called the Asian Shaded, in 1989. The Burmilla is considered as part of the Asian group, which includes a large number of other types of cats, all with a similar ancestry. The cats tend to be livelier than the typical Persian, but less attention-seeking than the Burmese. They make easy going and friendly companions with a relaxed outlook on life.
The Exotic is basically a shorthaired Persian, and has the same gentle, quiet personality, but does not require the daily grooming – perhaps the best of both worlds. The breeders who started crossing Persians with American Shorthairs were aiming for a different result, hoping to introduce the silver coat and green eyes of Chinchilla Persians into the American Shorthair. But the face and body that the cross produced were similar to those of the Persian, and by the 1960s it was decided that these crosses should be developed as a new breed. Several other breeds were used in the development of the Exotic, trying to bring the face and body conformation into line with that of the Persian. They are now accepted by most cat registries. Essentially a low maintenance Persian, the Exotic is said to be more active and outgoing than its longhaired cousin, but they are basically very similar and the cat's popularity has increased over the years.
Early Siamese breeders tried to eradicate the white paws that sometimes appeared in their kittens. But in the 1950s, some American breeders began to reverse this trend and create a white-footed Siamese. Their efforts faded into obscurity, but in the 1960s another breeder tried again. Siamese were crossed with American Shorthairs, giving a reliable bi-colour trait, and the Snowshoe was on its way. The early Snowshoes looked similar to Siamese, apart from the white paws. However, modern Siamese have become more slender and elongated, while the Snowshoe has a muscular body due to the American Shorthair ancestry, and now nobody could confuse the two. Most registries have accepted the Snowshoe, although they very as to what colours are allowed. The Snowshoe is a healthy, low-maintenance breed. It has a similar temperament to the Siamese, being playful, outgoing, and gregarious, although their voices are softer than the average Siamese.
The Ocicat was created from a cross between a Siamese and an Abyssinian in the early 1960s. The original aim was to produce Siamese with ticked points. In the second generation the breeder got her hoped-for Aby-pointed Siamese, and also selfs, classic tabbies, tabby points, and one spotted kitten, which her daughter called an Ocicat. This was sold as a pet, but she later repeated the mating, and new breed was underway. Throughout the 1970s the breed was slow to develop, but interest increased, and by the 1980s the Ocicat was recognised in CFA and TICA. It started to spread around the world, and is now recognised by all major registries. The Ocicat has a muscular, powerful build, and of course the distinguishing spotted tabby pattern in its coat. Ocicats are not as wild as they look, preferring to follow their owners around the home; this is definitely a cat which enjoys company.
There are a number of other cats breeds created by crossbreeding. Wellknown ones are the Ragdoll, the Ragamuffin, and the Australian Mist. Sometimes, as in the case of the last of these, more than two breeds are involved, and it can become quite complicated. Indeed, it is not easy to define what is meant by 'breed' in some cases. The usual definition is that they have to breed true, but as stated above, this does not apply to the Tonkinese, or indeed to some 'natural' breeds such as the Manx and Selkirk Rex. But if you want to own one of these cats, that should not really matter.
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