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History Of The Selkirk Rex Cat

The Selkirk Rex is a fairly recently developed breed, the first example of it only having only been found in 1987.  So does it really have a history, you might ask.  Well yes, it does.  It is gradually becoming better known, with many people falling for these chunky, curly coated cats, which are sometimes described as looking like miniature woolly sheep, or as cats which are having a bad hair day.   And its history, despite it having only been around for a little over 30 years, is quite complicated and fascinating.

The Origin of the Selkirk Rex

The kitten which was to become the mother of this new breed was born in the USA in 1987.  She was a little blue, cream, and white kitten, and was born at a pet shelter in Sheridan, Montana.  Unlike all her siblings, this little kitten had a curly coat with random, unstructured waves and curls.  Details of what happened next vary slightly depending on who you ask, but it seems that after several unsuccessful homings, the unusual looking kitten attracted the attention of Livingston resident Jeri Montana, a breeder of Persians.  Jeri decided to adopt the kitten, and, being interested in feline genetics, she bred the it to one of her Persians, Photo Finish of Deekay.  The kitten was given the rather strange name of Miss DePesto of NoFace, apparently after a curly-haired character in an American TV series. 

On July 4th 1988 “Pest”, as she was now generally called owing to her constant demands for attention, gave birth to a litter of six kittens. These included both long and shorthairs, and three of them had Pest's trademark curly coat.  Jeri realised that this was exactly what you would expect if the gene for the coat was dominant, and she decided to explore things further, hoping that this was a new naturally occurring mutation and therefore a new breed of cat.  Further matings showed that the gene did indeed appear to be a new mutation, and that the breed was not related to either the American Wirehair or the Cornish or Devon Rex cats.  Jeri gave the fledgling breed the name 'Selkirk Rex'.  She originally claimed it was named after a mountain range in Wyoming, near to where Pest had been born.  However, it was later pointed out to her that the Selkirk mountains were in fact in Idaho and British Columbia, and she admitted that she had named the breed after a family member!

The Selkirk Rex in the USA

After several years of breeding and showing on exhibition, the Selkirk Rex was admitted to Championship status by TICA in 1994, and it was recognised by the CFA in 2000.  The new breed was unlike any of the other Rex-coated breeds, which all tend to have slender, foreign type body shapes.  The Selkirk Rex, on the other hand, is a large, cobby type of cat, and from the start it appealed to those people who prefer a more cuddly type of cat. The breed was accepted in both long and short haired versions, and in any colour.

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The Selkirk Rex Comes to Europe

As might be expected, after a short time people in other countries began to show an interest in this attractive and unusual new breed.  In 1990, one of Miss DePesto's third litter was sold to someone in Switzerland.  An article about this cat appeared in a French magazine, and the cat  - NoFace Grace Slick - was sold to a breeder in France, thus becoming the foundation queen for the breed in France.  One of her kittens was sold to Germany, and became the foundation queen for the breed in that country.

The Selkirk Rex Comes to the UK

A breeder in Vienna, Christiana Aichner, was responsible for the Selkirk Rex being introduced into the UK.  She allowed three of her Selkirk Rex kittens to come to this country in 2002, to the homes of the three foundation breeders of the Selkirk Rex in the UK, Lisa Peterson, Linda Davison, and Angela Mann.  All three of these imported cats began producing kittens, using the permitted outcrosses – British Shorthair, Persian, and Exotic. 

The Selkirk Rex soon became a regular sight at cat shows in the UK.  From the offspring of the three imported Austrian cats, plus some other imported cats, the small but growing number of Selkirk Rex breeders in the UK were able to gain Preliminary status with the GCCF in 2004.  The number of breeders began to increase, and by 2006 more than 28 breeders in the UK were registered as working with the Selkirk Rex breed.  At the beginning of 2006 the Selkirk Rex Cat Club was formed, with the goal of promoting, developing, and safeguarding the interests of the new breed.

In 2007 the GCCF Council agreed to the elevation of the breed to Provisional Status.  This meant that examples of the breed could now be considered for Best of Breed, Best of Variety, and even Best in Show!  By the end of 2008, Selkirk Rex cats had enough wins to allow their elevation to Championship Status with the GCCF, which they were given on 1st June 2009.  The Selkirk Rex had finally made it!

The Selkirk Rex Today

Since those early days, the popularity of the Selkirk Rex has continued to grow.  They are now found in most countries in Europe, and also in Australia.  Examples of them are found at most cat shows, in both long and short haired versions, and in a myriad of different colours.  They are known to be friendly laid back cats, a lot like both the British Shorthair and the Persian in temperament.  They have few health problems, although those health issues common in British Shorthairs and Persians are possible, since these are still permitted outcrosses.

So if you are looking for an example of an unusual breed, why not consider this cat in sheep's clothing.  If you decide to get a Selkirk Rex, you will never regret it.  Why not have a look at our Selkirk Rex cats for sale section on Pets4Homes.

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