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People don’t often think of Russia and immediately think of cat breeds. If pushed, most people could think of the Russian Blue, but probably no others. However, there are quite a number of Russian cat breeds, all with interesting and varied histories. Here we take a look at ten of these breeds, some far better known than others.
This breed has been around in Russia for many years, since the 1800s at least. Rumour has it that it was the favoured cat of the Russian Tsars, and it is still considered as a lucky cat in Russia. These lovely cats are short haired and blue-grey in colour, and have what is known as a double coat. Their undercoat is made up of downy, soft hairs and the overcoat is made up of guard hairs that are the same length. Russian Whites, Blacks, and Tabbies have also been created, so that the breed is sometimes known in all its colours as the Russian Shorthair. However, the GCCF lists all colours separately, and the Blue continues to be the most popular and best known. Russian Blues are intelligent, curious, and tranquil cats. But they are also known for being playful and friendly, and have even been caught playing fetch from time to time.
For most of the 20th century, no new cat breeds came out of Russia, where Communist ideology scorned cat breeding. But with the end of Soviet era, things began to change – and the West gained the Siberian, which officially came along in the 1980s. However, this is a natural breed, which has probably been around for centuries. But its true origins are lost in the mists of time, and it was only recently recognised as a formal breed. Some people say it is the ancestor of all long haired breeds across the world, but others would dispute this. It is a semi-longhaired, hardy cat, well suited to the Russian winters, but adapts well to indoor life too.
The Donskoy is a hairless Russian cat which first came along in the 1980s. It was first called the Don Sphynx, giving the false impression that the hairlessness gene it carried was the same as that of the Sphynx, but this has proved not to be the case. FIFe and TICA recognise the breed, but the GCCF does not want any more hairless breeds. As with all hairless breeds, these cats are best kept indoors, must be protected from the sun, and their coats have a tendency to oiliness.
The Peterbald is another hairless Russian cat, which has its origins in the same mutation as the Donskoy. But when a Donskoy was mated with an oriental in 1993, the results were sufficiently different for it to be considered as the start of a new breed. FIFe and TICA recognise the Peterbald, but other registries remain cautious. Outcrosses to Siamese and Orientals are still allowed, in order to increase the gene pool and further develop this new breed.
The Kurilian Bobtail is a natural breed which comes from the Kuril Islands, an archipelago connecting the northernmost point of Japan with the Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia. Ownership of the islands has long been disputed, making the nationality of this breed a political issue, but currently it is a Russian breed. Cats with short tails have long been known in this area, and the bobtail mutation of this breed seems to be the same as that of the Japanese Bobtail. This breed dates from before the 1700s, but the cats were only brought back from the area in the second half of the 20th century. They were first shown in the 1990s, and there are now many breeders in Russia, with a scattering in Europe and a few in North America. FIFe recognised the breed in 2003, and TICA has now begun to register them.
The ToyBob, sometimes known as the Scyth-Toy-Bob, is a small native cat breed of Russian origin, and is recognized by the emerging local cat fancy in Russia. It grows no larger than a three to six month old kitten and may have a bobbed, kinked or corkscrew tail. Despite their miniature size, these cats have solid, compact and muscular bodies. The standard allows for all colours, but the cats are more commonly found in pointed colours. This breed is recognized by all Russian registries and currently in 'Experimental Only' status with TICA. At present there are breeders in the United States, Denmark, England, France and Japan working with the breed.
The Ussuri is a rare native Russian breed of cat that received early recognition from the emerging cat fancy in Russia. It is believed to be a natural feline hybrid between the small wild cats known as Amur Forest Cats (a subspecies of the Asian Leopard Cat) and the pet Siberian and European Shorthair cats of the area. The resulting cat is a muscular, medium-sized cat with a dark striped, spotted or rosetted pattern on a golden-fawn background. The breed has lynx-tufted ears and the tail has a rounded tip.
The Ukrainian Levkoy is a breed of Russian origin. It is produced by crossing the Donskoy hairless cat with the Scottish Fold to create a hairless or velour-furred cat with loosely folded ears. Outlandish as this might sound to some, this breed is recognised by the World Cat Federation (WCF).
The Urals Rex is a native Russian breed of cat that has existed in the Urals region of Russia since the late 1940s. Despite this, it was only recently developed by the emerging cat fancy in Russia. This breed is a medium sized cat with short or medium length curly fur. The breed is recognised by the World Cat Federation (WCF).
The Neva Masquerade is the colourpointed version of the Siberian. This breed occurs naturally in Russia, but the Siberian standard when it was adopted outside of Russia excluded the colourpoint cats, so it is now considered as a separate breed.
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