Anyone in the market for a Siamese kitten will often have a
similar experience. You want a Siamese just like the lovely one you had as a
child, or who just passed away at a ripe old age. You go to local breeders, you
look in magazines, you attend cats shows, but what you most often find is a cat
that looks quite different from the large robust cat you remember. By comparison
to the cat you remember, the modern version of the Siamese is emaciated, with
large "bat-like ears," an elongated head and pencil thin legs. You might ask
yourself, "Is this really a Siamese?"
The short answer is 'yes', but this is certainly not the same
type as you remember. Chances are what you recall is a large robust cat with a
roundish head, normal looking ears, and lovely blue eyes. What you remember is now
called a "Traditional Siamese", or "applehead" Siamese, while the one that
dominates the show ring now is known as the "Modern Siamese". You may be wondering about what happened? Well, different breeders
may give you very different explanations, but the truth is clearly available in
any history book.
Siam, mid 1300s:
The original Traditional Siamese dates as far back in history as 1350. They are mentioned in a manuscript from Ayuthia, then the capital of Siam.
Russia, Late 1700s: The first cat of record with Siamese markings appeared on an old
engraving discovered by a Mr. Pallas on his journey into Southern Russia between
1793 and 1794. Another is in the 'Cat-Book of Poems' where drawings of cats of
various colors and patterns (including Siamese, tabby, blue, etc) appeared.
Late 1800s: In spite of these patterns, there is no clear record of Siamese
cats as a breed until the 1800s. It is clearly recorded that, in 1884 the
departing British Consul-General Gould was given a Siamese cat by the Siamese
king as a farewell gift, and considered it as a great honor since the cat came
from those bred in the palace by the royal family. Indeed, many stories exist
(including the stories explaining the characteristic kink in the tail of the early
imported Siamese) indicating an intimate relationship between the royal family
members and their cats. For generations these Royal cats were jealously guarded in the kings Bangkok palace. They believed the cats to be sacred & enshrined the spirits of the dead. If a member of the Royal family died a favorite cat was entombed with them. If it escaped, the priests would know the soul has passed into the cat.
The progeny of this cat given to Consul-General Gould was
exhibited by his sister, Mrs. Lilian (Gould) Velvey at the 17th Crystal Palace
Show in October 1885. These cats were 'Duen Ngai', born March 1885 and 'Kalohom'
and 'Khromata', born July 1885. Photographs of these cats are pictured in
publications of that time and show them to be round-headed, solid and muscular,
without exception. These cats were so extraordinary that they captured immediate
attention. A well-known quote from that time describes them as an "unnatural
nightmare of a cat". However, whatever the initial reaction or impression, the
dog-like intelligence and loyalty, mischievous sense of humor and special charm
of these cats, made them a favorite of British cat fanciers. And in 1902 England
founded its first Siamese cat fancier's club. The first champion, 'Champion
Wankee,' was born in Hong Kong in 1895 and was owned and shown by Mrs. Robinson
in 1898, to much acclaim. Again, a large and robust 'appleheaded' cat, 'Champion
Wankee' makes it clear again that the traditional cat looked nothing like the
modern version shown today.
Early to Mid 1900s: The precise time of arrival in the United States is uncertain.
However, in April 1909, The Siamese Cat Society of America was founded and the
first standard for the Siamese Cat was approved. During the 1950s and 1960s the breed's popularity reached its
peak and Siamese cats appeared in movies & animations such as 'Bell, Book and
Candle', 'That Darn Cat', 'Incredible Journey', and 'Lady and the Tramp', making
the Siamese breed ever more famous. At the same time in Siam, now Thailand, breeding had dwindled to
only a few breeders. A statement written by Mrs. Stephen Dobrenchuk to a
diplomat in Thailand in the 1950s reports that purebred Siamese cats were bred
only by a few wealthy matrons, and the cats were known for their physical
toughness and dog-like intelligence.
Mrs. Dobrenchuk purchased three kittens from a Laotian
Princess married to a Thai diplomat. These cats were large round-headed robust
animals of wonderful intelligence and disposition. She writes that the cats
regularly cleared their back yard in Thailand of cobras, the only difficulty
being that they often dragged their 'trophies' indoors and sometimes they were
not quite dead. Upon returning to the states in the late 1950s, Mrs. Dobrenchuk
bought 3 more kittens, this time registered with C.F.A. She describes them as
still being the same general body type as those being bred in Thailand.
The British queen Victoria (1837-1901) gave a giant boost to the popularity of the pedigreed cat and the Siamese in particular. She adopted a few of the earliest imports herself. Queen Elizabeth II, the present queen, got a sealpoint kitten for her wedding day, which listened to the name of Corsham Royal Boy. Prince Michael of Kent also owned a Siamese cat.
1960 to 1985: It is after this, in the early 60s, that the heavy traditional
Siamese began to lose favor as various breeders and judges began to favor a
longer, thinner body conformation and began to encourage the breed away from the
original robust Siamese, down to its small, thin, modern body type so common
Reasons for this change vary. Some say that the Siamese had
become so popular that kitten prices had dropped and many breeders were
interested in making them more distinct and felt that a longer more exotic look
would make the breed more popular and more valuable. Others say it was simply a
widely held opinion in the fancy that smaller and more refined cats were more
beautiful. Also, the development of various vaccinations for many of the
diseases that had been the common cause of death among cats (distemper, for
example) also allowed for the breeding of less robust individuals who, without
these medical advantages, would not have survived to reproduce in earlier days.
It was probably a combination of all of these factors; but
suffice it to say that the breed standard was rewritten to reflect changing
tastes. Indeed, the original breed standard has regularly been rewritten and
reinterpreted to support the constant shift of the breed to smaller, thinner and
more elongated bodies, even though these cats typically live shorter and less
healthy lives than their traditional ancestors.
Dismayed with the trend, many breeders with cats that had more
robust, yet less popular conformation, were left with the choice of dropping out
of the show ring or selecting their cats for these often more problematic traits
that the judges now preferred. Some breeders simply decided to walk away from
the show ring, choosing to retain the more robust Siamese and continuing
to quietly breed for the companion-cat market. In the 80s & 90s when the modern Siamese were at their peak we had people actually tell us "thats not a Siamese" when looking for a kitten & our kittens were very hard to place at all. We started to even doubt our own cats & actually thought of raising a more modern type Siamese just to make folks happy. Thankfully we did not stop raising our wonderful cats & follow the trend, Now over the years & With the help of the TCA & a handful of dedicated breeders who did not give up, the Traditional Siamese is now finally once again available & in demand.
1986 to Present: By 1986 there were no traditional or "applehead" Siamese being
shown and the modern Siamese was so entrenched that many modern breeders were
actually unaware of the breed's history and held the opinion that the Siamese
had always looked like the modern version, and that traditional Siamese were
cats of inherently inferior quality. Because the Traditional Siamese breeders could not win in the
show ring, many had stopped breeding, switched to a different breed, or had
stopped registering or keeping records on the Siamese they had been breeding. It
was this situation that prompted the formation of the Traditional Cat
Association. Originally named the Traditional Siamese Association and dedicated
to bringing back from near extinction the Traditional Siamese, it was later
opened up to include other traditional breeds suffering from a similar fate to
the Siamese such as the traditional Burmese, Persian, Balinese, Bengal and Himalayan. The
T.C.A. also sponsors its own shows where traditional breeds compete for prizes
just as in the shows that recognize only the modern version of the same breeds.
Today, a growing number of organizations recognize the
traditional Siamese, and other traditional breeds, as a new appreciation
develops for the health and longevity of the original bloodlines. Recent
publications such as Your Purebred Kitten by Michelle Lowell (Henry Holt)
have similarly recognized the true origin of the Siamese cat. The public in
general is also beginning to recognize the need to avoid breeding for an extreme
'look' that, while attractive to some, can have a negative impact on the animal's
health. Already, most of Europe has again recognized the traditional cat and
openly encourages its development, while criticizing the American practice of
breeding to extremes.
The Future: In the future, while there is still a powerful and vocal
opposition, it is likely that American breeders will at some point follow suit,
and both modern and traditional types will be recognized and shown. Though it
may take time, the Traditional Siamese will once again find its place again in
the main show ring because, as many know, it has never lost its place in the
hearts of millions who remember the charm and intelligence of the Traditional
While the Siamese 'Kinked Tail" has become a 'fault' in some shows it should
be noted that in the early shows it was MANDITORY for a Siamese to have a kink
in its tail to be considered a true Siamese. Over time this trait fell from
favor and was bred out of the breed as much as possible. However it is so
imbedded in the genetics that it still appears occasionally in some well bred kittens today. It does not affect the cat's health in any way. So whether
desirable or not, the kinked tail is part of the history of the Siamese as
indicated in the following legends:
It is said that once upon a time there was a Siamese Princess who was
frightened of losing her rings while she bathed in a stream. Looking around for
somewhere convenient to place her jewelry, she noticed that her favorite cat had
crooked his tail for her benefit. She now had a safe place to put her jewelry. Ever since that time all Siamese cats have
been born with a tiny kink at the end of their tails to hold the Princess'
There was once a young cat that took his mate into the jungle to search for a royal
goblet that was missing from one of the Siamese temples. Upon finding the
treasure, they decided that the female should remain in the jungle to guard it
while the male went back to the city to inform the priest of their discovery. So
the little cat took up her position among the leaves and tangled foliage, her
tail twisted around the stem of the goblet to make quite sure that no one would
try to take it away. Four nights later her mate returned to find he was the
father of five sweet little kittens. But, in spite of her new responsibility,
the loyal mother cat had not forgotten her earlier trust. Indeed, so
conscientious had she been in her protection of the goblet that a permanent kink
had developed in the end of her tail. What was more, all five kittens had a
similar kink in their tails !
GRACE OF THE PANTHER, INTELLIGENCE OF THE ELEPHANT, AFFECTION OF THE LOVE-BIRD, BEAUTY OF THE FAWN, SOFTNESS OF DOWN, SWIFTNESS OF LIGHT: Petitioned by a feminine favorite for her pet, an eastern God blended these qualities into the SIAMESE cat. So the legends go...
It is generally known that many of the first Siamese cats had kinks in their tails, still in the bloodlines, we still get them today. CH. Wankee, was the very first UK Champion Siamese, He was a robust, darkly shaded cat with crossed eyes & a kinked tail. Although these traits should all be desired in a true Traditional Siamese, they are now considered faults??? The kinked tail is a well-known phenomenon in Asian cats. Charles Darwin even mentioned this in his writings. These cats can see perfectly well with the crossed eyes & the kink has no adverse affect on the cat what so ever. Personally, as a true Traditional Siamese breeder, I do not believe any of these traits should be considered a fault in an authentic Traditional Siamese. When I get these traits in my kittens, I know I am doing something right to preserve this breed true to its long & distinct heritage! We are very proud to own & raise these wonderful cats! If you find these traits undesirable you'd best look elsewhere just in case!
These pics are of Siamese cats from National Geographic in 1938. Showing the "original - Traditional" SIAMESE type. Then simply Siamese, now known as "Traditional Siamese".
SY MINGO & DJER KITS CHINKALING OF NEWTON These cats belonged to Mrs. Arthur C. Cobb.
The "ideal" Traditional Siamese is a medium-to-large-sized cat of robust type, with substantial bone structure, good muscular development, possessing a solid look along with balance and proportion. They are not extreme in any way. Males will be proportionately larger than females. They are to carry themselves proudly. They are to be shown totally natural.
Traditional Siamese Breed Standard
Point score = (100)
Head: Rounded without flat planes whether viewed from the front or side. The brow, cheeks, and profiles all showing clean, strong contours. In profile there is a slight convex curve of the forehead, from the top of the head to just above the eyes. Thinly haired patches exist between the eyes and the base of the ears. Allowance must be made for jowls in the stud cat.
Ears: Medium in size, broad at the base and rounded at the tips. Ears set as much on the sides of the head as on the top. Hair on the back of the ears very short and close-lying, velvet in texture, leather may show through. Inside hair to be left natural length. Very slight ear tufts to be allowed.
Eyes: Upper lid shaped like half an almond (out lengthwise) and lower lid a fully rounded curve. Outer corners set very slightly higher than inner corners. At least the width of one eye between eyes. Neither totally round, narrow, or slanted. Medium in size, in proportion to the size of the head. Must be blue.
Nose: A slight, stop or dip at eye level is preferred, but not below the bottom of the lower eyelid. A definite break (sharp, angular separation, interruption or change of direction) is undesirable. Same width for the entire length.
Muzzle chin and jaw: Neither square, excessively rounded nor pointed. Clearly defined muzzle, well developed, that maintains the rounded contours of the head, yet with a whisker pinch. Tip of chin lines with tip of nose in the same vertical plane. Neither receding nor unduly massive.
Body: Medium to large in size, solidly built, muscular in development, presenting a well-proportioned, balanced, staunch, solid appearance with good width in bone structure from chest to buttock, giving the appearance of well-developed shoulders, chest and hindquarters. Back broad with a very slight curve. Viewed in profile, slight curve down from the point of croup to the base of the tail. The abdomen should be taut, well muscled and firm. Adult males should have well-developed muscular necks and shoulders and are to be proportionately larger than females.
Neck: Medium to short in length, muscular and strong.
Legs: Well muscled, proportionate in length and bone to the body. Hind legs slightly longer than front. Bone to be round.
Paws: More round than oval. Toes: five in front and four behind. Nails clipped and clean.
Tail: Medium in length but in proportion to the body, slightly broader at the base, tapering and straight. To be carried proudly as an extension of the spine.
Coat: Short, shining, thick enough to have body, satiny and somewhat close lying, but not tight or flat. Plush and soft in texture, resilient and firm to the touch. Regional and seasonal variation in coat thickness allowed.
Condition: Excellent physical condition. Eyes clear. Muscular, strong and staunch. Neither overly fat nor bony
Points: Chin, mask, ears, legs, feet and tail dense and clearly defined. All of the same shade. Except in kittens, mask covers entire face including whisker pads and is connected to ears by tracings. Mask should not extend over the head. Mask to latch on the underside of the head. Allowance to be made for grizzling in older cats.
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