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TRADITIONAL OR "OLD TYPE" SIAMESE

By Sheelagh Le Cocq

Some confusion will undoubtedly occur by what is meant by "Traditional Siamese".

Cats with this distinctive coat pattern 9Himalayan) existed way back "in the mist of time" and when first brought to the U.K., type differed very considerably. This is understandable since they were imported from Aden, Java, Canton, Hong Kong, Siam (Thailand), and possibly elsewhere. The coat color differed also, some of which were a "sandy" color, whilst others had a cream or grayish tone. The Natives of Siam, who admired and kept these cats, called them by a name meaning "cats the color of ashes" in order to distinguish them from the common cat of the country, which is just like any other, but still bearing the "foreign" type body structure.

The Siamese we refer to as "apple heads", existed too, and it is interesting to note that Susan, imported from Java by the late Margaret Hood, fitted this description. (See pencil sketch by her daughter in "Our Cats" June 1954). Of Susan she wrote: "If Susan were to assume human shape, I know just what she would be like. She would be a plumb little woman with no good features, but with a very pretty face, large melting eyes and alluring curve. The sort of girl that every man wants to cuddle and protect. As things are, she is a very pretty little cat with Siamese markings and endearing ways."

Susan went on to produce some "good type' progeny. Other cats of this ilk were Ch. Pita, owned by Miss Dixon, Slug, owned by Mrs. J. Kohlus, and Ch. Wankee, owned by Mrs. Robinson, who was the first Champion in Britain in 1898.

In 1951, Professor F.E. Zeuner D. Sc. Ph.D., writing on the origin of domestic cats in Oryx, the Journal of the Fauna Preservation Society, said of the Siamese, "It is seriously believed by many to have originated in Siam, but some zoologists regard this as unproven and suggested that it is a comparatively recent mutation of the Indian Cat." He continued by saying "The skull of a Siamese cat, which I measured with care, was in n o way different from the skulls of African and European Cats."

P.S. Pallas, the famous explorer, in his book, "Travels through the Southern Provinces of the Russian Provinces of the Russian Empire in the years 1793-1794 (published in English in 1812), show a cat 9Plate 1) which he came across near the Caspian Sea. The coat pattern was unmistakably that of a Siamese. He wrote that it was of middle size, had somewhat smaller legs (slim?) than the common cat and the head, longer toward the nose; the tail thrice the length of the head.

Phyl Wade in her book, The Siamese Cat, published in 1934, suggested that the Siamese might have originated in Egypt. Her speculation was based on the fact that the body and skull structure resembled those of the ancient Egyptian mummied cats, and that the Egyptians, "In Cleopatra's time", carried on an extensive trade with the Far East. In fact, this body and skull structure, the "foreign type", as we know it today, is found in many cats of many coat patterns in many parts of the world.

Mrs. Lilian Velvey's (nee Gould) recollections should be recorded, she said, "Siamese cats then (1884-1890) as now (1911?) fell naturally into two types; a lean slim, fawn colored type with very pointed heads, the "martin face"' and a very light cream and seal, of plumper form and with rounder face. Males tended to be of the first and females of the second type. Tails were almost invariably long and in my experience without exception had one small kink or crook, about two inches from the tip. Very rarely one in a litter would have the so-called "bobtail", which was merely an excessive development of the king, but usually did not shorten the tail much. The really short tail is of quite recent times." This will be born out by the illustrations from the Smud Khoi of Cats, and the Cat Book Poems in the Thai National Library in Bangkok, the illustrations of which are represented in several English books. Mrs. Velvey's first two imported pair were Pho and Mia.

Mrs. Vyvyan in 1886 brought in a pair of Siamese and two kittens obtained in China in 1884. It is not recorded whether her famous cat "Tiam O'Shian IV", was one of these, but it would appear probable. It was the first Siamese to be awarded Best in Show. The exact date of this being obscure.

Writing in 1889, Harrison Weir (Grandfather of the Cat Fancy) refers to Siamese cats appearing at the Crystal Palace Shows "from the year 1871". He produced his "Points of Excellence", which was to be the yardstick by which cats were judged, but in 1902, then the Siamese Cat Club was founded, various points were altered from their Official Standard of Points. Various amendments and alterations have since been made by which it will be seen that the standards are greatly altered, so that many fell that harm has been done to the breed, and the present day Siamese is a "man made" product; mainly through breeders and judges interpretation of it, particularly by those without the basic knowledge of the principals of animal biology and genetics, involving health and stamina.

It might be worthwhile in order to "save' the British Siamese, to quote Roger Tabor, M.I. Biol., N. Phil., F.L.S. from his book "The Rise of the Cat". The book is on the TV series.

 

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Last Updated 01/29/2009.
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