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rec.pets.cats: Foreign Burmese Breed-FAQ

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Archive-name: cats-faq/breeds/foreign-burmese
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Last-modified: 12 Mar 1997

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                         Foreign Burmese Breed FAQ
   _Author:_ Gail Francois, Gitalaya Cattery, South Africa
   Copyright (c) 1996 Gail Francois, Text may not be
   copied or used without permission of the author.


  Table of Contents
    Breed Features
    Coat Color Descriptions
    Reds, Creams, and Torties
    Genetics of Reds, Creams, and Torties
    Breeding with Burmese
    Breed History

   Although there are two different Breed Standards for Burmese, it is an
   undisputed fact that all Burmese bred today can trace their ancestry
   back to a single cat known as Wong Mau. Ten colours of Burmese are
   recognised in the Western world with the exception of the United
   States and Canada.
   Therefore,Burmese are split into two groups: Burmese and Foreign
   Burmese. This article concentrates on the latter group.
Breed Features

   The Burmese is considered to be a "Foreign". Its coat, regardless of
   colour, is smooth, satin like in texture, close lying and glossy. It
   is a medium sized cat with males tending to be slightly larger. It is
   muscular and well developed. When picking up a Burmese, one should be
   astonished at its weight. The head is rounded with the overall
   emphasis of roundness. The ears are well placed with rounded tips in
   profile. The eyes have a rounded lower line with the upper having a
   slight oriental slant. The muzzle is blunt, allowing a completely
   rounded look to the head. Eyes of golden yellow are preferred;
   however, any shade of yellow is acceptable.

Coat Colour Description

   _Brown (27)_
          Original Burmese colouring, genetically black but for the
          addition of the "Burmese" gene; a 'seal' brown.
   _Blue (27a)_
          Naturally occurring dilute form of Brown - a dark grey
   _Chocolate (27b)_
          Modified form of Brown (not a dilution of Brown) - a warm
          'milky coffee' shade of Brown.
   _Lilac (27c) _
          Dilute form of Chocolate - a light silvery grey with pinkish
   _Red (27d) _
          Sex-linked orange gene - a very light coloured 'cream' with
          tangerine ears, forehead and tail.
   _Cream (27f) _
          Dilute form of Red.
   _Brown Tortie (27e) _
          a mixture of Brown and Red.
   _Blue Tortie (27g) _
          a mixture of blue and cream
   _Chocolate Tortie (27h) _
          a mixture of chocolate and red
   _Lilac Tortie (27j) _
          a subtle mixture of lilac and cream.
Reds, Creams & Torties
   Breeders in Britain were primarily responsible for the development of
   the remaining six colour Burmese. They were Mrs. Robine Pocock, Mrs.
   Joyce Dell, Mrs. Evely, Joyce Westacott and Dorothy Blackman. To
   produce the Reds, Creams and Torties, other breeds of necessity, had
   to be used. The programme began accidentally in 1964 when a Blue
   Burmese queen escaped while in call and was mated by a shorthaired red
   tabby. A deliberate mating of a Brown queen to a Red Point Siamese was
   undertaken. A third line was established when a tortie and white farm
   cat (who unknowingly carried the Siamese gene) was mated to a Brown
   Burmese Stud carrying blue.
   The first 'accidental' mating produced "a lithe, outstandingly elegant
   black and red tortoiseshell, of good foreign type", "Wavermouse
   Galapagos" (Pagan to her friends). From the second mating, a Burmese/
   Siamese tortoiseshell hybrid was retained. A male kitten was kept as a
   stud from the third 'farm-cat mating'. Recognition was sought >from
   the Governing Council for the Reds, Creams and Torties by the Burmese
   Cat Club (U.K.); and Championship status was awarded 1973 to the
   Creams - the Torties being given recognition finally in 1977.
Genetics of Reds, Creams, and Torties
   A cat has 19 pairs of chromosomes, ie 38. One pair determines sex -
   the female cat has xx and the male xy chromosomes. Therefore the male
   always determines the sex of the kitten. This is because the gametes
   (sperm and egg) only carry 19 chromosomes, due to a process known as
   meiosis (reduction and division) which takes place in the ovaries or
   The male can have sperm carrying either the x chromosome or the y
   chromosome, whereas the female's eggs can only carry the x chromosome.
   Thus, on conception, the fertilised ovum is either xx (female) or xy
   The red colour of cats is sex-linked, which means that the gene is on
   the x chromosome. Geneticists call the gene Orange and use the symbol
   Female are xoxo red, xx non-red or xox tortoiseshell.
   The males can be xoy red, or xy non-red. (Torties males are very rare,
   usually sterile and, therefore can be ignored).
   Crosses involving red are easily predicted, eg Tortie female x red
   male, that is xox by xoy.
	xoxo      red female
	xox       tortie female
	xoy       red male
	xy        non-red male
   Other colours are produced from combinations of blue and red, so in
   Burmese we have:
	dd             blue
	xoxo & xoy     red
	xox            tortoiseshell
	xoxdd & xoydd  cream, ie blue and red together
	xoxdd          blue cream, i.e. blue and tortie together.

   Conclusion : A most intelligent, superior, sophistiCATed and loveable
   feline companion. The magnetism and appeal of this enchanting breed
   has to be experienced! Why not adopt a Burmese today?!
Breeding with Burmese
   Burmese queens tend to be precocious and some have been known to start
   calling as early as four months and less! Most queens breed readily;
   the average sized litter is four to six kittens. However, both in
   South Africa and in the United Kingdom, larger litters have been
   recorded of between eight and twelve. Burmese are very good mothers,
   and have little problem producing their young. The kittens are born
   with fine 'downy' coats and therefore, care must be taken to ensure
   that the kittening box is placed in warm, draught free environment.
   Kittens can lose body heat rapidly, become chilled and die from
   pneumonia. With large litters care must be exercised to ensure that
   each kitten has sufficient nourishment from the queen, as the
   strongest will push the smallest aside. Most queens cope well with
   four to six kittens.
Breed History
   Full credit must be given to Dr. Joseph Thompson who bravely decided
   to pursue his breeding programme with Wong Mau in the 1930s. However,
   consideration must be given to theories of "Burmese" appearing in
   England long before the pair imported by Mr. & Mrs. S. France in 1949.
   It is generally recognised that the Burmese is a manmade 'American'
   breed with a distinct Malaysian connection, developed by Dr. Joseph
   Thompson (and colleagues) in the 30s from the cat known as Wong Mau.
   Some reports suggest that she was given to him by a renowned collector
   of wild animals Buck "BRING 'EM BACK ALIVE" Wilson, while others
   suggest Thompson travelled back from the Far East with her as he had
   been employed as a ship's doctor.
   Wong Mau, the accredited "ancestor" of the modern Burmese breed,
   arrived on the West Coast of America in 1930. _Cats_ Magazine (January
   1948) published an account by a Major Finch who had been stationed in
   the Far East during World War II, of "Rajah" cats found in the region
   as 'being a recognised breed' whose characteristics appear to have
   matched those of Wong Mau. Major Finch returned to the USA with a cat
   similar to Wong Mau called "Simbuni".
   As noted earlier, speculation exists that Burmese have been around for
   a lot longer than most surmise. Turn of the century periodicals found,
   not too long ago in England, have chronicled reports by various breed
   experts of the day and the conclusions drawn cannot be ignored. The
   opening pages of "Burmese Cats in Camera" as well as the recent (1991
   revised) edition of "The Burmese Cat" book, relate some of these
   In 1903, Frances Simpson described two variants of Siamese being
   exhibited in England at the time; the preferred "Royal Cat of Siam", a
   cream coloured cat showing distinct points with blue eyes was more
   popular than the 'Chocolate'. The 'Chocolates' were characterised as
   "subtly shaded" cats, and were identical in all aspects to the Royals
   except for their coat colour. They were reported to be "a deep brown
   with hardly any markings". Whereas the "Rajah" type, (coincidentally
   similar terminology as used by Major Finch) appeared to be an uniform
   chocolate shade with eyes described as a deep amber colour.
   (Harrison-Weir in 1889). Overall, there was some confusion, regarding
   eye colour as descriptions varied from fancier to fancier. When
   considering the present day 'type' of both breeds, one must remember
   that the early Siamese bore a far closer resemblance to our "modern"
   Fables of the origins of the Siamese abound; the Burmese legends exist
   too and have also been romanticised. As with the Siamese, the Burmese
   were temple cats. Apparently each cat was assigned a student monk
   whose duties were 'to cater to, and indulge their every whim'. Further
   suggestions have been that the Burmese were the 'traditional pets of
   Royalty and the Nobility' long before the Siamese.
   It has also been recorded by people who have lived in Burma and
   travellers who have visited Malaysia reported that Brown cats were an
   exception as the common domestic cats seen in the streets and alleys
   were no different from the many other moggies encountered around the
   world with variations in head and body shapes but seemingly with a
   high preponderance of kinks and other tail defects in the indigenous
   cat population.
   But, let's get back to the tale of Wong Mau. In 1930 Wong Mau was the
   only cat of her 'type' around, so Dr. Thompson with the help of his
   geneticist colleagues - Virginia C. Cobb, Clyde E. Keeler and
   Madeleine Dmytryk - planned and mated her to a Seal Point Siamese,
   Tai. A scientific paper on their work, entitled "Genetics of the
   Burmese" was published in 1933 in the "Journal of Heredity".
   When she was bred, she produced three types of kittens: some with
   Siamese colouring, sable or brown kittens and kittens similar to
   herself what Tonkinese fanciers would call "natural mink". The brown
   kittens were retained and selected as proving to be homozygous Burmese
   coloured cats to perpetuate the programme, the intermediate and
   Siamese coloured cats were quickly eliminated. When the brown
   offspring were mated to each other, they produced only brown kittens
   which proved the breed to be distinctive with a sound genetic
   background. (They were subsequently proved correct by further trial
Acknowledgements / References:
   Burmese Cats (Price Milburn [NZ] - 1970) author: Grace Burgess.
   _The Burmese Cat_ (Batsford Press - 1975.) Co-authors: Dorothy
   Silkstone Richards, Robine Pocock, Moira Swift and Vic Watson.
   _Burmese Cats_ - (Batsford Press). Author: Moira K. Swift.
   Extract from _The Burmese Cat Club - Silver Jubilee_ and the _Story of
   the Club_ (Published in 1980)
   _Breeding Red, Cream and Tortie Burmese_ author: Robine Pocock _Cats
   and Catdom Annual - 1980_
   _Burmese Cats in Camera_ (Panther Photographic - 1989). Co-authors:
   Moira Swift, Robine Pocock and Christina Payne.
   _Harper's Illustrated Hand book of CATS_.
   _The Burmese Cat_ - (Unwin Brothers Ltd). Edited by Robine Pocock of
   The Burmese Cat Club 1991 (UK) for the Burmese Cat Club Benevolent
   With help and grateful thanks to Lorraine Shelton and thanks to Barb
   French for her encouragement!
   Burmese FAQ
   Gail Francois,

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