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Birman

 

Introduction

The Birman’s personality is gentle, active and playful but quite unobtrusive if you are busy with other things. They are large cats with medium to long silky hair with a heavy ruff around their necks. The cat is considered to be “pointed”, has deep blue eyes and white feet which are its main characteristic.

 

Appearance

Birmans have a medium sized, rectangular body with a broad face and distinct Roman nose. Their ears are ideally as wide on the base as they are tall and should be set as much on top of the head as on the side. The eyes are rounded and should be a deep sapphire blue.

The Birman's fur is medium-long and should have a silky texture. Unlike a Persian or Himalayan, they have no undercoat, and are thus much less prone to matting. Coat color is always pointed, save for the contrasting pure white, symmetrical "gloves" on each paw that are the trademark of the breed. The white must involve all toes and in front must stop at the articulation or at the transition of toes to metacarpals. These gloves should extend noticeably further up the back of the leg (referred to as the "laces"), finishing with an inverted V extended 1/2 to 3/4 up the hock. Any other spot of white on the points is considered a serious fault. The base body color is white to cream, with a wash of color that corresponds to the points but is much paler.

Recognized point colors are seal, chocolate, blue, lilac (a softer silver-grey), red or cream. Tabby and tortie variations in seal, chocolate, blue or lilac are also allowed; other colors are in development.

 

History

There is no clear record of the breed's origin. They are most often claimed to have originated as the companions of temple priests in Northern Burma in the Mount of Lugh. There are many stories extant of how the cats first came to France, including pairs of cats being given as a reward for helping defend a temple, or being smuggled out of Burma by a Vanderbilt. Another pair of Birmans (or a pregnant female called Poupée de Maldapour) were said to have been stolen and later imported to France by Thadde Haddisch. The first traces of historical Birmans go back to a Mme Leotardi in the city of Nice in France.

Birmans were almost wiped out as a breed during World War II. Only two cats were alive in Europe at the end of the war, a pair named Orloff and Xenia de Kaabaa, both belonging to Baudoin-Crevoisier. The foundation of the breed in postwar France were offspring of this pair. They had to be heavily outcrossed with long-hair breeds such as Persian and Siamese to rebuild the Birman breed. By the early 1950s, pure Birman litters were once again being produced. The restored breed was recognized in Britain in 1965 and by the CFA in 1966.

The first Birman cats were seal point. The blue point color was introduced in 1959 using blue Persian lines. New colors were later added by English breeders including chocolate, red, and lynx (tabby) points. Birmans have also been used in the development of new breeds, notably including the Ragdoll

 

Health

The most severe threat is feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), the most common heart disease seen in cats. In Birman cats, it is thought to be inherited as an autosomal dominant trait. HCM is a progressive disease and can result in heart failure, paralysis of the hind legs due to clot embolization originating in the heart, and sudden death.