History of The Burmese

The Burmese are the ideal lap cat as they love people and love to cuddle. They are also extremely playful (they’re born acrobats), they are intelligent, great with children and are good with other animals. The Burmese meows have a softer sweeter voice than that of the Siamese, they love attention and soon form a strong bond with their owners.

burmese love to play

The Burmese breed, however, is split into two subgroups: the American Burmese and the British Burmese. The American Burmese is stockier and rounder in the body, head, eyes, and feet. It has markedly full cheeks and a short muzzle, sometimes called "pug-like". The British build tends to be more Siamese like, with a more triangular face. In Australia, I think we have a little bit of both, pending the ancestry, but not to either extreme.

The Burmese cat should be of a small to medium size with good muscular development, with slightly stockier legs than that of the siamese. The head is rounder with a shorter muzzle to that of the Siamese with beautiful big wide set golden eyes.

The Burmese coat lies close to the body and is short, fine and glossy with a silky smooth finish. The solid, dark sable brown Burmese is in a league of its own, but the now popular dilute divisions include the chocolate, blue, lilac, red, cream and the brown, chocolate, blue and lilac torties.

Origins

Burmese are thought to descend from sacred brown cats kept by student-priests in the palaces and temples of ancient Burma (modern Myanmar). Mr Harrison Weir, a noted breeder and organiser of the first modern cat show in Britain, described two variants of the Siamese cat in 1889. One type he discovered as light-coloured with darker points and the other as an accidental deviation, in his opinion - as a chocolate variety (dark siamese). The lighter pointed cats (siamese seal) invariably beat the chocolate/brown ones at shows, and over time the “chocolate Siamese” disappeared from competitions.

Buddhist Pagoda Burma 1825 above: a lithograph (1825) of the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Burma with relics of the past four Buddhas enshrined within

Looking back, many people believe these “chocolate Siamese” were not Siamese at all, but the descendants of jealously guarded cats from ancient Burma just like Wong Mau who’s details are as follows.

Dr J C Thompson

The modern burmese of today
originated back to 1930, all true burmese are said to be descendants from one female cat called Wong Mau. A retired Navy Doctor called Dr Joseph C Thompson (right a noted Siamese Breeder) of San Francisco, California, a practising psychoanalyst, imported this little brown female from Burma. Many breeders of that time regarded Wong Mau as a dark Siamese, but Dr Thompson disagreed. The Doctor enlisted two women in the field of biology, genetics and animal husbandry, so they, in conjunction with geneticist Dr Clyde Keeler, were able to carry out breeding experiments to settle these doubts on a scientific basis.

Wong Mau with her little
above: Wong Mau with litter in the 1930's

As there was no similar male cat in the USA Dr Thompson mated Wong Mau to a sealpoint Siamese called Tai Mau, who had been imported from Thailand. This litter produced sealpoint Siamese kittens and brown kittens similar to Wong Mau. When mated to her son Yen Yen Mau, Wong Mau produced yet a third type of kitten, some with a much darker solid brown in colour. When these solid brown kittens were mated together, only solid brown kittens were produced. The detective work of Dr Thompson and his colleagues had paid off. They had proved that the Burmese was a distinct breed with a sound genetic basis.

The Burmese were first seen in England in1949 when Mrs Lilian France, who bred Siamese cats under the Chinki prefix, imported two Burmese cats from America, one was a male, Casa Gatos Da Foong, and the other was a female Chindwin's Minou Twm who was already in kitten, sadly this litter died in quarantine and although Minou's health suffered these two still produced a further three litters. However, in 1951, Mrs France decided to import a third cat, an American Champion, Laos Cheli Wat and again another male called Casa Gatos Darkee. Shortly after this Mrs France had to give up breeding so transferred her cats to Mrs C F Watson. In 1955 Mrs Watson's new Ch Chinki Golden Gay was mated back to her father Darkee who then produced five kittens, as Golden Gay was a maiden queen, two of her kittens a male and a female were given to another breeder of the day's more experienced queen's (owned by Mrs Margaret Smith) who had only produced one kitten. After several weeks it was evident that the female kitten was very different in colour - a silvery blue colour. Mrs Smith kept the blue female and mated her to one of her own studs, but did not produce any further blue. After exhaustive enquiries in America she found that it was only Darkee that carried this blue gene, so therefore many of Darkee's offspring now carried this gene. When this beautiful blue burmese, named Sealcoat Blue Surprise was mated back to her father she did produce blue kittens, hence this was the start of the very popular British Burmese Blue.

In 1956 Mrs Watson imported another unrelated Burmese male called Darshan Khudiram (who wasn't as stocky as Darkee he was finer and more elegant) and a female called Folly Tou Po, these were the last of the USA cats to join the early breeding program in England. So Ch Casa Catos Darkee and Ch Darshan Khudiram became two very important studs in the history of the British Burmese.

In 1957 the first imports to Australia were a son of Casa Gatos da Foong, Tomahawk, and a female, a brown daughter of Darkee, these pairings started the Amherst line and the first of the Australian Burmese, bred by Mrs C G Allen.

PLEASE FIND LISTED BELOW THE KEY AND THE ORIGINAL PEDIGREE DATING BACK TO WONG MAU THE FIRST AMERICAN IMPORT

key to pedigree
original burmese pedigree

Colours

The original brown burmese beauty first introduced in 1930 continues to have a satin-like coat that shows off their rich sable-brown colour.

In 1955 came the arrival of the blue Burmese. At this time knowledge of genetics was not as widespread as it is today, it must have come as a disturbing puzzle to the breeders engaged in producing a line of brown cats who were supposed to be breeding true.

The simple explanation is it was necessary to use Siamese in the early days of building Burmese stock. Possibly unknown to breeders at that time, some of the Siamese carried the blue (diluted brown) gene. The blue gene was passed to the Burmese/Siamese hybrid and then to a pure Burmese. All it needed was a mating between two sable Burmese carrying this respective blue factor.

1959 saw more colour variations, along came the Chocolate and the Lilac and 1964 saw the Red, Cream, Lilac and the Torties.

Kittens eye colouring will begin to change from around 10 to 12 weeks of age, normally starting with a turqoise to green type shade into a rich beautiful golden/yellow.

golden eye colouring

  above: The golden eyes of "Princess" a Blue Burmese


burmese brown kitten and brown adult male

Brown


burmese blue kitten

Blue


burmese chocolate kitten and chocolate mother and kit

Chocolate


burmese lilac kitten and lilac adult

Lilac


two little red burmese kitties

Red


Cream Burmese kitten - 14 weeks

Cream


Honey - Brown Tortie

Brown Tortie


Grace Kelly Chocolate Tortie

Chocolate Tortie


The Thai definition for Burmese means fortunate, beautiful, and splendid appearance, this definition certainly rings true for this outstanding breed.

With their happy disposition and lovable affectionate
nature, the Burmese will retain its tomboy playfulness
and curiosity throughout its entire life.

This truly magnificent breed is the perfect playmate and pet for the entire family and ideal for children.

Due to the great popularity of the awe-inspiring Burmese cat came the development of other now popular domestic cat breeds, including (in alliance with the Siamese) the Tonkinese, the Bombay, and the much loved Burmilla.


References:

ref: http://www.burmese-cats-alliance.com/history/
British Burmese Cat Club Publications 1955
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Burma
http://www.europeanburmesebc.org/history.htm
http://www.united-burmese.org/burmese-history.html
jhered.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/pdf_extract/34/4/119
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Cheesman_Thompson
4/1943 Journal of Heredity "Genetics of The Burmese Cat"
by J C Thompson, V C Cobb, C E Keeler and M Dmytryk