Birman Breed History
The Birman has a French connection. Elegance, beauty, affection and personality are words which fit the Birman to perfection. These rare felines are popular at cat shows for their outgoing nature. They are always ready with antics and affection – the bigger the audience, the better the performance.
The name Birman is derived from Birmanie, the French word for Burma. Originally from the jungles of Burma, they came to the western world via France.
The majestic Birman is the Sacred Cat of Burma, but it should never be confused with the Burmese, to which it is not related in any way. It has one of the most colourful and attractive histories of any feline variety, having originated in the great temples of its native land, and having narrowly escaped extinction during World War Two.
Birmans are still revered in Burma, where many people believe them to be reincarnations of dead priests.
Their origin is shrouded in mystery. One story tells of an Englishman, Major Gordon Russell, who was given a Birman pair for his help in repelling an invasion at a temple harbouring the sacred cats. The arrival date of this pair was 1920.
Birmans became very popular in England after their introduction by Mrs Elsie Fisher and Mrs Richardson in 1965. A male and two females were initially imported from France.
The Birman is a strong boned, semi-longhaired cat. It is slightly longer in all component parts than a fully long-haired Persian. Birmans have a broad, rounded head with medium length heavy ears. The nose is longer, giving a Roman look. It has a slight stop with a bump, caused by lower nostrils than the long-hair who has a flat, no-nose appearance. The Birman does not conform to longhair characteristics, having a coat which does not mat and is easy to groom. These beautiful cats have long, soft creamy white fur, with seal, blue, chocolate, lilac or tabby points with pure white paws and gauntlets and bright china blue eyes.
There is a strong definition between colour of body and points and sharp definition between colour of points and white paws and gauntlets.
Legend of the Birman
Once upon a time, high in the mountains of Burma, there was a monastery inhabited by Buddhist monks and their longhaired white cats.
One day, when the high priest was at worship before a golden goddess with sapphire eyes, the temple was raided. The old priest was struck dead.
As the priest fell, his faithful cat turned to gaze at the goddess who governed the transmutation of souls in a silent appeal for his beloved master.
Instantly, all the cats in the temple were transformed. A wave of golden colour washed over their long, white coats.
Their faces, legs and tails became even darker and their eyes turned as blue as sapphires.
When the high priest died, the paws of his cat were touching his head and these remained white.
When one of these cats died, it carried with it the soul of a Buddhist monk to heaven.
The Burmese priests have a maxim:
‘Woe’ unto anyone who even unknowingly harms one of these sacred cats.
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