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Foreign Burmese Breed FAQ
_Author:_ Gail Francois, Gitalaya Cattery, South Africa
Copyright (c) 1996 Gail Francois, fra...@pixie.co.za. Text may not be
copied or used without permission of the author.
Table of Contents
Coat Color Descriptions
Reds, Creams, and Torties
Genetics of Reds, Creams, and Torties
Breeding with Burmese
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.
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
Original Burmese colouring, genetically black but for the
addition of the "Burmese" gene; a 'seal' brown.
Naturally occurring dilute form of Brown - a dark grey
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:
xoxo & xoy red
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.
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
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!
Gail Francois, fra...@pixie.co.za