The Persian cat is a long-haired breed of cat characterized by its round face and short muzzle. In Britain, it is sometimes called theLonghair or Persian Longhair. It is also known as the Shiraz or Shirazi, particularly in the Middle East. The first documented ancestors of the Persian were imported into Europe from Afghanistan around 1620. Recognized by the cat fancy since the late 19th century, it was developed first by the English, and then mainly by American breeders after the Second World War.
The first documented ancestors of the Persian were imported from Khorasan, Persia, into Italy in 1620 by Pietro della Valle, and from Angora (now Ankara), Turkey, into France by Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc at around the same time. The Khorasan cats were grey coated while those from Angora were white. From France, they soon reached Britain. Longhaired cats were also imported to Europe from Afghanistan, Burma, China and Russia. Interbreeding of the various types was common, especially between Angoras and Persians.
The Persian was used as an outcross secretly by some American Shorthair (ASH) breeders in the late 1950s to “improve” their breed. The crossbreed look gained recognition in the show ring but other breeders unhappy with the changes successfully pushed for new breed standards that would disqualify ASH that showed signs of crossbreeding.
One ASH breeder who saw the potential of the Persian/ASH cross proposed and eventually managed to get the CFA to recognize them as a new breed in 1966, under the name Exotic Shorthair. Regular outcrossing to the Persian has made present day Exotic Shorthair similar to the Persian in every way, including temperament and conformation, with the exception of the short dense coat. It has even inherited much of the Persian’s health problems. The easier to manage coat has made some label the Exotic Shorthair the lazy person’s Persian.
Because of the regular use of Persians as outcrosses, some Exotics may carry a copy of the recessive longhair gene. When two such cats mate, there is a one in four chance of each offspring being longhaired. Ironically, longhaired Exotics are not considered Persians by CFA, although The International Cat Association accepts them as Persians. Other associations register them as a separate Exotic Longhair breed.
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