The Russian Blue Cat – One Color Fits All
Russian Blue Cat – In order to discuss the origins of cat breeds, we need a fifth classification, namely, it-is-believed-that data; for accounts of the origins of many breeds begin with this construction. It is believed that, for example, the Russian Blue Cat originated in or about the city of Arkhangelsk, a port on the White Sea located within shivering distance (about 150 miles) of the Arctic Circle. It is further believed that sailors may have brought Russian blues to western Europe in the 1860s; but to believe that the Tsar of Russia or Elizabeth I or Queen Victoria of England owned Russian blues is to embrace the unbelievable. We have this on the authority of cat fancier Ingeborg Urcia, who wrote a brief history of the Russian Blue Cat some years ago.
There is “absolutely no factual evidence” to support these claims, claimed Urcia, who reported that “there is still some dispute as to whether the Russian Blue Cat really came from that country, although evidence does point to a northern origin.”
Other writers — like Frances Simpson, British author of Cats and All About Them, published in 1903 — have raised additional questions about the blue angels from Arkhangelsk. “The best authorities,” wrote Simpson, “seem to agree in believing that they [Russian blues Cats] are not a distinct breed, and therefore they are now classed at our Shows amongst the short-haired English varieties.” (Russians were classified in this fashion until 1912 when they were transferred to the foreign blue class.)
Opinions about their derivation and patrimony notwithstanding, Russian Blues had appeared on the show bench in England as early as 1875; and though we cannot say with ratio-data certainty that the breed originated near Arkhangelsk, records indicate that most of the known early members of the breed — which was called by a variety of names, including Archangel and Maltese — did come from Russia.
Whatever its origin, the Russian blue never melted the ice in the cat fancy the way blue longhaired cats or blue British shorthairs did in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These latter cats so dominated their breeds that many people spoke of them as though they were the breed. Thus the regal-sounding British blue designation was born, an august way of describing what was actually one color class among many in the British shorthair pantheon. Thus, too, did the color-bred blue Persian — which must document at least three and preferably five generations of nothing-but-blue ancestors — come to personify the Persian breed for many years.
Russian Blue Cat – No Locke on Success
The first Russian blues to reach this country arrived circa 1900. Mrs. Clinton Locke of Chicago, who was also one of the first breeders to import Siamese to the United States, purchased a cat named Lockhaven Royal Blue around that time. She obtained this cat from a British fancier with the wonderfully Monty Python-ish name of Towlerton Flansholm. Another turn-of-the-century Chicago cat breeder, Mrs. Frederick Monroe, has been identified as the owner of a blue-and-white Russian Blue Cat, which is something of an anomaly since modern-day Russians are available in blue genes only.
We can assume that these early imports were not considered the cat’s pajamas in the show ring. Dorothy Champion, writing in Everybody’s Cat Book in 1909, observed, “[Shorthaired] Blues are usually kept for show purposes only in England, and are not nearly so plentiful as house pets as they are in this country, where they are called ‘Maltese.'”
Despite the early sniffing and sniping of purists who contended that Russian blues were not a legitimate breed, these lithe, double-coated charmers with the vivid green eyes continued to thrive — if not thoroughly prosper — until the beginning of World War II. Prosperity being severely rationed at that juncture, many catteries disappeared and so (nearly) did a number of breeds, the Russian Blue Cat among them. Consequently, post-war concerns about breed purity became academic as cat fanciers scrambled to make whatever judicious compromises they could in order to ensure the survival of their chosen breeds. As a result blue point Siamese was crossed with Russian blues in England in an effort to resuscitate the latter; and breeders in Scandinavia, working independent of English influence, used the same technique to establish the Russian Blue Cat in their country, too. The Scandinavians, however, produced a cat different from the born-again Russian Blues in England. The Scandinavian Russian Blues had larger heads, larger bodies, and shorter, tighter, darker coats than their British counterparts had.
Meanwhile, the Russian Blue Cat was reintroduced to the colonies when Mr. C.A. Commaire of Texas imported two Russian blues from England in 1947. The breed’s subsequent acceptance by United States registries made it one of the half dozen varieties of cats that could be seen at shows as the 20th century passed the 50-yard line. (The other breeds were the Persian, Siamese, Abyssinian, American Shorthair, and Manx.) Eventually, breeders in this country combined the splendid heads and emerald-green eyes of the Scandinavian lines with the pale, silver-blue coats and graceful body type of the British Russian blues.
Until the mid-’60s, when the Korat gained championship status, the Russian was the only all-blue breed in the cat fancy. These one-flavor contestants were joined on the show bench by another true blue type, the Chartreux, in the 1980s and yet another, the Nebelung, which is a longhaired Russian Blue Cat, in the 1990s.
If anyone should stop you on the street and say “Your money or the difference between the Russian Blue Cat, Korat, and Chartreux,” here’s what to say: “The Chartreux is the one with gold or copper eyes and the baked-potato-on-toothpicks body. The Russian Blue Cat is long and fine-boned, with a modified wedge-shaped head. The Korat has the largest eyes, a middle-of-the-road torso, and — if you look closely — front legs that are slightly shorter than its back legs.” Then, while your inquisitor is busy being impressed, you can make your escape.
Russian Blue Cat – The Building Code
The Russian Blue Cat is a fine-boned cat with a long, firm, muscular body that is lithe and graceful without being tubular after the fashion of Oriental breeds. The Russian’s head is a smooth, medium wedge, neither long and tapering nor short and massive. The muzzle is blunt without an exaggerated whisker break. The top of the skull is long and flat in profile, descending gently to a point just above the eyes and continuing at a slight downward angle in a straight line to the tip of the medium-length nose. There is no stop or nose break, and the length of the nose should be shorter than the length of the line from the top of the skull to the eyes.
Wide-set, vivid-green eyes, at least one eye width apart, confer a broad look to the Russian blue’s face. The eyes, according to most observers, should be round, or just oval enough to show [an] oriental slant.
Large ears — wide at the base, and more pointed than rounded — crown the Russian Blue head. The ears are set far apart, as much on the side of the head as on the top.
The Russian Blue Cat has a short, dense, fine double coat that stands out from the body. In a double coat, the two outermost layers of hair — the guard hairs and the awn hairs — are the same length. Normally guard hairs are longer than awn hairs, which, in turn, are longer than down hairs. An even, bright blue throughout, the soft, silky coat has silver-tipped guard hairs that give the Russian Blue Cat a shimmering, lustrous appearance.
Russian Blue Cat – Personality Profile
The Russian Blue Cat is a quiet cat that metes out devotion on its own terms. Though it is not precisely a hail-feline-well-met, the Russian blue is, nevertheless, capable of forming relationships that are as lustrous and jewel-like as its stunning green eyes.