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Cat Coats Curly

Devon Rex
Close up of Devon Rex showing the fur copyright webber0075

Curly cat coats are well known to people in the cat fancy. These are Rex coats, named after that now famous Belgium King of the 19th century (latin for King is "rex") with his very special curly coated rabbits. The gene that causes curly and frizzy coats as we know cuts across cat breeds and species (humans, rabbits, horses, guinea pigs etc.).

In humans, hair is curly due to the shape of the hair follicle (the area from which the hair grows). This is dictated genetically. Curly hair can be drier than straight hair because the oils produced by the sebaceous glands (adjacent to the follicle) does not flow down the hair shaft as freely.

laperm cat curly haired cat
Photo of LaPerm - copyright Helmi Flick

The cat breeds (that come to mind) that have curly hair are:
The genetics of cat coats is, I believe, to a certain extent, "work in progress". There are probably genes at work that are yet to be isolated. Those genes that produce curly cat coats that have and have been selected by cat breeders are the following rex genes, "r" gene (recessive) for the Cornish Rex, "re" for the Devon Rex (recessive), "Se" for the Selkirk (incomplete dominant), "Lp" (LaPerm - dominant gene).

Devon Rex
Photograph of Devon Rex profile copyright webber0075

There have been many occurrences of curly haired cats, which have gone largely unrecorded. Here are some recorded instances:-
  • 1930s - Prussian Rex
  • 1930s - USA - Karakul cat
  • 1940s - Russia - Urals Rex
  • 1946 and 1950s - German Rex
  • 1950 - Italian Rex
  • 1950 - Cornish Rex - England - see above
  • 1953 - Ohio Rex USA
  • 1959 - California Rex - USA
  • 1960 - Devon Rex - England - see above
  • 1969 - Dutch Rex
  • 1972 - Victoria Rex - England
  • 1981 and 2002 - Lanzarote - Canary Islands
  • 1981 - Bohemian Rex - Czech
  • 1982 - LaPerm - USA - see above
  • 1987 - Selkirk Rex - USA
  • 1980 - 90s - Curly haired Maine Coon (horror :)
  • 1990s - Missouri Rex - USA
  • 2001 - Iowa Rex - USA
  • 2000s (early) - The Ruffle - USA
  • 2002-3 - Canadian Farm
There are more, almost an endless stream of cat coats - curly, as could be expected. No doubt there will be many more to come.

Update 5th December 2008 - The Selkirk Rex - Curliness of the coat is apparent from birth. Homozygous cats (SeSe) have a different type of coat. It is finer, more curly and there is less of it. The "better" cats in terms of show cats are the heterozygous cats.

The two best known rex breeds are the Cornish and Devon Rex cats. The Cornish Rex does not have guard hairs but normally has a denser coat. The Devon Rex's coat is more prone to lacking hair, a feature of rex coats. Breeders try to improve coat quality through selective breeding. Polygenes control coat quality. 

  • Pictures of Cats
  • Messybeast
  • Wikipedia
  • Robinson's Genetics for Cat Breeders and Veterinarians
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