Monday 31 March 2008

Long-haired cat breeds

Photo by Dani of a traditional Persian

In addition to Long Haired Cat Breeds you've got medium-long haired cats and I'll include those in this discussion. The picture above is of Faolan, a truly fantastic Orange Traditional Persian cat who lives with Dani Rozeboom who runs the Cattery Yeri Shaes and who is a fine photographer as well as a website builder (superb websites). A talented woman surrounded by fabulous cats.

One cat comes straight to mind as a cat that has been bred with a round face, extremely stubby nose and sometimes incredibly long fur, the Ultra Persian. This is a cat that the experts say has to remain indoor otherwise his or her fur gets too messy. As for grooming, get a good set of grooming brushes and combs 'cus your goin to need 'em. Obviously, it is essential to groom a long-haired cat religiously. But this begs the question, is it natural for a cat to have such long hair?

If you look at all the small wild cats; two classics are the Scottish Wildcat and the American Bobcat and you see functional hair. Its length is medium, just enough to keep the cat warm and camouflaged by the tabby gene so she blends into the background for survival. That is totally normal.

The long-haired Scottish Fold is less well known than the shorthaired variant but arguably prettier
Owl-faced longhaired Scottish Fold kitten is a beauty. Photo: Irina Lyzhnikova (Ukraine)

The answer then it that it is not natural for a cat wild or domestic to have hair so long that the possessor of it, the cat, cannot maintain it on her own. Under these circumstances the hair becomes a burden for the cat but, yes, great to look at for the human. I don't get it myself.

So, at the top end of long-haired cat breeds we have the Ultra Persian. By 'ultra' I mean Persian cats breed to extreme both in the roundness of their faces and the length of their fur. The Doll Face (Traditional) Persian has long hair too but it is less long and more natural in length (or is that true?)

The next breeds that come to mind quickly is that gorgeous trio, the Maine Coon (one of the most popular), the Siberian and the Norwegian Forest Cat. Although the Maine Coon is the most popular of these (in part probably because this breed is American and America is the largest domestic cat market in the world by far and in part because this breed is lovely, except for perhaps health issues) the other two are also popular cats.

Their fur is more medium long and functional. All three needed long hair due to their origins. Maine in the USA has a cold climate in winter, Norway is very cold a lot of the time and, well, we know what Siberia is like.

Above: Faolan a Traditional Persian Cat of distinction and very handsome he is too. He's got male cat written all over him. Photograph is copyright Dani Rozeboom. You can see more of him here.

The above are the most popular long-haired cat breeds. What of the rest? In alphabetical order here they are (this list might not be totally inclusive but it is comprehensive):

American Bobtail. This cat has medium long hair and "semi-dense" short hair. So, there is a range of coat length for the American Bobtail.

American Curl. Once again this cat has a range of hair lengths from semi (medium) long to short. The fur is silky as there is no undercoat. You can see this clearly in the pictures of Helmi.

Balinese. A long-haired Modern Siamese cat. Modern Siamese have long elegant body conformation and small, long and bony heads.

Birman. Long-haired stocky cat. The hair is not a dense as the Persians.

Cymric. A long-haired tailless cat.

Himalyan. Another relation of the Persian, a shaded, pointed variety

Javanese. Semi-long hair but silky and lying close to the body so less noticeable.

Kurilian Bobtail. This cat breed can short-haired (KBS) and long-haired (KBL).

LaPerm. Can be short or long hair. Long curly coat due to a genetic mutation affecting the fur.

Maine Coon - famous semi-longhaired cat breed. The hair is not dense, quite thin, in fact, and uneven and sometimes shaggy looking. The whiskers can be impressively long and wild. The ears are lynx tipped, a famous characteristic of this cat breed.

Napoleon. A cross between a Munchkin dwarf cat and a Persian, Himmie or Exotic Shorthair - so is long haired when crossed with the first two.

Nebelung. One of the grey cat breeds and a long-haired cat.

Pixie-bob. Semi-long haired cat with short tail due to a genetic mutation.

Ragdoll and RagaMuffin. Both long haired and closely related.

Selkirk Rex. One of the Rex curly haired cats that is either long or short haired.

Scottish Fold - longhaired variant. See above.

Skookum. Long haired, short legged dwarf cat a cross between the Munchkin and the LaPerm.

Somali. Long haired Abyssinian

Turkish Angora and Turkish Van. Both long haired, probably long for the Angora and Medium Long for the Van. Silky soft coats.


What causes Long Hair?

Apparently four independent mutations in the Fibroblast Growth Factor 5 (FGF5) Gene determine the long haired phenotype in domestic cats. There is one gene and four alleles. Each of the alleles make the gene function incorrectly causing the hair to grow longer.

The FGF5 gene signals the end of hair growth when the build up of protein reaches a certain level in the hair follicle. The gene acts defectively and the protein isn't produced allowing hair growth to continue. The hair growth is eventually stopped by another mechanism.

This gene seems to operate in an autosomal recessive manner.

The FGF5 gene regulates hair growth in other species. Wikipedia call it a 'human gene' (this seems to be incorrect or misleading) so I presume it regulates hair growth in humans.

(source for this section: Journal of Heredity ---

Long Haired Cat Breeds to Traditional Persian Yeri

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