Tuesday 7 October 2008

Chinese cat breeds

Chinese cat breeds? Here is a list of cat breeds associated with China. This does not mean that these are cat breeds that necessarily originate in China. Although you'll see that 2 of the three listed are Chinese cat breeds. It is, though, very hard to discover whether China has a cat fancy and/or have their own cat breeds and there are very few or no illustrations of these breeds. It appears that there is an association called the:

Cat Aficionado Association
Zhao Yu, Chairman of CAA
Room 2688 of Jingmin Building
10 Huayanli, Chaoyang District
Beijing, 100029 China

They had a show in Beijing on Jan 1-3, 2005 which included the showing of some Chinese cat breeds. Only breeders and photographers were allowed entry, apparently. Although we are told that the Dragon Li "debuted" at a 2003 cat show in Bejing as an experimental breed. American cat show judges attended on invitation.

One cat that is a cat breed, meaning recognized by a cat association is the Chinese Harlequin. This cat breed is listed as a one of the Category VI Breeds. under clause 307.7 of TICA (The International Cat Association) rules. The Chinese Harlequin has of course the word Chinese in the name but I don't think that this cat is from China or a Chinese cat breed. TICA as far as I can see do not explain the significance of Category VI except it is the lowest category. The first four categories are Established Breeds (category 1), Natural Breeds (category 2), Variant/Mutation Breed (category 3) and Domestic Hybrid Breed (category 4).

The other cat breeds listed under Category VI are listed below: - note these are not Chinese cat breeds:

Asian Group, Asian Longhair(Tiffanie), Asian Shorthair, Burmilla LH, Burmilla SH, Australian Mist, Bristol, California Spangled, Ceylon, Chantilly, Chinese Harlequin, Copper, European Shorthair, European Burmese, German Rex, Kurilian Bobtail, Mandalay, Minskin, Napoleon, RagaMuffin, Ruffle, Safari, Sokoke, Tiffany, Vienna Woods, York Chocolate

Some of these breeds are quite well known. So, I am a little surprised that the Chinese Harlequin is almost invisible in terms of pictures and information etc. The word "harlequin" means a clown who wears clothes that have sections of different colors. So I will presume that the color of this cat is white with splashes of color, possibly a piebald gene cat (white and other colors) with black and tortoiseshell splashes. Apparently no one at TICA has seen one. On that basis it might be fair to ask whether this should remain listed as a cat breed. It may be that there were attempts or a desire to breed a cat that resembled the kind of cats depicted as Chinese cats in art coming out of China and the breeding program drifted or failed for what ever reason.

The Chinese Harlequin is in fact mentioned in Robinson's Genetics for Cat Breeders & Veterinarians (4th Ed.) in which it is said that this cat is based on a probably mythical Chinese cat that was mainly white with small patches of black on the head and body with a black tail. Not multicolored on that description. Only cats with black spots were bred it seems. The genotype for a possible blue Chinese Harlequin would be aaB-ddSS. The letter signify these genes: aa=non agouti gene in homozygous form, B=Browning gene in heterozygous form producing a black phenotype, dd=recessive dilution gene in homozygous form and SS= the semi-dominant gene for white spotting gene in homozygous form, which would produce high grade spotting or a lot of white. For the black spotted cat the genotype would be aaB-SS.

The fact that it was a cat breed based on a Chinese cat breed (mythical or not) might support the argument that this would have been one of the Chinese cat breeds if it had been developed. This was intended to be a pretty cat not dissimilar to the Japanese Bobtail I would suspect.

Other Chinese cat breeds or cats associated with China are the the Dragon Li and the Chinese White

The Dragon Li (also called: Li Hua, Li Hua Mau, Li Hua Mao) is apparently a current Chinese cat breed so on the face of it a "live" breed but I can find out little about it (but see update below). "Li Hua" is pronounced "lee wah".

Apparently this is a shorthaired cat with a brown mackerel tabby coat - in fact the stripes are broken. You can see a lot of tabby cats here: cat coats tabby. I have seen a picture of this cat which I don't have permission to reproduce here. This cat is pretty much a classic mixed-breed looking tabby cat. Looking very ordinary but so much the better for that. He is quite solid looking (cobby in cat fancy language).

Update 29-10-08:- a visitor and Flickr member (felinefreak) kindly made a comment and directed me to a Flicker webpage where the picture below of a Dragon Li - 'Li Hua Mau' ('Fox Flower Cat') was found. Thank you.

Dragon Li cat photo by felinefreak

The photo above is published under a Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic. The photographer says that in China the Li Hua Mau is the unofficial national cat and the cat has large eyes and a large overall build. A breed standard with the Cat Aficionado Association (CAA) is in the pipeline so progress is being made. It is nice to see China developing a cat fancy.

Dragon Li cat, a Chinese cat breed - Photo copyright: http://www.signonsandiego.com

Update 17th February 2011:  I have found another photo - see above. I have taken the liberty of publishing it here and provided a link in exchange. The Dragon Li cat has been accepted for showing in the miscellaneous class with Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) - see cat associations. This gives it wider recognition. It is said that this little seen cat breed originates in the small Chinese wildcat, the Chinese Desert Cat also called the Chinese Mountain Cat, which is a subspecies of the wildcat, felis silvestris. Its full scientific name is: Felis silvestris bieti. This origin makes sense and in fact mirrors the domestication of the African wildcat and European wildcat (see cat history). This theory has neither been proved or disproved as far as I am aware. The stocky wildcat appearance of the Dragon Li supports the idea.

This rare Chinese cat breed was shown at a San Diego cat show over the weekend of 22nd January 2011. Two cats (the two in the photo above?) were imported into the USA (Palm Springs) in October 2011 apparently. One is named, "Lihua China Zhong Guo". The breeders who imported the cat call him, "China" understandably!

This was no doubt the beginning of the breed in the USA. There is an indefatigable desire to start new cat breeds. The trouble with the Dragon Li is that it looks like a tabby moggie! Americans like their purebred cats to look refined and special. In China they are considered special, however. Matings between the breed are seen as weddings! Although the Dragon Li Hua looks like a moggie on close inspection the defining characteristics have been described as:
  • wiry coat
  • a rich brown coat color,
  • black striping on the head
  • leopard spots on the belly
  • a black-tipped tail
  • black dots at the rear corners of the mouth (smiling appearance) - source: http://www.signonsandiego.com.
I am not sure that these are that unusual to be honest. You could be describing a tabby cat.

As to the Chinese White, this must be a white cat! Very technical that. See cat coats white. This is a new breed from China. This is an Angora type cat in long and short hair. This is another well balanced cat, nothing extreme about her and of average size. There is absolutely nothing in books or on the internet that shows us this cat in a photo or drawing (as at Feb 2011)! I would expect this cat to be not that well refined meaning developed by breeders (thankfully). In which case it would be a balanced "normal" shaped cat with a pure white coat.

The Dragon Li and Chinese White are genuine Chinese cat breeds compared to the Chinese Harlequin, which isn't.

Chinese cat breeds to Home page


  1. Images and a little more information about the Dragon Li (or Li Hua Mau).


  2. Hi, thanks a lot for this. I searched Flickr creative commons for a picture to no avail but obviously missed it


  3. do you like my chinese cat?
    he´s so smart


  4. The Chinese Li Hua mao (aka Dragon Li) was recognized by the Cat Fanciers Association, Inc. for registration and exhibition in CFA shows in the MISCELLANEOUS class in February 2010. Examples of this native Shorthair Chinese breed, which only exists in the Brown Mackeral Tabby color pattern, are currently being exhibited in CFA Championship Cat Shows in China and the USA.
    Bob Zenda, CFA Allbreed Judge

  5. Thank you, Bob, for the information. It is very nice of you to take the time to update and add to this post.

  6. Hm, I heard about the Chinese Li Hua and wanted to see what it looked like. All of the pictures I'm finding seem to be the same exact photos though, so they're don't seem to be very many examples. I was hoping for something more unique looking, but to be honest they just look like the common tabby mix strays and ferals I've seen my whole life. =P

  7. Hi, response to last comment: Yes, I agree. There are very few photographs, which I find odd. And the photo is a of a tabby cat. Of course a tabby cat can be a purebred cat but I would expect something, as you say, that is a little more outstanding.

    I'll see if I can update this page.

  8. I might have one. Contact me at rar0831a@yahoo.com

  9. What about the Desert Lynx Cat?

    1. That is an American created breed:



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