Why do Persians have flat faces?

Flat faced contemporary Persian cats
Photo copyright Helmi Flick

The reason why contemporary Persian cats have flat faces is because the breed standard of the cat association says that they have to have flat faces. The elements of the face should be in alignment in the CFA breed standard ("the forehead, nose, and chin appear to be in vertical alignment").

This came about over about 50 years of cat shows, judging cats, selectively breeding cats and rewriting the breed standard. Breed standards allow for a certain amount of discretion by judges when judging at cat shows. This gradually resulted in a shift to the more extreme appearance of rounded head, very long hair, cobby body, small ears and flat face.

The traditional Persian cat is not extreme in appearance and has a "doll face" appearance.

The underlying reason why the drift from normal face to flat face took place is the desire of cat breeders to create ever more eye catching purebred cats that will win prizes at cat shows. That mentality tends to lead to an extreme appearance over time.

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