Friday 21 May 2021

Three rival ideas about the history of the Angora cat

The term "Angora cat" is sometimes used interchangeably and rather confusingly with "Turkish Angora cat". The real Turkish Angora cat can be seen in the Ankara Zoo. These are the originals and they do not look like the selectively bred Turkish Angora cats that you see created in America. But they are quite long-haired with dense fur and you wonder why a domestic cat should have evolved into having long hair in a climate in Turkey which does not demand the extra protection of long fur. The same, incidentally, goes for the Persian which is meant to have originated in Persia, now Iran.

Real Turkish Angora cat
Real Turkish Angora cat. Photo: Ankara Zoo. This cat lives in the zoo.

There are three rival theories about the origins of the Angora, the first of which is without any scientific foundation and highly improbable. This is that the breed developed from the wild Pallas's cat better known as the manul. In other words, the theory is that this small wild cat was domesticated and evolved into the current Angora. This is completely impossible and I think we can discount it, in part because the appearance is completely different and ironically the manul has a longer, denser coat because they genuinely do live in very cold climates.

A more acceptable theory is that an old-an established Russian domestic cat developed a long-haired coat as a protection against the intensely cold Russian winter and this breed was taken south to Asia Minor on board commercial trading ships and eventually arrived in Turkey and Iran resulting in a long-haired cat residing in a warm country.

An alternative theory would be that the Angora was taken from the cold mountains of eastern Persia by Islamic invaders in the 15th century. Once they arrived in Turkey the coat evolved into becoming slightly less thick and fluffy than that of their Persian ancestors.

The Turkish Angora is one of the ancient cat breeds and the true and original ones currently reside in Turkey and they are, as mentioned, very different to the selectively bred variety in the artificial world of the American cat fancy. There was quite a lot of trading between countries a thousand years ago and on board the ship there would be domestic cats which is how the original domestic cats from the Middle East (the Fertile Crescent) spread out across the planet.

I have no preference for the two plausible theories mentioned above. It is likely that the cat was introduced into Turkey from the north i.e. Russia or perhaps one of the satellite states of that country before they became satellite states.

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