CFA Oriental Breed Profile

CFA Oriental Breed Standard


                                               The Oriental Shorthair……


By Vicky Markstein

From the 1978 Annual CFA Yearbook, pages 257-268, published with permission of CFA

Photo by L. Levy

The 1977-78 show season was the first championship year for the Oriental Shorthairs (OSH) and what a first year it was! Gr.Ch. Sand N’ Sea Bikkuri of Jemwyck finished in the National Top Twenty, several Oriental Shorthairs placed in their region’s Top Ten and seven Orientals earned Grand Championship titles in the following colors: tortoiseshell, spotted lavender tabby, solid lavender, solid ebony and blue cream. Patapaw Justa Foo-lin, the tortie, was CFA’s first OSH Grand Champion. In addition to this impressive display of grands, the show bench statistics published by the Oriental Express showed that 40 different Orientals won major CFA final awards. To the best of my knowledge, no other breed has achieved these results in its first year in competition. Certainly no one can dispute the depth of quality of the Oriental Shorthair when so many cats have received recognition on the show bench. The Oriental Shorthairs are well on their way to fulfilling Dr. R . Peltz’s prophecy “And now we have two new breeds (Oriental Shorthairs and Exotic Shorthairs) personifying the extremes of body type that, in 20 years, will be the truly elegant cats of the fancy.” (Cat World Jan-Feb 1976)

The Oriental story as it is recounted here is all about a few people who sat around a fire and designed a hypothetical cat, the roll of a well organized breed club, and the importance of an open minded cat registry. The people are the pioneer Oriental breeders, the breed club is Oriental Shorthairs International (OSI), and the cat registry is C.F.A.

In addition, the following topics will be discussed:

           Definition of the OSH breed.
           Early OSH breeding programs.
           Organization of the OSH in CFA.
           Discussion of standards and color descriptions.




Before defining the Oriental Shorthair breed, let us review some commonly found dictionary definitions of the word “breed”:

            “a relatively homogeneous group of animals within a species, developed and maintained by man.” The Random House Dictionary of the English Language.

            “a group of domestic animals developed through the influence of man, either intentionally or unintentionally, and requiring control by man to prevent mixtures with other races, and consequently loss of the distinctive characteristics. Breed, in this sense, designates a more extensive group than strain, and does not imply directly traceable descent from a particular individual.

            “a distinctive group of domestic animals differentiated from the wild type under the influence of man and usually incapable of maintaining its distinctive qualities in nature.” Webster’s New International Dictionary.

Clearly it is man who selects the individuals to perpetuate a breed and not nature.

There are several ways to choose the distinctive characteristics of a breed. The oldest method is to select an unusual feature which is found in nature. Man then prescribes the other characteristics which, based on his sense of esthetics, compliment the hosen feature. For instance, the naturally occurring pattern which geneticists refer to as the Himalayan factor was expressed over several species. In particular the shorthair cat which today is known as the Siamese carries this color pattern. However, the conformation was prescribed by man, and realized only after many years of selective breeding. Photographs of Siamese cats taken only 80 years ago show a quite different conformation than today’s show Siamese. Similarly, today’s shoe Persian is barely recognizable from those depicted in Frances Simpson’s “Book of the Cat” (1903).

So one way a breed can be started is to take a naturally occurring characteristic such as a color pattern or hair length and superimpose a rigid man-made standard for type.

Later breeds were developed by combining two naturally occurring characteristics onto a single cat. The Himalayan breed is an example of such a design which combined the Siamese pattern with the Persian coat.

In recent years, breeds have been started using man-made standards as the basis for the cat, rather than a “naturally occurring characteristic”. The Oriental Shorthair and the Exotic Shorthair are two breeds which were designed by this last method.

In particular, the Oriental Shorthair designers started with a man-made standard for the Siamese cat without the color pattern. The philosophy of the original designers was that conformation alone would define the OSH breed. The entire spectrum of colors offered by nature would be used to enrich the breed.

In short, the Oriental Shorthair can be defined as a highly stylized cat having man-made Siamese type with green eyes developed in all naturally occurring colors. The Oriental Shorthair is a hybrid breed and it is intended to remain thus.

“Perhaps I should digress here to say that there is no such thing as “taint” or “stigma” from hybridism in a breed which is deliberately created by this means and bred to a strict physical standard as stringent as any standard used for the Natural breeds. Here hybridism is a mark of excellence, a badge of distinction, …….., considered to produce the highest degree of perfection, desirability, beauty or usefulness.” Jane Martinke, Cats Magazine, Feb, 1972.





  As far as can be determined the first Oriental breeding programs were started in England about 1950. “One cold winter evening in 1950, sitting comfortably by a roaring fire, I idly played with the idea of breeding a new variety of cats…… My vague wish to breed something new slowly matured into an ambition to breed a self-coloured brown cat with green eyes, shorthair and of foreign type. “ wrote Baroness von Ullman of Roofspriger Cattery, and mentioned her close collaboration with Mrs. A Hargreaves of Laurentide Cattery, and with Mrs. E. Fisher. The first published photographs of OSH kittens were of two Chestnuts. These appeared in “Our Cats”, Aug, 1954. The two kittens illustrated were Craigiehilloch Bronze Wing and Craigiehilloch Bronze Leaf bred by Mrs. R . Clarke of Reading .

Later, a 1956 issue of “Our Cats” carried a very informative article by Mrs. A. Hargreaves describing her experiments in producing Blue Point and Lilac Point Siamese.

            “I mated a Seal pointed queen to a Russian Blue male…… As expected, the first litter was all black …. Some of these blacks were mated together, and some back-crossed to the most suitable Siamese studs …. Having finished breeding Siamese from Jet, the one original black cat still in my possession, I decided to make use of her in another way. As a result she is the great-grandmother to some Chestnuts…..”

It is most interesting to note that the same black domestic female which was used to produce some of Laurentide’s world famous Siamese was also used to produce Mrs. Hargreaves’ first Chestnut Orientals. Two of these famous Siamese studs were Laurentide Mercury and Laurentide Quicksilver which appear on many English pedigrees such as Doneraile and Annelida. These two studs are even as close as the fifth generation behind some of CFA’s top winning Siamese. Of course today Mercury and Quicksilver would not be represented as Siamese, but rather as AOV Orientals! From these writings it would seem that the first Orientals produced where the Lavenders, a by-product of Mrs. Hargreaves’ Blue Point Siamese program. Mrs. Fisher exhibited a Laurentide Lavender in England in 1950. However, it was the Chestnuts in 1958 who were the first Orientals to gain recognition in GCCF (English equivalent of CFA). The Lavenders were the second color to gain acceptance in GCCF.

In 1962, three concurrent programs to produce the Oriental Whites were started by Mrs. E. Flack, Mr. Brian Stirling-Webb and Pat Turner. The Oriental Whites were the third color to be accepted.


Oriental Programs started in the U.S.A. are unfortunately not well documented and therefore difficult to describe. The only information I have been able to obtain is through personal contact with those breeders who had long term breeding programs and who were working toward breed recognition. Mrs. Ann Billheimer of Florida , the breeder of Gr.Ch. Tawnee Ballerina started developing Lavender and Chestnut cats of Siamese type in 1968. It was Mrs. Billheimer and Mrs. Hackett of New York who initiated recognition of Lavenders in C.F.A. At the 1972 Board meeting in Atlanta Georgia , Mrs. Billheimer presented one of her beautiful Lavender males, and the minutes of this meeting reflected great enthusiasm on the part of the board members. In spite of the Board’s interest, the Lavenders never advanced beyond registration status because the 100 required cats had not been registered. In 1974 Mrs. Billheimer wrote to me, “After six years, I would sure like to see them do more than be household pets, and I am with you and your club all the way.”

On the West Coast in the early 1960’s, Irene Gizzi, along with several other breeders undertook a program to develop Siamese type cats of all colors. Ms. Gizzi worked primarily with Ebonies and R eds. In Michigan , Mrs. Betty Purseglove was developing a white program, additionally she worked with several other colors as well.

The Oriental Shorthair International (OSI) records show Oriental meetings in the early 1970’s by Judy Broadbent, Marjorie Jordan, Lynn Lamoreux, Sid and Pauline Thompson, John Smith, and Dorothy and Donald Wilbur.

Certainly there must have been several other U.S. breeders working toward the Oriental goal. I deeply regret not knowing of their work and breeding programs and I would greatly appreciate hearing from them so that a more complete history can be written in the future.


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