1978 Yearbook Article
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.
GR. CH. SAND N'SEA BIKKURI OF JEMWYCK
Photo by L. Levy
DEFINITION OF THE ORIENTAL BREED
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.
EARLY OSH BREEDING PROGRAMS
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.
ORGANIZATION OF OSH IN CFA
In the summer of 1972, my husband, Peter, and I went to England to look for new Siamese lines to bring back home. During this trip we were surprised to find the Siamese type we were looking for in the Foreign Whites, Lavenders, Chestnuts, Spotted Tabbies and Ebonies. We saw these cats at Mary Dunnill’s Sumfun Cattery and at Angela Sayer’s Solitaire Cattery. We very much wanted to bring some of these outstanding cats home with us, but we know that there was no breed to accommodate then in C.F.A.
We found ourselves pondering the problem of gaining recognition for these various colored cats of Siamese type in C.F.A. The England registration scheme could not be carried over to C.F.A., because GCCF considers every OSH color to be a separate breed (GCCF also treats Bristish Shorthair and Persian in this manner). However, GCCF allows OSH colors to interbreed and allows kittens of several different breeds (i.e. colors) to be registered from one litter.
After returning home, we carefully followed the progress of many colors of Orientals in GCCF and the European Cat registry ( FIFE ). Several articles in Cat World, written by members of FIFE , indicated that cats with Oriental type were being developed: whites, blues, ebonies, and spotted tabbies, and that they would be grouped into one breed. We corresponded with as many overseas breeders as we could track down, and they all, without exception, agreed that these cats should be one breed, and defined in all possible colors. At the same time, we kept close contact with C.F.A. Central Office, and we had frequent discussions about alternate ways to introduce the Orientals in this country. By the summer of 1973, it was clear that the only possibility that made sense genetically and that would remain consistent with CFA’s registration rules was to group all of these cats of foreign type under a single breed classification.
Once we knew the direction that was to be taken, two very important questions were still to be answered: would there be a sufficiently large number of breeders interested in working with the OSH breed? Although CFA required ten breeders to pledge their interest, we felt that twenty would be far better. Without a large number of concurrent breeding programs working toward a common goal, the development is far too slow, and breeders tend to become discouraged. It was also of the upmost importance that the Oriental breeders be able to work harmoniously.
The second question, just as crucial as the first, was whether these cats would have sufficient esthetic appeal to the public, which must eventually provide good pet homes for the kittens. Without these homes for non-show specimens, no responsible or compassionate breeder would want to embark on an ambitious breeding program.
In a nutshell, without a substantial number of experiences breeders devoted to the breeding program, and without interest in the kittens, there was no breed.
On October 19, 1973, the first meeting of Oriental Shorthairs International was held in our home in Yorktown Heights , New York . The meeting was fertile in producing what was to become the standard for the OSH , and defined most of the colors. Two weeks later, the breed was names, and OSA applied for CFA membership.
With almost twenty experiences breeders ascertaining their intentions to work with the Oriental breed, the first question was now answered. These experienced breeders pledge their time, their hard work, their money, their outstanding Siamese stock to a strict selective breeding program. The Charter members of OSI were truly pioneer breeders. And just like all other pioneer breeders they were wiling to work unselfishly without the guarantee of registration status or even more remotely the pleasure of seeing their cats on the show bench. Perhaps the most remarkable fact about the original OSI members is that not a single one possessed an Oriental cat and most of them had not even seen one in the flesh. They pledged their devotion to an abstract concept of beauty.
When the OSH standard was framed, the lack of Oriental cats among breeders was a definite advantage. None of the pioneers had any conflict of interest between defining his ideal and describing his own cats. And now to introduce the charter members of OSI who laid down the foundation for CFA’s Orientals:
William Eisenman, Barbara Harr, Alison Hedberg, Judith Hymas, Richard and Barbara Levitan, Anthony and Barbara Marescie, Peter and Vicky Markstein, Jeoffry and Gail Miles, Robert and Joan O’Brien, Ann Tacetta, Lou and Lynn Weiss, and Donald and Dorothy Wilbur.
Almost immediately the OSI Club placed advertisements in Cat World inviting breeders with similar interests to join forces. The response was far beyond any expectations. Oriental breeders who were discovered through these ads provided the majority of cays required to apply for registration status. The Lavender breeders, interested in promoting their cats in CFA, reregistered their cats as Lavender Orientals, and joined OSI. By the time OSI applied for registration status there were over 60 breeders and almost 100 cats!
Meanwhile in February, 1974, the English imports purchased by OSI members arrived: Solitaire Keleawe, Chestnut female, Harislau Magnolia and Harislau Myosotis, Spotted Tabby Lavender females, Solitaire Tut, Chestnut Spotted Tabby male, and Scintilla Tangent, Cream male. Prior to these imports, Pauline and Sid Thompson had imported two Chestnut females, Solitaire Tongan Princess and Alice ’s Sakura. Since eight of CFA’s first ten OSH grand champions have imports in their pedigrees, the overseas breeders made significant contributions to the USA Oriental development.
Soon after their arrival, the imports were entered in several CFA shows for exhibition only. After only their first showing at the 1974 Westchester Cat Club Show, the answer to the second question was unequivocal: the cats appealed esthetically to judges, breeders, and pet owners alike. The owners of these first Orientals were getting inquiries on future litters from breeders who realized that championship status could not be guaranteed, and from pet owners who were anxious to know when OSHs would be available to pet homes. Most judges gave lengthy and complimentary descriptions of the OSH to the public. They talked at length with OSH breeders, and their advice indicated interest in seeing the breed het started on the right foot. At each exhibition of these cats, membership in OSI increased. We definitely had a breed!
From that point on, everything went very smoothly. Registration status was granted in October 19974, and provisional status was granted in October 1975, effective May 1, 1976. At that point, OSI doubled its publicity campaign. At several CFA shows, members of OSI entered as many as 20 OSH . The breeders realized that only those specimens which would honor the breed should be exhibited. From the large number of exhibits, the judges were better able to evaluate the Orientals, and in turn gave us valuable feedback. The enthusiasm was high and immediate. By October 1976, the Orientals were advanced to Championship status, in all the proposed colors, effective May 1, 1977.
All of the dedication and unity of the now 80 members of OSI had been rewarded. The CFA Board, by recognizing all the proposed colors, showed its appreciation for the possibilities of this hybrid breed. By this one move, CFA became one of the most advanced registries in its definition of the Oriental Shorthair.
The story of the Oriental Shorthair in CFA is glamorous as the Orientals advanced to Championship Status in minimum time. I believe this to be the result of a large number of breeders all working in unison towards the same goal, the esthetic appeal of the breed, the intelligent breeding programs, and the foresight of the CFA Board to accept all colors. The OSH also had very knowledgeable advisors throughout their development years: Jane Martinke, Dr. Rosemond Peltz, Muriel Slodden, Pat Turner, Angela Sayer, Jean Rose, and Richard Gebhardt. It would be impossible to name the dozens of judges who promoted our breed by their display of enthusiasm, and without whose assistance, the breed would not have advanced as quickly nor as successfully. Certainly today, none can deny the appeal of the OSH breed especially after the splashing results in their first Championship year!
CFA OSH CONFORMATION AND COLOR STANDARDS
With two important modifications, the CFA Siamese conformation standard was adopted for the OSH . Although the Siamese Standard is generally considered to be one of the most definitive ones, some changes were absolutely necessary. “HEAD: Long tapering wedge. Medium size … BODY: Medium size. Dainty, long and svelte …” is written in the Siamese standard. The use of the words “medium” and “long” for the same part of the anatomy is contradictory. Since the Orientals were to have long heads, the head description simply stated that fact.
The word “dainty”, which shares its roots with the word “dignified”, was also dropped from the OSH standard, because the usage of this word had been altered by the Fancy to describe the “size” of the cat rather than the “style”. The Oriental designers suspected very strongly that the meaning attributed to this single word was responsible for the miniaturizing Siamese programs that have been launched from time to time in the United States .
The OSH must have a long refined head, and therefore must be tall and long bodied in order to achieve the proper esthetical balance. There is no room for “cuteness” in the OSH and even less room for undersized cats. This point has been further stressed in the standard by requiring disqualification for miniaturization.
Since 1978, the Oriental and Siamese standards have diverged even further. The Siamese breeders felt it necessary to allocate an additional 5 points for body muscle tone. While this might ne necessary for the Siamese, it was certainly not applicable for the OSH , which have been acclaimed by many judges as having outstanding body conformation. Instead, the OSH standard placed 5 additional points on the head to emphasize the distinguishing character of the breed.
The Oriental colors are those naturally occurring in nature in addition to the variations obtained from the Siamese Chocolate and Lilac factor. The nomenclature for the OSH colors was chosen carefully to avoid ambiguity with other breeds and in accordance with Oriental breeders the world over. OSI sought consistency for the names of OSH colors within the breed and across international registries, rather than consistency of nomenclature with other breeds. The colors unique to the OSH breed introduced by the chocolate gene requires this intrabreed consistency. For instance, the American Shorthair standard describes a brown tabby which has a brownish undercoat and black stripes. The OSH has a similar tabby with black stripes as well as a tabby with brown stripes. In order to distinguish these two tabbies, the color of the stripes, rather than the undercoat (which is the same color in both tabbies) is used. Therefore it is essential to have the Ebony tabby for the first case and the Chestnut tabby for the latter. There are those who advocate for identical color nomenclature for all breeds, but I can hardly believe the Siamese and Himalayan breeders would be willing to rename their Seal Points to Black Points, or their Chocolate Points to Brown Points, nor for that matter would the Burmese breeders abandon their beautiful descriptive “Sable” for the genetically precise Black.
It is my opinion that the conformation section of the Oriental standard with change very little if at all in the years to come. The color descriptions, however, will need revisions for purposes of clarification and to accommodate those colors which have been inadvertently omitted.
The Oriental tabbies are defined in all four known tabby patterns: classic, mackerel, spotted and ticked. The spotted tabby carries spots rather than the stripes of mackerel; it is not a mackerel with poor pattern. The spots on a well marked specimen must be randomly placed on the body and must not form broken lines. Bikkuri, CFA’s Best Oriental of 1977-78 is an example of this pattern. The ticked tabby pattern is the wild agouti – the cat sports bars on legs, tail and neck, but shows no pattern of lines or bars on the body.
To state it simply, the overall appearance of the Oriental must set it apart from any other breed by its extreme head and body length while retaining refined bone structure and the straight uncompromising lines of the wedge and profile. The body must have excellent musculature and the cat must have surprising weight for its appearance. The coat must shine as though it had been coated with polyurethane, a result obtained only through good health, lots of exercise, and excellent diet.
RECOMMENDED BREEDING PROGRAMS
The amazement of both judges and breeders on how quickly the Oriental had reached its standard has been heard over and over. Certainly this was not due to an easy or deficient standard. The difficult Siamese standard was followed and even exceeded. What probably surprises these observers the most is that American Shorthairs are allowed as a possible parent in Oriental matings. However, what is not understood is that the ASHs are only used to introduce a new color or pattern, and once obtained, usually in the first generation mating, ASHs are never used again in that program. Most of this first generation work has been done for us by English breeders over 30 years ago!
The OSH breeding advisors continually stress the importance of only using the highest quality Siamese for Oriental matings. Such lines as Shoreham, Da-Glo, Felitan, Webb-Barr, Thaibok, Sand ‘N Sea, Tap-Toe, Petmark, Kalyan, Catana, Che’ Ree, SiaMews, Faro, Dahin, etc., to name a few are behind our present day Orientals.
The delightful disposition of the Orientals was achieved by careful selection of the ancestors. A cat with a timid or hostile attitude cannot be shown or placed in a pet home, and therefore contributes nothing whatsoever towards his breed except discontent and adverse criticism.
Most OSH breeders find no personality differences between Orientals and their Siamese. However, the female appear to be in season less frequently than their Siamese cousins. The OSH voice is usually less raucous: to paraphrase Mrs. Hargreaves, they use Oriental for ordinary conversation, and Siamese for matrimonial purposes.
Breeders interested in embarking in an OSH breeding program are encouraged to obtain the Oriental Express for guidance. This publication gives detailed breeding programs and genetic advice for the Oriental breed.
FUTURE PLANS FOR THE BREED
Many new color programs are presently being developed which include a wider range of silver colors, i.e. silver with chestnut, or blue, etc. tippings. Torbie and torbie smokes are already in existence and should appear on the show bench shortly. Also, several cats with a new solid color, Caramel, (a butterscotch color), will be presented this coming year. Again, since the Oriental is defined only by its highly stylized type, no color should be excluded.
In the next few years OSI will be preoccupied by the proper description and classification of the new colors as they appear. Further investigation will be carried out for the bi-colors, the calicos, and the odd-eyed whites, which were initially excluded on the basis of present day genetic speculation. New colors, once classified, should be easy to incorporate in the Oriental breed, as they do not obtain cheap awards by having a minority color, but rather increase the competition within their division.
Ticked Tabby Orientals have given us greater insight into the various tabby patterns carried by their Siamese parents. The research into ghost tabby markings started by Barbara Harr should provide important information to the solid color Orientals, as well as for Siamese programs. Knowing the tabby patterns carried by the Siamese could eventually eliminate the problems of “shadow bars”.
As mentioned earlier, Siamese can be produced in Oriental matings. Under CFA registration procedures these Siamese are referred to AOV Orientals. These cats have proven valuable in the Oriental breeding program, and breeders have been encouraged to register them and show them in the AOV class. Their quality has already been noticed by the judges, and I suspect that a greater number of these AOVs will appear on the show bench in years to come. Some of these AOVs have been exported to Europe , where they must be registered as Siamese, and where they have won major honors.
A computerized record keeping facility is presently being developed and will be made available to all OSI members. The chief uses of the computer in the present planning will be to collect data in the areas of color inheritance, genetic problems that may arise in the breed, stud cat productivity, as well as show results. Periodically, these records will be published in the Oriental Express for all to read.
Much work has been done, but more is still needed to continue the performance of our first years.
This story would have been incomplete without the inspired photography of Ted and Suzanne Allen, and Larry Levy. Special acknowledgment is also due to Jane Cox, current president of OSI, who has devotedly edited the Oriental Express since its inception. Doug Cox has helped all of us keep a proper perspective with his humorous cartoons.
No single individual and no single cat could have brought about the present day success story of the Orientals. It is the entire membership of OSI, it is all of the lines behind our OSHs, it is the numerous judges that befriended our cats, it is our overseas correspondents who were willing to share their experiences, it is those CFA Board Members with foresight and breed knowledge who made this story possible. Thank you, everyone.
Born: New York, New York, but lived most of the first 24 years in France and Africa.
Education: Studied Piano at the Conservatory of Music at Toulouse and Paris. Baccalaureate in Philosophy from Lycee Francais, B.S. Physics, Queens College, M.S. Computer Science, Pratt Institute.
University teaching: Currently Adjunct Prof. of COmputer Science at Courant Institute, N.Y.U. Formerly on faculties of Lehman College, Pratt Institute, Fairleigh Dickenson University.
Presently a Research Staff Member in Computer Science at the I.B.M. Watson Research Laboratory.
Hobbies: Painting, photography, chess. Competitive skiing and tennis.
Cat Fancy: Petmark Cattery was established by Vicky and Peter Markstein in 1967, where they bred Siamese, Persians, American Shorthairs, and Oriental Shorthairs.
Mrs. Markstein was the first president of the Oriental Shorthairs International. She has also been president of Westchester Cat Club, and is a member of the Empire Cat Club, and the Siamese Breeders of America.
Mrs. Markstein has contributed articles to Cats Magazine, and the Oriental Express.
Mrs. Markstein has two wonderful daughters, Carole and Michele.