The History of the Russian Blue Breed

How better to learn about the history of the Russian Blue breed, than from a breeder from yesteryear?
Peter the Great

The same photo and cat appears in “The Book of the Cat” with the name: Ashbrittle Peter. Peter the Great was born in 1902, and is the son of Muchacho.

 

The following article is by a breeder who identifies herself as: Mrs Harpur. She wrote the article in 1910, in the infancy of the Russian Blue breed. Her article is particularly interesting, because it shows us that right at the very beginning of the creation of pedigrees and specific breeds of cats, there was already contention about the standard of points and definition of the Russian Blue breed. At this time in Russian Blue history, that most ubiquitously British of all cats, the Blue British Shorthair was being developed, and was considerably more popular at cat shows and with the public than the elegant, original Russian Blue cats imported from Russia, which pre-dated the creation of a “British” type of cat.
As a result of this preference, breeders often mixed the two types to “improve” the more angular, “foreign” type of Blues. It was also considered a sign of distinction for a cat to have orange eyes. Pedigree cats were most easily spotted by having orange eyes, and so every effort was made to cross the Russian Blues to early “British” Shorthair cats to “improve” their eye colour away from the original green-eyed cats from Russia.
It is rather charming to think that in Edwardian Britain, books such as “Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia” contained articles about cats and cat breeds, and Mrs Harpur was introducing the Russian Blue into discerning homes and families:

 

The Russian Cat: The Origin of Russian Blues

A Hardy Breed – Its Points- Care of the Kittens
By Mrs. Harpur

Of all the short-haired breeds of cats, there is none more intelligent or more deserving of the title of “ideal pet” than the Russian Blue. As soon as he is assured of your bonne camaraderie, he will regard you as his special property, and though he will tolerate the rest of the household, it is only because his feline art of reasoning tells him they are in some way connected with you.
He will show his allegiance to his owner in many different ways, and there is a sturdy independence in the Russian breed which singles it out from all others. It only needs a little patience on the part of his owner to make him a past-master in learning simple tricks.
Many years ago this breed was brought from Archangel. The old and original type had a long wedge-shaped head and large prick ears -if such a term may be applied to a cat- and the coat was of a close seal skin texture, which has been compared to cotton plush. But of late years a more cobbily built, round-headed type of cat has come into favour, and although the coat peculiar to this breed still proclaims its wearer’s right to be called Russian, its other points are analogous to the ordinary British cat. Handsome though this newer comer is, he lacks in appearance the quaint, almost Egyptian, style of the original. To a breeder and successful exhibitor of the older stamp, it seems a pity it should be allowed to die out.
A step in the right direction was made by the Southern Counties Cat Club in January, when, at their show at Westminster, a class was provided for the foreign type; the round-headed blues holding their own in their proper place, and judged according to the British standard.
The Short-haired Cat Society of Great Britain, recognising the claim of the older standard of type, has drawn up the following {standard of} points:

Colour: Bright blue; pale or medium shades in preference to dark blue; free from tabby shadings or markings, no white.. 25

Eyes: Large and full-set, rather wide apart; orange and amber preferred, but eye colour to be subservient to colour and texture of coat and type of build .. 5

Body, Build and Tail: Body long, lithe, and graceful in outline and carriage; tail fairly long and tapering; legs inclined to long, and feet neat and well rounded.. 15

Neck and Head: Skull flat and inclining to be narrow; forehead receding; face and neck longer than that of British cat.. 15

Ears: Rather large, wide at base, with very little inside furnishing; skin of ear thin and transparent, and not too thickly covered with hair .. 5

Coat: Very short and close, of a sealskin-like texture and lustrous .. 25

Condition: .. 10

100 points in total from which it will be seen that colour and texture of coat are the chief points for breeders to aim at producing.

 

Billy-Blue-Blazes-a-blue-Russian-cat-of-the-correct-foreig
Billy Blue Blazes, a blue Russian cat of the correct “foreign type,” bred and owned by Mrs. Harpur. The handsome and more modern ” British type” lacks the quaint Egyptian appearance of the original breed
Photo, F. H. Sutton

A-blue-Russian-cat-of-British-type-Bred-and-owned-by-Mrs-C

A blue Russian cat of ” British type,” Bred and owned by Mrs. Carew-cox
Photo, W. T. Cook
I have always found the Russian exceptionally hardy, and impervious to extreme cold, and even damp, the enemy of most foreign cats in this country. The kittens require a little more care and attention during the first two or three months of their existence than do the ordinary short-haired kittens, and very often they are born with distinct body markings and ringed tails, but these gradually disappear altogether, leaving the coat a lovely shade of blue. Mrs. Clark, of Bath, is a great admirer of the Russian, and has done much to further its interests. From her cattery many first-class specimens have come. ” Peter the Great” is of imported parentage, and many of his children have made names for themselves in the show-pen, both at home and abroad, amongst them being at least one champion son in America. Mrs. Carew-cox, of Addiscombe, is another authority on this breed, and she and Mrs. Clark have remained true to it through all its vicissitudes, and there are very few, if any, pedigrees of these cats extant which do not contain the names of some of these ladies’ Russians. ” Billy Blue Blazes ” is one of my most devoted dumb friends, and is now nearly five years old.

This section is from “Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia -Volume 2”
Publisher: London S.N.
Year: 1910-1912
Copyright: 1910-1912, S.N.

Article sourced from: http://chestofbooks.com/food/household/Woman-Encyclopaedia-2/The-Russian-Cat.html#ixzz1kOttvCBq

 

Another wonderful article about the early history of the breed and Mrs Carew Cox’s Bayard in particular, was written by our friend John Smithson, for the CFA Cat-O-Pedia:
http://www.cat-o-pedia.org/bayard.html

© Wychwood Russian Blue Cats 2016