Not quite Fifty Shades of Grey!
Each pedigree registry sets a Standard of Points, by which it describes an ideal standard for each breed of animal registered within it’s association. There are ‘Standards of Points’ for cattle, poultry, dogs, cats, goldfish, and all types of animals that are purposely bred. This passion for cataloguing and describing different species was born in the 18th century, from a desire to document the natural world. The expansion of scientific enquiry and breeding experiments lead to more productive farm animals and the increase of dog breeds. In 1855, Darwin started a breeding programme of pigeons, to study breed diversity, and which developed his theory of the evolution of species.
Britain has one of the oldest pedigree registries in the world, and can justifiably be said the be the cradle of the Cat Fancy. The first pedigree registry was the National Cat Club, founded in 1887, and became affiliated with the GCCF (General Council of the Cat Fancy) in 1910. The Russian Blue has the distinction of being one of the very first cats to be defined as a “naturally occurring breed”, and to be exhibited at the second ever cat show, held at the Crystal Palace in December 1871. The first ever British cat show was held on the 13th of July, 1871. The first cat show in America was held in Madison Square Garden, in 1885, and the CFA (Cat Fanciers’ Association) was founded in 1906, being the longest-running, continuous feline pedigree registry in the world.
For more information about the history of the Cat Fancy, please visit our dear friend and author, John Smithson’s website which is dedicated to Harrison Weir, the father of the cat fancy.
Whilst the breed standards all read very similar for the Russian Blue across all registries, each standard is interpreted by judges and breeders, in very different ways. The Russian Blue breed standard generally calls for moderation, but this breed has ended up with very divergent, even extreme types of cat, all being bred under the same breed name of Russian Blue. This can be very confusing for many pet owners, seeking to buy a Russian Blue cat, and trying to work out their differences from pictures on the internet!
It is very important for buyers to understand that just because a breeder registers kittens with one registry, this does not automatically mean that their cats and kittens meet the standard of that registry. All registries have specific number of generations required in the pedigrees of cats being registered, and TICA has the most lax entry requirements with only 3 generations. Fife requires 4 generations, the CFA requires 8 generations and the GCCF requires 10 generations. Although our cats do not meet the requirements for the GCCF, we would meet the required generations to register our cats with them. The way to tell whether a breeder’s cats meets the standard of points of their registry, is to check whether they are showing their cats successfully in that registry. For more information about the importance of cat shows to pet buyers, please read our article about showing pedigree cats.
GCCF Russian Blue Standard
FIFé Russian Blue Standard
TICA Russian Blue Standard
CFA Russian Blue Standard
The history of the Russian Blue is elusive, but research has shown that the breed was created from cats imported from Russia, Iceland and Norway. The bustling port of Archangelsk was such a melting pot for immigrants from Finland, that the language spoken before the Russian Revolution of 1917 contained as much if not more, Finnish than Russian. Other breeds tend to be more homogenous across registries, but in Britain the Russian Blue suffered enormously at the onset, from being crossed to the emerging British ShortHair and losing at shows to the desired cobbier body type, even having to change its eyes from green to copper. The American Cat Fancy was melding U.S. born Maltese (a generic term for blue) Cats brought by Scandinavian settlers, into their British-imported Russian Blue breeding programmes, and after the second World War, Denmark resurrected the breed using feral foundation cats which met their standard of points, proving in point the Scandinavian origins of the breed in general. There is still a distinct type of Russian Blue bred across Scandinavia, sometimes referred to as “the Scandi-RUS”, which has a more ‘wild’ look to their eyes, which is part of their breed description. A Scandinavian icon was the lovely Blue Moon of Mölleby, who shows how the American breed standard came to develop, based as it was, on their many Scandinavian imports:
The British, GCCF Standard Russian Blue Cat
The contemporary British-bred, GCCF standard Russian Blue is a handsome cat, large in stature, elegant and of a deeper, steely blue than its counterparts in other registries. This standard calls for pronounced whisker-pads, vertically set ears to the top of the head, and somewhat tilted, green eyes. It stands proudly at one end of the Russian Blue spectrum, and breeders across the UK, as well as some in Holland, strive to meet this standard of points and appearance. This rather magnificent male was bred by Elizabeth Stark:
The European, FIFé Standard Russian Blue Cat
The Continental European Standard is set by FIFé (the Fédération Internationale Féline), and they sit between the extremes of the British GCCF standard and the American CFA standard. This is the largest pedigree registry in Europe, and has the highest number of Russian Blue breeders affiliated under it’s banner, from Finland to Greece, and every country in between. The FIFé Russian Blue is a friendly, inquisitive cat. The American type is slowly filtering into Fifé lines. This standard calls for almond-shaped eyes, a wider ear-set and a medium-blue coat. This boy was bred by us and now lives with Jennifer Stuhlmacher in Germany:
The “American” CFA and TICA Standard Russian Blue Cat
The CFA and TICA (The International Cat Association) standards are similar enough in their interpretation to be gathered together under the banner of the “American style Russian Blue”, although breeders in Asia and Japan in particular have been breeding this type for many years, perfecting the form and beauty of this graceful cat. American registries emphasise the grooming and presentation of show cats, due to their publicly-judged show formats. Of these two registries, the CFA Russian Blues are at the other extreme of the Russian Blue spectrum from the British type, with the TICA standard being a little less extreme, due to embracing FIFé Russian Blues from European breeders who belong to both (or more) registries. The CFA standard calls for wide-apart, rounded eyes, a straight nose-bridge, a flat top to the skull with widely spaced ears that are widely flared at the base, very much more to the side of the head, and a preference for a paler shade of soft blue, with lashings of silver tipping to the hairs. Their size is significantly smaller than the GCCF Russian Blue, and their whisker-pads are much less pronounced, so that the overall effect is of a much more gracile cat, even in adult males. This handsome boy was bred by Annette Wilson:
The CFA and TICA Russian Blue cat is described as gentle and affectionate. They retain their kittenish behaviour throughout their lives, and enjoy playing games of fetch. Russian Blues are avid shoulder-riders who love nothing more than to jump up onto the shoulders of their family members where they will snuggle into the back of their necks and ride around the house, enjoying all the various activities of their humans. They are softly spoken, but some are chattier than others, and their voices vary from tiny little squeaks to deeper voices. Russian Blues adapt well to family life, as they are soft with, and especially indulgent of their children, but will also amuse themselves until their family returns home at the end of the day. Often it is said that the Russian Blue is a cat for cat lovers, who will enjoy their independent natures, and cherish their Russian’s joy in perching on the highest surface they can find in the house, all the better to survey their domain! The TICA and CFA standards call for well-behaved cats with good temperaments and balanced personalities. Any Russian caught playing the Diva would be sent away from the show ring in deep disgrace, but considering the relaxed atmosphere at CFA and TICA shows, this is very unlikely, and Russians tend to do very well.
© Wychwood Russian Blue Cats 2016