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History of Siamese Body Type

No one really knows what the Siamese cats of ancient Siam looked like. Siam is now the modern nation of Thailand and by the mid-twentieth century average Thai families did not commonly breed Siamese cats, if they ever did, and the aristocratic Thai families did not commonly breed Siamese cats either (Baker, 1951). There is a book of cat poems that was set down in written form by scribes of Siam many hundreds of years ago. The cat poems contain illustrations of various types of cats (Clutterbuck, 1998). The illustrations show cats of many colors and patterns and may include cats similar to the Siamese, Korat, Burmese, Havana Brown, and Tonkinese cats of today. We cannot tell how they were bred, whether they were each bred separately as is done today or whether they were often bred to each other. We do not know whether the breeders of ancient Siam chose to standardize the body type of the Siamese cats or whether they focussed only on color and pattern, letting body type develop by chance. We do not know to what extent the body types of cats in the illustrations were drawn realistically or were stylized to suit the artist.

What we do know is that cats with the pointed pattern and blue eyes of the Siamese could be found in 19th century Siam but were virtually unknown in Europe. We know that the British were the first to become fascinated by Siamese cats in a big way, and they went to Siam to obtain them and import them into England. The earliest documented imports were during the 1870s, but were apparently not used in breeding programs. The British were beginning to hold cat shows and develop standards for breeding pedigreed cats about then. It was not long before Siamese were a small but persistent part of the scene. All pedigreed Siamese cats today are descended from about eleven cats that were imported into England from Siam beginning in the 1880s (Denlinger, 1952).

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