Dorie Weston breeder of the world renown Walnut Hill Cattery was the foremost breeder of Silver Persians from the 1960s to the late 1980s. Her silvers won numerous awards and were highly prized by other breeders world wide. The legacy of Walnut Hill cats can be found behind most Silver and Golden and Silver Exotic pedigrees today. This article appeared in the June 1985 edition of the Silver Lining a publication produced by Editor Sue Hinkle of Fairisles Silver and Golden Persians.
It is well known that the very qualities which make a silver Persian unique as a show cat are the most difficult ones to acquire and maintain. Most of the silver breeders that have had consistent winners in the show ring believe that selective line-breeding of silver to silver only is the surest road to success. There are few shortcuts. In spite of recent discussions to the contrary, most silver breeders do not believe in solid color outcrosses. I myself have never used solids, or any other color but silver, to improve type in my cats. The winners I have had were the results of selectively breeding the best female to the best male, being particularly careful to not repeat any of the female's faults. Breeding two cats with the same fault is not advisable in any color, but with silver breeding, it can be a disaster. I have also done considerable line breeding and some inbreeding, almost always with rewarding results.
Silvers are unique in both coat color and eye color, yet to breed that perfect cat is always our goal. To get a fine chinchilla or shaded silver with the proper coat color, Persian type, and perfect mascara, brick red nose with the black outline, huge expressive blue green or green eyes, plus heavy bone and a long flowing coat is not easy--many would-be breeders give up too soon.
I have been color breeding silvers for over 25 years now, as has GRACE OVER of Gray-Ivy Cattery and MOLLY TURNEY in England of Bonavia Cattery. We have had silvers that meet our own high standards, but also many lovely breeders and pet-type kittens. Selecting which to keep, which to sell, and which should go as beloved neutered pets is one key to success. Instinct plays a major part of making these decisions, but astute observations and working knowledge of genetics are both imperative.
When I first began breeding silvers, I was fortunate in have some of the best stock available at that time. The old Silver Mesa cats had many years of line breeding behind them. Also, my friendship with GRACE OVER and the use of her excellent stud cat, Gray-ivy Aladdin, gave me the start I needed. I believe that "Laddie" contributed more to the American-bred silvers than any other single cat. Qd.CH Las Lomas Man About Town was my first stud cat. A daughter of his, Walnut Hill Sweet Sue, bred to Aladdin, produced three females and one male. All four kittens in the litter achieved their Grand Championships--Walnut Hill Rondo, Walnut Hill Genii, Walnut Hill Parfait of Sequoia, and Walnut hill Angel of Bean Ridge. Rondo eventually became my main stud cat and remained so for 16 years, producing many a Grand among which were Walnut Hill Bravo, Gray-ivy Ron-d-Voo, Walnut Hill Christolite, Walnut Hill Juno, Walnut Hill Kewpie Doll and numerous others. Aladdin's kittens all had his sweet nature, plus glamour, exquisite coat color and gorgeous eye color. Los Lomas man About Town's contribution was heavy bone, excellent type and short, short tails. Together they had it all.
I believe that most all of the finest silvers today have one or both of these males in their pedigrees.
It is not necessary to have a large number of cats to produce high quality kittens. I never keep more than 10 adults. But culling is a very constant chore and sometimes a difficult task as well. Nevertheless, finding a proper home for a cat you no longer need in your breeding program is sometimes necessary.
For the novice, the best advice I can give is to buy a top female from the finest bloodlines available to you and breed her to the very best quality male you can find within your budget, and keep the best female kitten from this mating and breed her back to her own sire. This should set the type and insure prepotency for that type as well, unfortunately your chance of buying a show cat are pretty slim. Breeders usually keep their best--that's what it's all about. However, you could probably purchase a litter sister of that best kitten and she would undoubtedly carry many of those same valuable genes. Start out very slowly, and do a lot of research buy the best you can afford and always breed to the best, and your results will be surprisingly rewarding.
To keep an accurate picture of the ideal cat in your mind, one must study and evaluate the actual meaning of the written show standard. The Persian standard called for a round massive head, a short, broad nose, and a good break. it doesn't say HOW short --just short. The nose should be as broad as it is long, and looking down from the top, almost square -- not wide at the tip and narrow at the break, which creates a pinched look. The chin should be full and well-developed, but the bite should be normal, with the teeth meshing properly and the lower jaw not so over-developed that the lower teeth are exposed or the tongue protrudes. Weak chins can be a problem for silver breeders, but an overdeveloped and overly heavy chin can cause the total loss of that very necessary sweet expression.
The ears should be small and round tipped, tilted forward and not too open, set far apart and low down on the head. The eyes, particularly of a silver, must be large, round, brilliant green or blue green, and set far apart and low down on the face, giving the very essential sweet expression to the face. If the nose is too short, it also spoils this sweet expression and causes the eyes to look as if they are set on the bias. The cat should be low on its legs, deep in chest, massive across the shoulders and rump, with a short middle piece--in others words, built like a box. It should have heavy bone --not a lot of fat, which can easily disguise a lightly framed cat. Overfeeding makes fat, not muscle and bone, so it is important to breed for actual body type, not an overweight layer on a poorly boned cat. The tail should be short -- but again, how short is short? It should be in proportion to the body length, reaching about to the floor when the cat is standing. It should be carried without a curve and at an angle lower than the back in repose.
The coat should be long and thick, of a very fine texture with lots of gloss and also full of life. A brittle coat lacking luster is not only the result of poor conditioning, but causes the silver to completely lose the required sparkling appearance. The coat should be long all over the body, including the shoulders. The ruff should be immense and very full. The presence of even one flea, ear mites, or a female coming in season too frequently without breeding her, can cause a beautiful ruff to virtually disappear overnight. Of course, the time of the year and the weather has a great deal of influence on any long hair's coat, but good health shows all year long--even in Hawaii. Silvers, like all longhairs, always look their best in a full luxurious coat. The undercoat should be pure white, with a coat of the properly tipped chinchilla being very delicately tipped with black --not blue. The characteristic sparkling appearance is imperative. The legs may be slightly shaded with tipping, but no bars should be visible on the face, legs or tail. The chin, ear tufts, stomach and chest should all be pure white. On the properly tipped shaded silver, there is a definite mantle of black tipping shading from the back, down the sides, over the face, legs and tail, with the overall effect being MUCH darker than a chinchilla. When solid colors are used as outcrosses to upgrade silver type, too often they inherit the dilute genes of their Blue or cream background, and their tipping becomes blue rather than black. Although this is quite difficult to see, particularly on a chinchilla, it causes the cat to completely lose the required sparkling appearance. Silvers which have been colorbred from many generations do not carry any dilute genes and unlike non-colorbred silvers which can carry dilutes recessively without showing them, they are "pure" for both their black tipping and their white undercoat.
Too many cats that are tipped too heavily for a chinchilla are shown as shadeds. The true shaded silver is not a spoiled chinchilla, and if there is any doubt about the color, they are not right for either class at that time. The overall picture of a shaded silver is much darker than a chinchilla --a pewter look when seen from a distance. Everything about it is darker, even the face and legs. Chinchillas that are too deeply tipped should be held until the next show season when the color is more likely to be set. Most silvers lighten in color as he get older, but a true shaded will not change from year to year after the cat reaches it second winter coat.
It has been suggested that we have just one color of silver, the chinchilla, as they do in England. But, if we continue to breed only for the very pale chinchillas, we seem to lose the brilliant brick red nose color and the definitive black outlining of nose and eyes. Sometimes it becomes broken or even lost altogether. So, it seems that we need the lovely shaded silver, even in a chinchilla breeding program.
Silver kittens may be born patterned, striped or even with a mackerel tabby pattern, but does disappear as the coat grows out. The palest kittens are not always the palest adults, and both chinchilla and shaded often occur in the same litter. The novice should be prepared for the arrival of kittens which appear much darker or have more tabby markings than expected, Often, when the kitten is shown, the judge will open the coat, see the dark tipping just breaking through the skin, and decide that it is going to be a shaded silver rather than a chinchilla. IF one understands that the black tipping breaks through the first and the white comes in later as undercoat, it is easy to understand why it is so difficult to accurately evaluate color on young kittens. They go through many color changes as they mature.
Granted, it is fun to win, but consistent quality and overall improvement of the breed should be our true goal. It has been my observation that using solid color outcrosses to upgrade silver type is ultimately disappointing. By the time one makes up for the coat color and eye color loss, the solid color type gained has again disappeared. Of course, the advantages of using silvers for cameo breeding have been well established for many years, but the progeny of these cameo-bred matings have little to offer the silver breeder. With the loss of ethereal glamour that so often accompanies solid color outcrosses, the silver becomes merely a solid color in silver underwear --not the glamorous and unique breed that it is.
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