CFA Judge Barbara Sumner often lectured Silver Breeders present in her ring about how important it is to build our 'house' first (breed for type/head, heavy overall boning and cobbiness) and then once that is accomplished work on the paint colors (coat, liners and eye color). She is right, we have not yet really focused on building our houses with any consistency, in terms of achieving heads and bodies equal to or rivaling other color Persians. We have bred for color first for the last 100 years and are thus late to achieve the type and structure that other color Persians possess.
Perhaps we need to make a collective decision to breed for heavy Persian head and body type solely and then once we have achieved that worry about clearing up the color issues. Alternatively, we can again hyper-focus on clearing up color issues now, but we may lose type and body structure in the process. What do we want? The more moderate Silver Type (good/moderately 'extreme' type, not traditional or doll face) or full on other color Persian ultra extreme type or a combination of both: moderate/extreme type on a heavy cobby body? Shall we focus instead on working on improving/building the house or just keep on working on perfecting the paint job?
Perhaps we need to look outside our division and talk to other color breeders and ask if we can hold and examine a winning other color Persian to get a feeling for it's structure. Check overall balance, width, and depth of chest, neck, shoulders, stance, hind-quarters and compare and contrast that 'feel' with that of the structure of our Silvers and Goldens. Up to 60 points of our Persian Standard is awarded based on the structure of the cat, whereas only up to 40 points are awarded for 'color' attributes.
Adding to the confusion, we are noticing Judges are conflicted when presented with 'ultra-extreme' Silvers/Goldens and those with more moderate typing (moderate-extreme or moderate short nosed or traditional). Some see how the unique look we all prize in our S/Gs is not as apparent on the ultra-extreme when compared to the wide eyed sweet expression of the more moderately typed silvers/goldens. At the 2012 Dixieland show, one Judge pointed to one kitten and commented that this [ultra extreme] kitten is meets the current interpretation of the Persian Standard best, however it does not possess the the unique sweet expression as the more moderately typed kitten he held in his hand. He touted the unique beauty of our silvers and how important it is we not lose that look. He went on to say how the more moderately typed meets the current written standard, so we don't need to change the standard if we collectively prefer a more moderate look. Those of us exhibiting Silvers and Goldens are seeing this resistance/conflict as well. Some judges are thrilled when presented with an 'ultra exteme' Silver/Golden and others are luke warm and others choose instead the moderately typed Silver/Golden commenting on the unique and sweet look the cat/kitten possesses and that which we all love and cherish so much about our Silver/Goldens.
We are a collection of independent thinkers, and have always bred for a look we liked and hoped the judges agreed with our direction. We all have a slightly different opinion as to what the "Perfect Chinchilla or Shaded" is and degree of type preferred. Perhaps diversity is best as those of us who prefer the more extreme look will need to go back to a 'Color-bred" Chinchilla to clear coat and other color issues and those of us that prefer the more moderate color-bred will at some point need to obtain a "Non-color Bred' Chin or Shaded to bring up type. Therefore there is room and benefits for us all when considering either directions or breeding programs. We are not a 'one size fits all' Division!
The CFA Persian standard states the following:
HEAD: round and massive, with great breadth of skull. Round face with round underlying bone structure. Well set on a short, thick neck. Skull structure to be smooth and round to the touch and not unduly exaggerated from where the forehead begins at the top of the break to the back of the head, as well as across the breadth between the ears. When viewed in profile, the prominence of the eyes is apparent and the forehead, nose, and chin appear to be in vertical alignment.
NOSE: short, snub, and broad, with "break" centered between the eyes.
CHEEKS: full. Muzzle not overly pronounced, smoothing nicely into the cheeks.
JAWS: broad and powerful.
CHIN: full, well-developed, and firmly rounded, reflecting a proper bite.
EARS: small, round tipped, tilted forward, and not unduly open at the base. Set far apart, and low on the head, fitting into (without distorting) the rounded contour of the head.
EYES: brilliant in color, large, round, and full. Set level and far apart, giving a sweet expression to the face.
Nowhere in the above description of the CFA Persian head does the written standard state the nose must be placed between the eyes. The CFA Persian Standard only specifies the break must be centered between the eyes and the nose short, broad and snub. In addition, the standard does not state how short or how broad or how deep the break must be to meet the standard. However, we must ask the question as to why have most other color Persian breeders and exhibitors and Judges interpreted the standard so tightly to insist the nose must be placed between the eyes and the break so deep one must be able to bury ones finger? One prominent Silver Exhibitor asks a very good question: "What is wrong with a Persian that has a lower placed nose with a break centered between the eyes, with dome, nose and chin all in the same plane from the profile?" She goes on to state: "I think one of the biggest misconceptions today is that a silver has to have a nose between the eyes to meet the standard." She also notes she is seeing more moderate-extreme Persians attaining NW titles so perhaps a shift away from the ultra-extreme (with the nose placed between the eyes) to the more moderate-extreme type (break between the eye and nose lower) is starting in other in other Persian color divisions.
In the late 1800s and early 20th century when Chinchillas were first being developed, several different color Persians were bred to early chinchillas said to be descended from Angoras and early Persians. Solid Blue, Silver and Blue Tabby Persians were commonly found in the early pedigrees and breeders at that time worked extremely hard to breed out barring and tarnishing and "Color Breeding" was the norm from the early 20th Century up through the 1990s. In fact in the very early days a "lavender tint" was the preferred color for our silvers. Looking at these early pedigrees we can infer that our early chinchillas were genetically blue as opposed to our primarily genetically black Silver Chinchillas of today. An excerpt from The Book of the Cat describes the color of the show cats of that day:
"There has been of late quite a rage amongst silver breeders to produce a totally unmarked specimen, but fanciers would do better to endeavour to obtain a light shaded silver free from tabby markings with the broad head and massive limbs which at present are qualities not often met with in this variety. I am quite aware this is a most difficult task, but we must remember that all good things come hard, even in breeding cats, and if it were not so half the interest for fanciers would be gone." "...Most of the exhibits are of a dirty white, tinged with lavender, with a quantity of marks and stripes on the face, body, and paws. Now this is not a pleasing picture and one that would be considered libelous by a silver breeder. It is however true, that at present our silvers are too full of tabby markings, and in many cases the undercoat is not silvery white, but light grey or pale blue."
Open up the pedigree of Old Fort Jack Frost, a famous Silver shown at the turn of the century. Behind him we find Eng CH Nero(1892) a Dark Tabby, Bitterne Bulbul a Smoke, out of Venus a Smoke, Eng CH Blue Jack a Blue, Blinks a Black, Lindfield Bootles a Blue, Ingleside Tawney a Blue Cream, Brenda a Tortie, Perso a Blue Smoke, and Eng CH Bundle a Blue all bred to descendants of Chinnie the Mother of all Chinchillas. You might take a moment to read the full accounts written in the The Book of the Cat by Francis Simpson one rainy day. You will see that some things have not changed that significantly and today we face the same issues with the massive amount of out-crossing to other color Persians in practice today in this early part of the 21st Century.
While the coat color of our Chins and Shadeds are suffering with so many outcrosses to other colors, this practice does infuse new and different bloodlines which is essential for vigor. In the early accounts of our Chinchillas it was noted they were smaller and finer boned than their other color Persian counterparts which we still see today. However with all this outcrossing being done to bring up head and body type we are seeing a number of issues we Silver and Golden Breeders have never experienced in the past such as too small noses, sorting and snuffling issues, imperfect top heads, alignment issues, and spoiled ruffs discolored from cat food/water to name a few troubling issues! There is a lot to be said about the health and well-being of the cat with the more moderate head type of our breeder and show quality Silver and Goldens.
Munira Murrey of famed Missionhill Persian's notes in her article Breeding Silver Persians - A Solid Success at Missionhill: "Another problem I have faced over the years is occasionally getting kittens that are born too extreme and this can give rise to future health problems. Kittens that are born with wide set eyes, a fairly short nose and not too deep a break always end up by having a wide open, typically sweet silver expression. Those that are born with ultra short noses and deep breaks usually end up with a closed expression and have a problem breathing when they are fully grown."
Munira continues: "There are now quite a few breeders around the world who have been breeding solids into their silver lines . A few years ago this was frowned on by the majority of silver breeders. It was feared, and quite rightly so, that those qualities that are so unique to the silver persian would be lost when silvers were outcrossed to solid persians."
At the beginning of the 20th century up to the 1950's our Breeder forbearers worked diligently to perfect coat imperfections--color breeding was the acceptable practice of the day. Then in the 1950's two, just two, controversial out-crosses were done, resulting in Fannie Mood's CH Delphi Suzy-Q out of the Blue GC Dixi-land Queed of Azulita and CH Sandia Gorgeous George out of GC Silva-Wyte Aladdin of Sandia (C.E.White).
As a back lash to the outcrosses done above in the 1950s, up to the late 60's, no reputable breeder dared to outcross to another color Persian, so the emphasis or the rule of the day was to breeding for color. In fact in the early days should a Golden ('Brownie') pop up in a litter it was considered shameful as surely allegations of 'impure' breeding practices' would result, so the kitten was hidden from view and quickly placed as a pet. I am sure other out-crosses were done or 'accidents' happened, but they do not appear on pedigrees.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, some breeders loved the occasional Golden, which popped up in litters and began a crusade to gain their acceptance as a color eligible for Championship status in CFA. This was achieved in 1977. Since then we have actively added Goldens to our bloodlines. Some believe this infusion has caused color issues such as tarnishing, barring, weak liners and pale nose leathers, while others adamantly disagree with this contention. Golden enthusiasts are working hard to bring up the bright apricot color of show quality goldens and eliminating barring. Many CFA Judges tout GC Dalee Lollipop as the best Chinchilla Golden they have ever seen. She has a very bright apricot coat and absolutely no barring.
Since the late 1970's Goldens have made significant egress into Silver bloodlines, and today it is difficult to find a Silver pedigree without Goldens in the ancestry. Controversy rages as how the infusion of Golden bloodlines affect the color of our Silvers. Some say the Golden rose nose leather and deep brown liners affect the Silvers adversely causing less than intense brick red nose leathers resulting in "pink" nose leathers and broken liners. However years of color breeding chins to chins had the same result and many practiced introducing well colored shadeds to a chin program to bring up the nose leather color intensity and deep liners. Some say the infusion of Solid or other color Persians have the same adverse effect. Today many introduce a clear coated Chin preferably with deep liners and deep red brick nose leather even though it may not have the more extreme type to clear up color issues.
By the 1980's a few intrepid breeders did experiment out-crossing to primarily Solid Black Persians. GC, GP Seando Moonlight Lady of Caszmir was the grand offspring of Meadowood Celebration of Seando, Black Smoke), Shirley Dent's Countrylove Sunflower DM is out of CH Bricbrac Celebrity of Countrylove (Black) and CH Exton Whirlaway of Klasik is out of Brownstone Beethoven of Exton (Black) behind the Joyvyn line. In addition Maddy Carolan outcrossed to Ch Jeannel De'Ja Bleu of Puffian (Blue) and Puffian Aslan is out of GC, NW Simbalair Azaraf (O.E. White). Seven generations behind GC, RW, BW Vonguts Elite Edition we find Purrfeets Rocky Blue, a blue CPC--follow Jessica's Katydid of Vonguts. With these few exceptions, color breeding was the norm of the day and many S/G breeders felt it was shameful to out-cross, so other outcrosses that may have been done do not show on the pedigrees.
In the early 1990's, a few more brave Silver Breeders experimented with outcrossing to other color Persians. Joy Anandi's CH Joyvyn Smoke From a Star of Sumew's (Black Smoke) sire is GC Harwood Brigadier General, (Black) and her maternal grandsire is CH Shauntay Coaldust of Patchwork (Black). Michele Formica's GC, RW Mirocco's Milestone's sire is Heathebrey Black Tie and Tails (Black). Munira Murray out crossed to GC Twinshire Gainsborough Masterpiece (Cream CPC) behind her famed GC, RW Missionhill Fait Accompli, previous to this breeding Munira out crossed to a Black CH Keeperkit Waltzin' Matilda resulting in Missionhill Carmen of Sericia. Susan Ferguson of Sumew interbreed her solids with her silvers as well and one descendant is Sumew Marcus Arielus grand sire of GC La Gemini Iluv Lucy of All Aglitter, showing Smokes decended from outcrossing silvers to Red CPC Red Rider of Schuschan's on one side of the pedigree and GC Harwood Brigadier General, a (Black) on the other. Red Rider of Schuschan'sRed Rider of Schuschan's grandsire is Crutchfield Sir Samorii, a Flame Point circa 1970s. I am sure there are a couple others...forgive me if I have forgotten any other outcross of the 1980's and early 1990's.
With Munira's and the Howard's (Exton) success with out-crossing, it was no longer taboo to do so and by the late 1990s, the practice of out-crossing to other color Persians began in earnest. Please read Breeding Silver Persians - A Solid Success at Missionhill By Munira Murrey. In addition, as our bloodlines have a strong infusion of Solid Color Persians, Lorraine Saunders' article about Solid Color Persians is another interesting must read.
In summary, since the early 1900's we emphasized breeding for color to clear muddy coats until the mid-century when a couple adventurous Breeders outcrossed to other color Persians. But then a back lash occurred and color breeding remained the approved practice of the day--no reputable breeder dared to outcross. Since the 70's up to the mid-90s a a few more out-crosses occurred. Since the turn of the 21st Century many breeders around the world have out-crossed to other color Persians and if one did not out cross one's own lines, we have more often than not obtained at least one descendent of a more recent outcross.
Commencing with the 2009-2010 show season, Blue 'Silver and Golden' Chinchilla and Shadeds have won acceptance to compete in CFA show rings, within the Silver and Golden Persian division. With the infusion of so many other color Persians in our bloodlines that carry the dilute gene we will be seeing more and more of these beautiful cats and in time the Blue Chins and Shadeds will make significant egress in our bloodlines just as the Goldens have done so now. Going forward we can conclude the dilute gene will be well dispersed in most bloodlines in another 30 years and that too will have an affect on perhaps 'new to us color issues'.
Now it is not surprising we are seeing more and more color faults with so much out crossing to other color Persians being done today. Tarnishing can and does show up in offspring colorbred six and seven generations down from the original out-cross. Therefore, to gain a realistic perspective we must acknowledge we are presently in a 'new' development stage, as we once were at the turn of the 20th Century and will be perhaps for the next 30 years, but the good news is not quite to the same degree as the early, early days.
The issue of tarnishing is controversial, the amount of which can vary on cat to cat ranging from a full patina to just a small spot on the body and sometimes just presents as a teeny spot on the center upper lips just below the nose. Personally, while I personally abhor tarnishing, it is essentially just a coat fault and overall point score should be reduced if tarnishing is apparent, of course commensurate to the amount presented. With that being said, many think a Silver should not be shown at all if it has some tarnishing. However, as with barring, poor eye color, umbalanced body, and so forth, one is not wise to throw the baby out with the bath water so to speak, particularly if the cat possesses other outstanding qualities--all show cats have some faults. The cat with a small amount of tarnishing or barring and can and should be shown and it should be expected the overall color score will be reduced proportionally as it is a color fault. The maximum point award for Color is 20 points, so a cat with a bit of tarnishing, barring, broken liner, pale liner, and/or nose leather will receive a reduced score for color when in a show ring, but the Judge may award it a greater total point score if it's other qualities exceed those of the competition. Coat 10 points (condition and presentation).
We are looking at many years of color-breeding yet again to clear up coat color once again. However, with that being said, perhaps we ought to shift focus and focus on 'building our houses' (the bodies of our S/G/Bs) and delay hyper-focusing on repainting our houses until such time our S/G Persian bodies rival that of other color Persians.
Obviously our collective breeding programs vary in terms of positive and what could be better attributes. The key is to identify what are your cats' strengths and which attributes you need to focus on to improve overall balance and refinement in your breeding program. Perhaps your cats have faults you are not aware of which is why it is important to examine/handle and feel the qualities of a winning cat if the opportunity presents. Alternatively ask an experienced breeder to help you assess your cats and listen--don't rebuff and refute and take offense. Take the constructive criticism to heart and listen to and understand what they are talking about and compare to another if possible.
Examine your cats with a critical eye. Do you see a perfectly square box if you were to pick up your cat with one hand flat on the chest and the other flat on it's bum so that you can see if the height (feet to top of back) and the width (chest to rear) are equidistant? Is the neck short and massive or long and narrow? Is the length of tail short and equidistant to the top of the shoulders? When you hold your kitty in the middle the head and rear should be in balance--the head should not be heavier than the rear and vice versa. Is the top head smooth and is there a nice width between the ears or is it bumpy and/or narrow? Are the ears small and cub-like, low set on the head or tall, set high on the head? Is there great width to the chest and hind quarters or is it narrow and seemingly convex or concave? Are the legs wide spread, massive and do they fall in a straight line from the shoulders and hips or are the forelegs narrowly spread and the back hocks turn inward?
We all know one should never breed like fault to like fault or that will set a predisposition for that fault in a line. Likewise when we are 'shopping' for an outcross it is important to look for a cat whose strengths offset your line's weaknesses and not necessarily the prettiest if it carries the same faults as your cats. So it is important to identify the prospective cat's strengths and faults which is difficult to do if you cannot hold or examine the cat--videos or Skyping are great tools so you can see how a cat moves or ask the breeder to hold the cat this way and that to get an idea. Never buy a cat that lives in another country without skyping or viewing videos!
Hypothetically speaking, you are looking to purchase a male that is an outcross to your lines and have made contact with a nice breeder with a nice male at an 'affordable' price . You are now considering purchasing Cat "A". Your line is color-bred, known for lovely round eyes, great eye color, great coat color, strong liners and brick red nose leather, sweet expression, but your cats could be much typier, plus your cats are on the small side, the bodies are too long and are unbalanced, necks swan-like, hocks turn inward and your ears could be more cub like. Cat "A" (non color bred) presents more extreme type, but his eyes are smallish, could be rounder and the color shows the just the smallest hint of green eye color, nose leather is less than brick red, liner complete but could be stronger, but he has nice top head, massive head on a short neck, ears well set but could be smaller, but his baby pictures showed small well set ears. Age can affect look--so it is important to look at baby pictures and be familiar with the lines and effects of "the gawks". His body is short and square/cobby and when the breeder held him up by the center of his belly, he draped balanced on his or his/her hand. His color is nice but not outstanding, a little on the salt and pepper side of Shaded, but it is even, but you noticed faint hint of barring on the legs and a teeny bit of a patina just below the nose. He also has great width of chest and hips and his legs fall straight from his shoulders and hips.
Cat "B" is another male you are considering and is available for a reasonable price. He too has more type than your line, and you think he is 'prettier' and prefer his overall look to Cat "A" as he has a nice clear coat, is typy, but not as typy as Cat "A". He has nicer eye color, nicer margins and liners, and bigger eyes. His tophead and ear set is similar to Cat "A", but he is unbalanced (bottom heavy) and has a longer body and you notice his back hocks turn inward and his chest seems narrow and neck longish. Hmmm, what to do...you can't afford or don't have room for both so must make a choice.
Cat "A" may be a very nice complement to your line even though he isn't 'perfect'--no cat is! Your line carries strengths in areas where Cat "A" is weak and vice versa. However, if you instead chose Cat "B" the one you are more attracted to, and breed him to your line you will further set the propensity for long and unbalanced bodies and your hocks will continue to turn inward as he carries the same faults as your line. Cat "A" just might be the better choice especially if you have a second male with attributes that offset the Cat "A's" 'color' weaknesses all the better. So you chose Cat "A" and now you are praying that all goes well and can't wait for the next generation, to see where you are in terms of improving your lines strengths and weaknesses with the addition of the new outcross. Not all lines 'click' and sometimes we get less than the best of both, so it is extremely important to study pedigrees and look for lines that have blended well with yours in the past.
In striving to breed the perfect Chinchilla or Shaded in colors of Silver, Golden and Blue, we must consider the whole cat. Remember the CFA Standard for Persians states: Balance and refinement are the essence of the breed, where all parts come together in a harmonious whole, with neither too much nor too little consideration given to any one feature. As noted above, over the past 100 plus years we Silver and Golden Breeders and Exhibitors have exclusively narrowed our attention solely on color and head type issues and have virtually ignored other and perhaps more important structural aspects of our beautiful Chinchillas and Shadeds. Which breeding decisions we make today will affect us for the next 30 years. Perhaps not all of us want the extreme Persian head type, and want instead a more moderate open and sweet expression our division is known for, but I bet all of us want to breed for a healthy, sturdy, well-balanced, heavily boned cat with a very cobby body--after all the Persian body structure (or house if you will) accounts for 60 points in our Persian standard. We also want a beautifully painted house...I think we can achieve both consistently in time. What do you think?
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