WHITHER THE HAVANA - SOME ASPECTS OF ITS HISTORYThe Havana is surely a cat for the connoisseur, described once as "the peak of feline perfection", simply a jewel of a cat - but I am biased. Various Standard of Points have described the cat as "..a beautifully balanced animal, with head and body carried on a slender neck and with a long lithe body supported on fine legs and feet with a slender whipped tail". The coat colour should be a warm brown - ideally 'milk chocolate' but more often described as rich chestnut brown; the fur fine, close lying and glossy. The eyes, a wonderful grassy green - sometimes difficult to achieve - oriental slanted and almond shaped. Specific to the Havana, and once noted not easily forgotten, is the expressive, almost wistful look known to aficionados of the breed as the 'Havana look'. As intelligent and communicative as the Siamese, to which it is closely related, but quieter and, dare I say it, less raucous.
The Havana is a man-made or man-designed cat and started life as a twinkle in the eye of Edit von Ullmann F.Z.S. (Roofspringer) dreaming by the fireside of breeding a glossy brown short-haired cat, Foreign in type, with the greenest of eyes. At around the same time Mrs Armitage Hargreaves F.Z.S. (Laurentide) was considering breeding a cat with more stamina and a less highly strung disposition than the Siamese. Working together Edit and Armitage began in 1951 to produce a self-coloured brown cat although breeding from different strains.
Edit had a knowledge of genetics and in order to transfer the chocolate dilution to a self-coloured black cat she mated a SH black female, Maximilia Unterkatze born circa 1947 to a Chocolate Point Siamese, Shushard dob 1/8/1950, bred by Brian Stirling-Web - the progeny from the mating were, as expected, SH blacks - a male and a female. Knowing that the recessive chocolate dilution would be present in both the black cats, together with the Siamese restriction factor, Edit used a sibling mating. Unfortunately, the birth of kittens was premature and the litter died but not before it was noted that there was a brown kitten - the others being black and Siamese. "Repeated matings of the pair of black cats, however, eventually produced first a self-chocolate male and later a female".(1)
Whilst Edit was involved in her breeding programme she heard of a Reading breeder, Mrs Isobel Munro-Smith (Elmtower) who had bred a self-coloured brown male cat - (Elmtower Bronze Idol - the first recorded Havana). A Seal-Point female, Tsui Chow, dob 17/10/1945, belonging to Mrs Munro-Smith had an illicit mating with a LH unregistered black (recorded as 'Pickles'). Tsui Chow was thought to have carried the 'chocolate' factor which passed on to the progeny. A black female 'Susannah' from the litter was later mated to her Seal-Point half-brother, Tombee, dob 29/3/1948, (same dam, different sire!) also carrying the 'chocolate' factor. Edit wrote of this: "The chances of obtaining a self-brown kitten were 1:8; a little less good than in my own strain of cats. In the third, or fourth litter the brown kitten appeared and being unusual was kept and reared."(1) - enter Elmtower Bronze Idol, dob 14/5/1952!
Edit mated one of her females carrying the chocolate dilution with Elmtower Bronze Idol resulting in two of the early Roofspringer Havanas - one male, Roofspringer Muscatel and one female, Roofspringer Shandy - born 27/7/1953. Muscatel became the sire (the dam being Roofspringer Periwinkle, dob 30/4/1955 ) of Roofspringer Mahogany, F, dob 1/7/1956, who later became one of the first Havanas to be exported to the USA.
Meanwhile Armitage Hargreaves began by crossing Laurentide Ludo, dob 16/2/1948, a Seal Point female, probably carrying the chocolate factor, with a Russian Blue - Ch. Silverschoen Blue Peter, dob 19/11/1946 - "The cats used in the Havana breeding were then very much self-Siamese" (3), rather than the chunkier appearance of the Russian Blue. This is a most interesting mating, from the same mating came the progeny behind some of the first Lilac Point Siamese, but that is another story. The mating produced a large litter of SH black kittens carrying the blue dilution. One of the black females, Laurentide Ephone Jet, dob 7/8/1948 was mated with a Chocolate Point Siamese, Briarry Sacharrin, dob 12/5/1950. The litter included a self blue female of Foreign type, Laurentide Aretoo Pearl, dob 25/7/1952 - registered as 16a - carrying the chocolate dilution...
Related Link: Havana and Oriental Lilac Cat Club
Added: Sunday, August 29, 2004
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