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kitten Floy Maaw, Black spotted
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BREED HISTORY Havana & Oriental Lilac

The earliest known record of a self-coloured brown shorthaired cat is dated 1894, after this date no further reference to the colour can be found until the 1930's when writers referred to a 'dark Siamese, almost black', of course this may have been a very badly shaded Seal point Siamese, but the reference to a 'chocolate coloured Siamese, the same colour all over' must surely refer to a self coloured brown cat. It then seems that once again the brown cat sank into obscurity.

In 1951 a small group of dedicated breeders drew up and instituted a breeding program for the creation of self coloured brown cats of 'foreign type', and it is from this point that the present day Havana originates. In 1952 the first brown male was born, followed by two more in 1953 and another in 1954 - these males were the foundation of the breed in the United Kingdom. By 1956 brown cats of both sexes were being produced and in 1958 the required three generations of 'like-to-like' breeding had been achieved. The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy gave the breed official recognition and granted Championship status. The breed was designated Breed 29 and named - very much against the wishes of the breeders who created it - the Chestnut Brown Foreign. The originators of the breed wished it to be called the Havana, and it was not until 1970 that the Governing Council agreed to the name being changed.

In the early 1960's a Chestnut Brown Foreign female won three Challenge Certificates and so became the first Champion of the breed. It seemed that the breed was established; but sadly the later years of the decade saw several severe breeding problems, numbers declined alarmingly, only one or two breeders continued with the breed, and it seemed that once more the breed would disappear.

In the early months of 1970 a new wave of enthusiasts took up the breed, and the Havana as we know it today took on a new lease of life with ever increasing entries at shows. The new lines of Havana were largely unrelated to those of the previous decade and proved to be strong, sound animals. Over the last fifteen years the number of breeders and exhibitors has increased greatly, there are very many Champions and Grand Champions, with many Premiers and Grand Premiers. Today the Havana is no stranger to top honours. It is hoped that this popularity will not lead to a deterioration in the standard of the breed as so often happens when a breed gains popularity. It is important that only the finest specimens are used for breeding; if all breeders bear this in mind the high quality of the Havana will be maintained for all time.

It is not unusual for two Havanas to produce Lilac kittens, but in order for this to happen both parents must be heterozygous for 'Blue dilution' that is, to 'carry' a gene for blue colouring in addition to that for chocolate. Lilac mated to Lilac will, however, only produce Lilac. Most Havanas (and Oriental Lilacs) are heterozygous for Siamese coat pattern and therefore it is common for Siamese marked kittens to appear in litters. So, because a Havana queen is mated to a Havana stud it does not mean that all the kittens will be Havana's; the queen may well produce Havana's, Oriental Lilacs, Chocolate Point Siamese and Lilac Point Siamese Kittens.

In the development of the Chestnut Brown Foreign/Havana in the early 1960's several self coloured Lilac kittens appeared, and by the middle of the decade one breeder had second generation Lavender Shorthairs, as they were then known, and was planning the third generation. Unfortunately these cats had bred from the early Havanas and the same breeding problems were encountered, resulting in the breeding programme being discontinued.

In 1969 a very small group of breeders decided to concentrate on the colour and set about creating the 'Foreign Lavender'. In 1973 the required three generations of 'like-to-like' breeding had been achieved and the 'Foreign Lilac Group' applied to Governing Council for official recognition of the breed. In 1974 the GCCF granted recognition and the breed was designated Breed 29c. History repeated itself, and as had been the case with the naming of the Havana/Chestnut Brown, the new breed was called the 'Foreign Lilac' and not the Foreign Lavender as the breeders had wished. Three years later in 1977 the Governing Council granted Championship status to the Breed. Since then there have been numerous Title winners in the breed.

After more than thirty years of being 'Foreign' cats a big change took place in October 1990 when the Governing Council decided that all cats of 'Siamese' type would be placed into the 'Oriental' section and prefixed accordingly, including the Havana which would be known as an 'Oriental Havana'. This decision caused an outcry from breeders and owners, and was subsequently overturned at a Council meeting in October 1991.

The Breed standards of the two breeds are identical, excepting only the colour (copies are available from the Havana and Oriental Lilac Cat Club) but the temperament and character of the two tend to show significant differences. Whereas the Havana is a mischievous and demonstrative extrovert, the Oriental Lilac tends to be a rather placid, less demonstrative animal.

Given a properly balanced diet and plenty of exercise there should be no problem keeping a Havana or Oriental Lilac in peak condition; the coat can be kept in gleaming condition by normal stroking or 'hand grooming'. They are usually good mothers and the kittens appear to be healthy 'early developers', very quick to learn how to gain attention from their owners!


 Sally Woolrich
 Related Link: Havana & Oriental Lilac Cat Club
 Added:  Saturday, March 26, 2005

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