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kitten Floy Maaw, Black spotted
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Rambler's Top100


The 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.

Laurentide Aretoo Pearl (16a) Briarry Sacharrin (24b) Slick Sacha (24)
Chionodoxa Miranda (24b)
Laurentide Ephone Jet (15) Silverschoen Blue Peter (16a)
Laurentide Ludo (24)

Aretoo Pearl was mated on different occasions - once in 1953 with her sire Briarry Sacharrin and later during 1954 with Elmtower Bronze Idol.  The Havanas produced from these matings were later mated to each other, one of the progeny being Laurentide Brown Pilgrim M dob 12/4/1956, who accompanied Roofspringer Mahogany to the States.

The first breeders and prefixes who were prominent at that time:-

Edit von Ullmann - Roofspringer
Mrs Armitage Hargreaves - Laurentide
Mrs Elsie Fisher - Praha
Mrs Isabel Munro-Smith - Elmtower
Mrs Joan Judd - Crossways
Dr Nora Archer - Somerville
Miss Jury - Purring
Mrs Dorothy Clavier - Revel
Mrs Dora Clarke - Craigiehilloch
Miss G.H.P. McFarlane - Mahogany
Misses Davies & Walker - Lightfoot
Mrs Sybil Warren - Senlac
Miss E.R.Swyer - Elvyne
Mrs Allen Smith - Hergas
Mr T. Scott - Bluetower
Miss Beckett - Sunland

From an original chart by Edit von Ullmann:- (additional information in italics):

Praha descended from Laurentide(later some Elmtower)
Roofspringer descended from Laurentide(Elmtower)
Crossways descended from Laurentide/ Praha
Craigiehilloch descended from Elmtower
Purring descended from Roofspringer(Elmtower / Laurentide)
Revel descended from Elmtower / Roofspringer (Laurentide)
Lightfoot descended from Crossways(Praha / Laurentide)
Senlac descended from Crossways
Bluetower descended from Elmtower / Praha(Laurentide)
Elvyne descended from Crossways / Bluetower (Elmtower)

Mrs Elsie Fisher (Praha) took a SH black kitten from the Laurentide Ephone Jet x Briarry Sacharrin mating, a female - Laurentide Arduo Prism, dob 25/7/1952; Arduo Prism was mated with a Chocolate Point Praha Mezzo Forte, dob 17/4/1952.  From this latter mating came Praha Gypka dob 2/6/1953 a self-brown male Havana - descended from the Laurentide line; up until this point most of the Havanas were from the Elmtower line.

Mrs Joan Judd (Crossways) was extremely interested in the new breed, but not happy with the type being produced from the Elmtower line.  Instead she mated her Seal Point female, Gentle Mist dob 3/5/1952 with Praha Gypka thus gaining her first Havana - Crossways Velvet Toy, F dob 7/3/1955.  The Crossways Havanas were to include the first Champion - Ch.Crossways Honeysuckle Rose, F dob 27/9/1958; another of Mrs Judd's Havanas - International Champion Crossways Heritor, M dob 18/2/1961 - went to Mrs Haas-Zenln in Holland.  Int.Ch.Heritor appears behind many Dutch Havana pedigrees.

"During 1954, these four breeders (Edit von Ullmann, Armitage Hargeaves, Isobel Munro-Smith and Elsie Fisher), together with Mrs Joan Judd - who had meanwhile mated her sealpoint Siamese Gentle Mist to Elsie Fisher's Praha Gypka in order to retain certain qualities in her strain; met to discuss future plans, to work together and exchange views and to keep strict records of all breeding lines, and, in due course to apply to the G.C.C.F. for breed recognition in the name HAVANA."(2)

It was at this point that the Havana Group was established, other breeders joining later.

The Havana was granted recognition by the GCCF, circa September 1958, the breed number being 29, the name to be Chestnut Brown Foreign.  The Havana Group had been used to referring to the new breed as Havanas and were not best pleased when the name Chestnut Brown was given as the official Title for the self-brown cats.  However, there was no persuading the executive committee of GCCF and the name remained until 1972 when permission was granted to revert to the original Title - Havana.

Meanwhile in September 1959, the United Cat Federation of America had granted recognition to the name Havana and gave affiliation to the Havana Breeders Association.  The US Havana Browns descended from Roofspringer Mahogany and Laurentide Brown Pilgrim were not of Oriental type and Siamese were not usually used in breeding.  The US Oriental SH Chestnut is considered to be closer in type to the UK Havanas; the Oriental SHs gained full CFA recognition in May 1977.

It is now necessary to mention some problems with the early Chestnut Browns, during 1961 word came from US breeders that they were experiencing some problems with what were described as 'web feet' appearing in Havanas originating from lines imported from England.  The abnormality is expressed within a wide range, some cats could be passed for normal, others showing a more severe form.  The Chestnut Brown Group were extremely concerned and enlisted geneticists for advice, unfortunately not every breeder agreed to the lengthy period of test matings needed to establish which cats were carriers of the dominant gene producing abnormalities.  The more responsible breeders were not able to influence the dissident element and interest in the variety waned during the early sixties.  Happily, several breeders kept the breed going and re-kindled further interest towards the end of the decade.  Amongst breeders and prefixes maintaining the breed during the sixties were Mrs Sybil Warren - Senlac; Miss Swyer- Elvyne, Mrs P. Kirby - Crumberhill; Mrs St. Erme Cardew - Sterme; Mrs Beryl Stewart - Sweethope.

A renaissance of the breed occurred when a female self-brown kitten appeared in the breeding programme for the Foreign White cat.  Scintilla Copper Beech (29) born 29/4/1967 (bred by Miss P.Turner, owned by Mrs P.Wilding) was some eight generations away, on both the sire and dam's side from the Laurentide Ludo x Silvershoen Blue Peter mating mentioned earlier; Copper Beech also inherited the chocolate factor from both sides.  She was mated in 1968 with Champion Tijha Ares - a Lilac Point Siamese and later in 1969 and 1972 with Champion Winceby Imperial, another Lilac Point.  The Havanas descending from Copper Beech culminate in the significant Dandycat cats bred by Mrs P.Wilding; Mrs B.Stewart; Mrs M.Shaw and the Solitaire cats bred by Mrs A. Sayer, all of which are credited with improvements in the Havana type.

Can I draw any conclusions from all of this?  A small world, isn't it?  Lines descending from the first Havanas of the fifties are behind many, or most, of the present day cats.  Indeed, a test for the provenance of the modern Havana is - can you trace the antecedents back to Scintilla Copper Beech herself and the Dandycat and Solitaire Havanas derived from Copper Beech; even further back behind Copper Beech is Armitage Hargreaves' first tentative Seal Point x Russian Blue cross.  Can you find any of the list of prefixes from the fifties and sixties in your lines?  The pedigree identifies the cat as a true Havana, which seems to be a useful point to end this brief early history of the breed.

Joyce Tudor-Hughes

  1. 'New Coat Colours in Domestic Cats' Edit von Ullmann and A.Hargreaves Proc. Zoological Soc. of London Vol 130: 606-9: 1958
  2. 'The Havana - its Origins' Joan Judd - OCA Year Book 1994
  3. The History of the Havana' - John Harrison OCA Year Book 1990
    Our Cats' published 1949 to 196?
  • GCCF Studbooks
  • Correspondence and documents from the H&OLCC archives.
  • Pedigree information mostly provided by Valerie Sheldrake of Linechasers.
  • CFA Year Book 1978
  • Additional pedigree information from 'Tracer' - a database produced by Pride James - S.C.C. Recorder

The article was originally written for and published in 'Our Cats' No 934 (26 May to 8 June 2000.)

Sole copyright and permission to reproduce the article or any part belongs to Joyce Tudor-Hughes and the H.& O.L.C.C.

This information last revised June 2000


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

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