The History of the Burmese Breed

The Burmese breed as we know it today was developed in the United States from a single cat, Wong Mau who in 1930 was brought from the orient to New Orleans by a sailor, and given to a doctor in San Francisco. Wong Mau was described as “a rather small cat, fine boned, but with a more compact body than that of a Siamese, with shorter tail, a rounded, short-muzzled head, with greater width between rounded eyes.” Her color was described as walnut-brown, with darker brown points.

Early Burmese in the late 1930s and early 1940s caused quite a stir in the show circuit, and gained considerable popularity. A great demand for Burmese kittens developed. Breeders continued to use Siamese to increase the very limited breeding stock, thereby producing a large number of hybrids. Eventually, CFA put a stop to this, and suspended registration of Burmese in 1947. CFA ruled that there had to be three generations of pure Burmese (not hybrids) in the pedigree to be registered as “Burmese.” This was quite disheartening to the breeders, because of the great difficulty in maintaining breeding stock. However, serious breeders took it to heart, stopped using the hybrids, and concentrated on breeding the type of cat that made the Burmese unique. Achieving the three-generation “pure” pedigree was slow, but finally accomplished for three cats in 1956. By late 1957, there were sufficient numbers and CFA resumed registration of the Burmese.

In 1958, the newly formed United Burmese Cat Fanciers set a goal of developing a single standard for Burmese that would be accepted by all the cat fancier organizations. The standard was adopted by CFA in 1959, and, except for some refinement of wording and an addition to the “penalize” section, has stood unchanged since then, maintaining the vision of the Burmese as a “round” cat throughout the years.

Burmese were highly successful in the show ring from the outset, reaching the peak of their popularity in the 1970s, when they were the third most popular breed behind Persians and Siamese. For a breed that had started in the United States with one cat in 1930, the Burmese had become solidly established as a highly popular and successful member of the cat fancy.

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