Soft and cuddly, the Birman is a great family cat with a long and mysterious past.
The Birman breed is playful and curious, yet gentle and soft spoken, a real live teddy bear. Once believed to be the reincarnated priests of Ancient Burma, Birman cats are still sacred cats. Anyone who owns one knows how loving and gentle these peaceful cats can be. Traditionally, all Birman kittens born in the same year are given names that start with the same letter of the alphabet. No letters are skipped and every 26 years the breeders start with the letter A again.
Physical – Strong and stocky with long body, legs and tail.
Color – strong contrasting color in Seal, Blue, Chocolate and Lilac point with a creamy white body and pure white fingers and toes.
Temperament – Extremely calm and docile, yet playful and social.
History – Guardians of the ancient temples of the Khmer people of Burma, two cats were brought to France in 1919 and the breed was developed, later all but two cats were destroyed in World War II.
Physical – Strong and stocky, soft and yielding
A Birman will often feel heavier than it looks and will relax in your arms. Although they don’t usually spend a lot of time on your lap, they will demand affection and then go about their business. It is best to have two Birman, they need companionship and activity, no one understands this better than another Birman.
Color – a color point long hair with white paws.
The colouring of the Birman remains fairly consistent with other color pointed breeds, but for one important difference. The paws remain pure white – as a sign of purity? In any event, four white paws are called gloves and two white hind legs are called laces. Birmans are born pure white and over the next few months their color starts to show in the legs, tail and face. Only after the pointed colors are in do you see the gloves and laces show up.
Temperament – One of the sweetest, most loving social breed
Birman have a soft voice and a gentle manner, they are often said to have a balanced temperament – not too spirited and not too placid – a good combination of fun and serenity, a good breed to host the soul of a deceased priest!
History – Not much scientific fact, but many legends tell the tale
The legend goes like this. Many years ago, maybe even earlier than the 1700’s but no one know for sure, pure white cats guarded the ancient temples of the Khmer people. These cats were not only kept as companions to the priests but legend has it that the souls of deceased priests came back to earth in the bodies of Birman cats. When the cat died, the priest’s soul was released to heaven.
One temple was dedicated to the sapphire-eyed goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse. A beautiful gold statue of the goddess was located inside the temple. One evening during an invasion from Siam, Mun-Ha, a priest prayed to the goddess in her temple. Beside him was his sacred, pure white cat, Sinh. The temple was overrun and Mun-Ha was murdered in prayer. Sinh stood over Mun-Ha as he died. His pure white coat glowed golden and his eyes turned a deep sapphire blue, but only his paws remained white. By the next morning, all the white cats had also transformed into sapphire-eyed, pointed color coats with white paws. It is said that Sinh stayed with his master until he too died.
So the legend goes. But some people aren’t happy with legends and want a more scientific explanation. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information from these times that can explain it, but we can surmise how their beautiful coloring came to be. It could be that Siamese and Angora, both breeds predominate in that area of Asia, could have mated to produce the Birman cat breed.
What we do know is that early in the 1900’s the temples were attacked again, and many priests died in those attacks, but some managed to escape, some taking their cat companions with them, to other parts of the world. It is believed that two travelers in Asia at the time, Major Gordon Russell and August Pavie were given two temple cats, a male and a female, as thanks for helping during the recent attacks. The male died in transit, but the female was pregnant and later gave birth to a litter of Birman kittens. These kittens were the foundation of the breed and were registered in France for championship competition in 1925.
Then World War II hit and many of the breeding stock were killed along with their owners and human companions. Two Birman cats survived the war and were out crossed with other color point longhairs to re-establish the breed. By 1959, the Birman breed had come to North America and into the hearts of thousands.
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