* THE ANGORA CAT – AN ANATOLIAN TREASURE
(Photo by Berk Yunus Çinar)
‘’It is the most beautiful cat in the world’’ (Prof. Samuel Aysoy, 1885-1959)
Turkish Angora is a naturally occurring cat in Anatolia, todays Turkey. In other words, it is a longhair Turkish street cat. It's not an abandoned pet, not a mix of various breeds, but a cat created by nature. It's really ancient and beautiful Anatolian cat.
Anatolia is a land rich of cultures and history. It’s a very old land, so are its cats. Maybe the oldest and biggest settlement in Anatolia 1 Çatalhüyük or Hacilar, could be a place where people and cats developed this special bond? Did the people who built Göbekli Tepe and first tamed cats had something in common? Nobody knows for sure, but one thing is clear: they are unique Anatolian cats and one of the oldest in the world.
Not long time ago everybody had thought that cats were domesticated about 4000 thousand years ago by Egyptians. They were wrong.
A researcher Carlos A. Driscoll commented in ''Scientific American'' magazine3:
''Experts traditionally thought that the Egyptians were the first to domesticate the cat, some 3,600 years ago. But recent genetic and archaeological discoveries indicate that cat domestication began in the Fertile Crescent, perhaps around 10,000 years ago, when agriculture was getting under way. The findings suggest that cats started making themselves at home around people to take advantage of the mice and food scraps found in their settlements’’
French archaeologists discovered the remains of a cat buried with its human owner at a Neolithic site in Cyprus Shillourokambos, that only confirms that Anatolian people had lived with cats more than 9000 years ago: ‘’ The Mediterranean island was settled by farmers from Turkey who brought their domesticated animals with them, presumably including cats, because there is no evidence of native wildcats in Cyprus’’2
Shillourokambos: Anatolian and its cat (on the left); A mother of all domestic cats - felis silvestris lybica (on the right)
''It is unlikely, however, that the Neolithic cat from Shillourokambos was a remote ancestor of the profusion of village cats found on Cyprus today. Aceramic Neolithic settlement on the island died out after ca. 5,600 B.C. There followed a 1000-year gap before humans returned during the Ceramic Neolithic in the mid-fifth millennium B.C., this time bringing with them not only domesticated plants and animals but also newly invented pottery . . . and probably more cats''. - wrote ''Cyprus American Archeology Center'' 37
Not surprisingly, even today most of freeborn Cyprus cats still remain Anatolians!
A geneticist Leslie Lyons gave a more specific location of the cat domestication4:
"Our data support the Fertile Crescent, specifically Turkey, as one of the origin sites for cats". Turkey was part of the Fertile Crescent and hence was one of the earliest areas for agricultural development."
Not surprisingly, it turns out that people from Anatolia were the first farmers in the world! They cultivated grains – einkorn, the first cereal, domesticated in Karadacag mountain.34 Check out this outstanding video made by BBC.
This is where cats became very useful friends in ‘’maintaining rodent free grain stores’’5. Rodents and trash heaps were attractive to cats encouraged cats to adapt to living with people;
''Some experts speculate that wildcats just so happened to possess features that might have preadapted them to developing a relationship with people. In particular, these cats have “cute” features—large eyes, a snub face and a high, round forehead, among others—that are known to elicit nurturing from humans. In all likelihood, then, some people took kittens home simply because they found them adorable and tamed them, giving cats a first foothold at the human heart''.3
Cat figurines found at prehistoric sites in Syria, Turkey, and Israel hint that cats may have enjoyed a special status in the early Neolithic Near East.
Scientific study of wild cats confirmed, that Anatolian cats ancestor was a Near Eastern wildcat (felis silvestris lybica, used to be called ''African wild cat''), which ‘’domesticated itself’’6 in Anatolia4 and Middle East around 130,000 years ago. In fact, genetically, F. s. lybica wildcats from Middle East are virtually indistinguishable from domestic cats!
This why we coudn't know exactly when cats were domesticated - you couldn't tell if a cat is a domestic or a wildcat just by looking at its bones!
In fact, cats remain unchanged from its ancestor, the only differences are smaller size and variety of coat colours.
''Detailed studies of skulls, skeletons, anatomical features and, more recently, genetics do not support theories that the cat is a complex hybrid of multiple species. Domestic cats are anatomically and skeletally similar to F s lybica. Chromosome counts and modern hybrids show that it is feasible for Pallas's cat, the Leopard cat and the Asian Golden cat to have contributed in the past, but the domestic cat is most similar in type to the African wildcat and variations in appearance (colour, fur length) are due to genetic mutations'' 35
A wildcat lybica was a shorthair and tabby. After ‘’domestication’’ some natural mutations of certain colors occurred, including white and bicolor, as well long fur, that gave a birth to Angora breed later.
Was The Angora an ancestor of all longhaired cats?
It’s not known where first longhair cats originated, some say the most ancient longhair cats were Angoras, while others think these were Russian longhairs (Siberians) or cats from Persia (unlikely). The modern Genetics got an answer.
One study7 found that there are four independent mutations of longhair:
''Longhair Mutations 1 and 2 were found to be unique to the Ragdoll and Norwegian Forest Cat breeds, respectively. Mutation 3 was found in both Maine Coon and Ragdoll cats''. Note these breeds have ''documented histories less than 200 years old''.
However there is a mutation 4 which was found in ALL longhair cats:
Mutation 4 ''may represent the oldest mutant allele, which may have arisen independently in geographically isolated, free ranging populations of domestic cats''.
Since Turkish/Anatolian cats are one of the oldest, the mutation of longhair could also occur in Anatolia and spread from there to other parts of the world.
It confirms that the Angora cat as a very possible ancestor of the longhair cats.
Ankara – a city of goats, not cats?
Where first Angora cats originated is not known, however for some interesting reason this longhair Anatolian cat got a name of Angora/Ankara. Ankara city was famous for centuries for its production of wool from white goats. Another animal that possessed Angora’s name was a fluffy rabbit. It’s debatable if this rabbit is native to Anatolia at all or was it a creation by French and English (17th century), because it vanished from Anatolian lands without a trace.
White goats bred in central Anatolia and white longhair cats; ‘’White’’ and ‘’silky fur’’ created a strong association between these two animals in people’s minds. A rabbit is also sometimes included to make it appear like Ankara city somehow influenced the long fur on many animals living in that area.
On the other hand the logic dictates that correlation between two variables does not automatically imply that one causes the other. If you find white longhair cats and white furry goats in one location it does not mean, the exact location is responsible for similarities of these two animals.
A respected Turkish veterinarian and Professor Samuel Aysoy thought that negative electrical fields in Ankara influenced a development of long fur in goats, rabbits and cats. He justified his hypothesis saying that because of electric fields8 Angora goats adopted to South Africa but not anywhere else (not truth: S. Africa got Angora goats first due to political reasons9 so this country was also one of the first that sucessfully developed a mohair industry.Today, Angora goats are successfully bred in many countries). Nonetheless, his speculations lack of any reasonable evidence. He obviously had no idea that the longhair Turkish cats were found all over the country. No matter how strange it sounds, but Angora cats have no relation to goats, rabbits or to Ankara city itself, other than one mistaken belief repeated over the centuries.
A claim that Ankara was the place where first longhair cats originated is unconvincing and most authoritative sources did not mention Ankara and longhair cat’s connection.
The Angora cats live everywhere in Anatolia
The Angora is an Anatolian longhair cat and it is not limited to one city. Historically the origin of The Angora cat may stretch somewhere further to the East Anatolia. The Eastern Anatolia has a considerably cooler climate, so the long fur mutation could be very beneficial in those areas than in warmer parts of Turkey, like Mediterranean.
The Angora cats may be also found in some neighboring countries, such as Cyprus.
Lottin de la Val, a French archeologist and writer sent a letter to the President of the French Zoological Society in 1857 stating, that is wrong to believe that Angora cats can be found only in Ancyra (Angora, Ankara). He confirms that they are seen everywhere in Eastern Anatolia (even in Bagdad, todays Iraq) in many color variations:
"(...)you imparted the recently held view that the so called 'Angora' cat does not exist or could not exist except in the vicinity of ancient Ancyra. I hasten to dispel this illusion. I myself came upon specimens of that lovely feline species in the great Armenian* plateau, at Erzurum, where the climate is greatly different from that of Angora. I also found it at Bitlis and in the pashalik of Bayazit. The finest specimens, however, which I saw belonged to the Archbishop of Van, a town in the east of Kurdistan*, on the frontier of Azerbaijan. He had three of them, one pearl grey, one orange-hued with black and white flecks, and a third, which was completely white. Their fur was magnificent (...). I also saw some at the residence of Khan Mahmoud, Prince of Hekiars, at Alpeit. I cannot recall having seen any in Persia(...) one should find Angora cats at Baghdad, though certainly these are not so fine as those to be found on the northern slopes of the medique and Taurus mountains (...) all I can say is that the people of Baghdad are in constant warfare with their cats, maintaining, not without good reason, in my opinion, that they bring the plague, because of their fur coats and their habits."10
*Clarification: the author expresses his political views, which were probably strenghtened by events related to The Crimean War (1853-1856). Armenian land and Kurdistan did not exist, Eastern Anatolia was a part of Ottoman Empire. ‘’ The war was a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining Ottoman Empire’’*- another attempt to divide it, manipulating Armenian and Kurdish minorities.
An Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi in her travel book ''Seyahatname''11 described the cats from Divrigi, east of Sivas that had unusual coats that “come in a thousand colors.” He witnessed the Divrigi cats traded to Ardabil (Persia/Iran) for sale.
Although many sources claim that French Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc got his longhair cats from Angora/Ankara city, the truth is he ordered these cats from Syria, Damascus12. Syria is a neighbor country of Turkey, so it wasn’t’ really difficult to get Angora cats (which may actually be found in some areas of Syria as well!) and bring them to Damascus.
In it's homeland Anatolia, the Angora cats were known by locals as CATS. The Angora was not ''discovered'' by someone in the West as a breed until 17th century.
There are no historical records of Angora cats from its homeland, so we have to rely on history of foreigner travelers and misionniers.
A traveller Pietro Della Valle (1614- 1626)12 mentions only the Persian origin cats in his letter. Because of Pietro’s antipathy to Ottomans, he could never call these cats in other name but Persians. It is not known if he got any Persian- Angoras to Italy, most likely he didn't.
Antiquarians will recall that by legend the scientist Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc introduced the Angora cat into Europe. In his letter 31 January 1631, as claimed by Iranicaonline.org , Peiresc ordered his Angora cats (refered as Ancyra) from Damascus Syria12
Longhair cats often called as the Angora cats were valued as exotic pets especially in France, becoming a status symbol among the richer classes and nobility. There is however no evidence that Marie Antoinette owned the Angora cats (or any cats) ''allowing them to roam about the tables during court gatherings'' or that she shipped 6 Angoras the to America - all are just legends populiarized by the cat fancy.
Some sources claim that longhair Anatolian cats named ‘’Persians’’, were often traded to Persia and Afghanistan and from there to India where they were sold to Englishmen.
“The long silky-furred Angora cats are annually brought to India for sale from Afghanistan, with caravans of camels, even so far as Calcutta” (Balfour, 1885, p. 605)12
However this story could be further from the reality. So called ''cat trade'' was risky enough and such a long distances could mean a death for a cat and a loss for a trader. The most likely scenario was that the sellers used to call any longhair cats as Angoras (''rare and valuable'' breed) and this how they convinced unaware foreigners to buy them. Like today, it is hard to distinguish the Angora from other longhair random bred cats.
The early cat shows were literally dominated by Angora like cats (‘’Persians’’13). However it is entirely possible that the real Angora cats were almost unfound in cat shows halls, because any longhair cat could be called ‘’Angora’’ or ‘’Persian’ ’despite its origins; there were Russian even Chinese longhairs and many others imported from various places.
It is clear that Persian cats were probably not created from the Angora cats, but from the longhair cats in Europe and later in USA. The Persian breed is a completely man made cat.
Due to breeder’s desire to get more exotic look, from 1900’ies a Persian cat with flatter face and wider rounder body as well longer fur was developed. During World War 2 in the USA, The Brachycephaly syndrome (mutation) 14 changed a Persian cat drastically, causing a shortened head and very flat face. This mutation is also found in certain dog breeds.
We are told that the Persian cat became more popular than Angora cats. But probably there weren't two breeds from the begining; There was a random bred longhair cat mostly from Europe which was still in it's natural form and those cats which were already selectively bred and manipulated by cat breeders.
The Ankara Zoo (from ''1967 a Cat Fancier in Turkey, CFA Yearbook'')
Angora cats were not affected in its homeland, Turkey. In 193915 some individuals from the Ankara Zoo felt that white Turkish cats are in danger of ‘’extinction’’, this is why they started to breed white Angoras and white Anatolian shorthair (the latter was separated and named as ‘’Van cats’’). This ‘’breeding program’’ caught the attention of Americans (Grants, Leinbach, Porter) who were interested to recreate Turkish Angora breed in America and Europe. In 1962 Grants imported a cat or two from the Ankara Zoo. But before that Siamese breeder Gisela Stoscheck 16 got her cats with a help of a native Turkish H. Kenan Taspinar ‘’from private breeder in Ankara’’ and started to breed them. One can speculate why she didn’t take cats from Ankara Zoo. It’s unlikely ANY private breeder has ever existed in that time; still today nobody breeds Angora cats in Turkey. It could be just a blatant lie that allowed Gisela to use cats’ of non-Turkish origin.
To avoid confusion, Ankara kedisi was named as ‘’Turkish Angora’’, since oriental breed ’’British angora’’ has already existed. In 200217 this cat was renamed to ‘’Oriental longhair’’. Still today main registry of cats in the UK (GCCF) does not recognize Angora cats as a breed.
''American Angora'' is a man made cat breed; it has little or no relation to the Turkish cats.
Pointed Siamese colours from so called ''purebreeding'' which took in USA and Europe. These colours come from outcrossing with Siamese type of cats in the beginning of breed development.
The Angora cat in Turkey and the cat in USA and Europe look quite different. Why? Because they are different.
The breeders in USA and CFA, the first cat registry that allowed The Turkish Angora to compete in cat shows, might not like the ‘’plain’’ look of Turkish cats from the beginning. It was aimed to create more exotic version of Angora, a cat that would stand out in cat shows. So what was the best way to achieve it? Yes, we often hear about the selective breeding and how cat can be changed just by careful selection. However this is just a part of story. The another reason why American breeder chose to outcross their cats, it's because importing cats from Turkey was expensive and time-consuming. Third hypothesis would be that outcrossing was not planned but occured as a mistake or maybe a dishonesty of first breeders. Why the Angora in West needed to be different from the original Angora cat - uknown. The first breeders of the Angora cats are no longer alive.
In the early development of ‘’Turkish Angora’’, it’s undeniable that outcrossing took place, which resulted to a radical change in type like fine boning, straight profile, angular features. We don’t know maybe some foundation cats were not even Turkish! Take for example, Gisela Stoscheck of Tai-Phoon/Taspinar, who started it all. Nobody not even cat fanciers could hide a fact that she outcrossed her Angora cats with Siamese and Persian cats (let’s not forget suspicious origin of her imports). Aletha Hendrickson in her book ‘’The Turkish Angora: Revival of an Ancient Breed’’16 tells that Persian hybrids were removed from Gisela’s breeding stock, but what happened with Siamese ones? Nothing is told. In fact, CFA was not too unhappy of Gisela’s experiments. Tai-Phoon cats and its descendants were generously awarded18.
Today Tai-Phoon/Taspinar cattery names, including Azima (a cattery belonged to deceased Barbara Azan) which used them for breeding, are found in almost every pedigree of Turkish Angora19. A hidden history of Siamese outcrosses return in many Turkish Angora catteries, haunting with recessive and unwanted colors.
Until now most of DNA studies done on cat breeds and random bred populations did not offer straightforward answers. Some of them however were even mistleading. Prof. L. A. Lyons assumed in her previous studies that the American Turkish Angora is descended from the Turkish cats, even clearly this cat was created from various non Turkish cats and exhibits unusual physical charachteristics not found in Anatolian cat populations. It was told that The Turkish Angora and the Turkish Van are two different cat breeds.
''More surprisingly, the Turkish Angora and the Turkish Van were distinct from each other, the Turkish Van being closer to Egyptian random-bred cats while the Turkish Angora was closer to random-bred cats from Tunisia and Turkey and to the Egyptian Mau. However, the UC Davis Turkish Cat Studies of 2008 and 2012 only studied American cat fancy registered Angoras rather than the “true” Turkish Angora or Ankara Kedisi directly from Turkey, and especially from the Ankara Zoo. The American cats were tested based on cat fancy pedigrees and assumptions as to their ancestral origins in Turkey. Samples submitted from Turkey and the Ankara Zoo were allegedly ignored. Samples claimed to be from Turkey which show a genetic relationship to American Angoras cannot be verified (some named clinics now deny having provided samples). Some were allegedly submitted in the name of vet clinics that had been closed years previously. Independent DNA studies were carried out using documented Turkish Angoras from the Ankara Zoo, Ankara City, from other parts of Turkey, and also Cyprus. The results do not correspond well with that of the “American Angora” resulting in an erroneous conclusion that the (American-bred) Turkish Angora was most representative of cats of Turkey. Breeders in Turkey feel that the cat fancy’s fine-boned version of their national breed is unrepresentative of the true Turkish cats, which are much sturdier. American “Turkish” Angoras may have only a minimal remnant of the original Ankara Zoo DNA and are only “purebred” on paper''. 35
The cat from Ankara Zoo Minos (on the left) was almost identhical to this stray cat from Cyprus* (on the right). Both are genetically the Angoras, but completely different from the American Angora!
Both of them attented to cat shows registered as ''Turkish Vans'' howerver!
(*from unpublished study ''Genetics of Turkish cats populations and breeds'' by Leslie A. Lyons – Round 3 (2012))
These observations are actually confirmed by the latest scientific study: ''Turkish- versus USA-originating Turkish Angoras are resolved as separate breed populations'' revealed one study under name ''Variation of cats under domestication: genetic assignment of domestic cats to breeds and worldwide random-bred populations'' (Kurushima, 2012) 36.
In other words, the cat they call ''Turkish Angora'' in USA and Europe is not Angora at all!
The American Angora comes from Western random bred cats, not Turkey (which belongs to Eastern Mediterranean)
(from Kurushima, Selkirk Rex: ''Morphological and Genetic Characterization of a New Cat Breed'' (2012))
Clarification of the picture:
In the middle you see Angora – longhair Anatolian cat and shorthair with name ‘’Anatolian SH’’. These cats are genetically the same. Oldest naturally occurring Anatolian cat breeds.
''First Persians'' – Because of Pietro Della Valle, an author of a ''legend'' of ''Persian cat'', many people even today believe that Persian AND Angora cats were two unrelated breeds. However it's more than likely that so called Persians which came from Iran were the Angora cats - it's even not clear how many of them were real imports. However today the genetic studies leave no doubts that ‘’Persian’’ is a western man made breed20.The Persian cat is not Persian at all, it's a man made cat breed originated in England and USA.
Turkish Van – Laura Lushington discovered patterned cats were in fact semi-longhair Angoras. If ‘’Turkish Van’’ breed was not outcrossed to anything it must still relate to Turkish stray cats. Therefor this would mean it’s a duplicate of Angora. (A cat in the picture is an import brought to USA)
Van Kedisi – probably a real white Angora, resemble a type of Ankara Zoo cats. (A cat pictured is a Turkish import).
Aphrodite Giants – newly recognized ‘’Cyprus’ ’cat breed by WCF, which replaced the real Angora. A genetic research confirms that these cats are indeed… the same Angoras and belong to the same Eastern Mediterranean/Anatolian population. (An article about this genetic research will be posted in coming weeks21)
American Angora – man made breed which bears almost no similarity to the real Angora. It is not good representative of the Angora cat morphologically and genetically. Due to outcrossing some of these cats carry recessive Siamese colors (pictured on the left).
Aegean Cat – not recognized by major cat registries, a breed promoted by Greek cat fancy22, who thinks that argument ‘’lives on the island’’ is enough to prove they are somehow distinct from other cats. However these cats were brought to island by people and like Cyprus cats, probably resemble already existing species. Despite this, Aegean cats were featured in a short documentary made by Animal Planet23. They do not look anyhow different from other cats found in Mediterranean countries. It’s not clear are they related to Turkish cats or a mix of Turkish and European cats.
From the slideshow our association is working on at the moment!
3. Lions of Anatolia: What do they look like?
The Angora's coat: difference between seasons.
Fur of the Angora cats
The first thing what you will notice in the Angora cat it’s a beautiful long fur. In wintertime the Angora has long ruff around neck that reminds of necklace. This is main and most beautiful characteristic of the Angora cats. The Fur is very soft, silky, and gentle, has cashmere like feeling. It has NO wooly undercoat; its fur suits perfectly for Anatolian climate.
Not all Angora cats will have the same length of fur. It depends on cat's age, its unique genetics, nutrition and other factors. The Angora Cat Association does not accept unscientific classification of longhair and semi-longhair. The gene what makes long fur is the same for all Angora cats. The Angora cats are longhair. Semi-longhair is a term used by cat fancy to describe any cat which hasn't a fur of Persian. Persian cat's fur lengh is not a norm. It's abnormallly long fur that makes a cat depended on humans for its grooming!
The Angora is a natural cat and very well adapted to seasonal changes: in winter it has long impressive fur with a thick ruff around the neck. However in hotter summer months it may appear almost like a shorthair cat just with a fluffy tail!
Colors of the Angora Cats
Most of Turkish people don’t know much about their native cats. White and odd-eyed cats are the ones they call purebred Ankara and van kedisi.
However Turkish people have no idea how special these stray animals are. Due to lack of education about cat breeds and inability to reason logically, a white cat is still considered as safkan- the purebred Angora, while not very different colored Turkish cat will be just sokak kedisi- street cat.
Some people insist that any white cat even shorthair could be the Angora, as long it has two same colored eyes! This is vital difference for folks in order to disguise ‘’Van kedisi’’ and Angora from each other as no other differences are seen! People in Ankara may not agree, because they also think the Angora as odd-eyed, despite those protesting that odd-eyes are specific characteristic of Van cats!
Surely, this fight is meaningless, because… any white cat may have odd-eyes and that cat doesn’t need to be from Turkey or Van.
1) Tabby (tekir) was probably the color of first domesticated cats (most of wild cats are tabbies). Tabby has many patterns and it is primary color of cats.
2) In the world of genetics, white is not a color. Actually white color gene suppresses other genes: it covers other colors. Cat appears white. However this cat always carries a color or pattern in its genes, which are hidden by this white mask. These hidden colors will be expressed in future kittens.
A calico kitten from the white parents in Van Kedisi Evi (100th year university, Van)
3) White cats are not albinos, which are very rare. Albinos don’t have odd-eyes, but pink and very pale blue.
4) The only difference between white and colored Angoras is only one gene that determines the color of fur, nothing else.
5) Longhair gene is recessive: you need both parents would be longhair to produce longhair kittens; Shorthair gene is dominant, this is why random bred longhair cats are rare.
6) A cat which is white or has some white on its fur may have odd-eyes.
7) White color has nothing to do with purity. Once again: White cat breed is not possible.
White is dominant: When a colored cat mates with a white cat, majority of kittens will be…white!
Proud dad Lokum (white Anatolian shorthair) and one of his white kittens. The mother is a tortie cat.
Colors of the Angora: Variety of tabby (tekir); red/ginger (sarman); tortoiseshell (3 colours); calico (2 colors with white); black, cream (diluted red); grey (diluted black); patterns with white (Van, Tuxedo etc.) are very common and white.
Colors not found in the Angora cats: Siamese pointed and variations of lynx, chocolate, fawn (diluted chocolate, grey with pink undertone) and chinchilla –silver coloring is rare in Turkish street cats. Silver/smoke gene is probably not native to the Anatolian cats populations and in most of cases indicate the Persian outcross.
The Average Angora is similar to other random bred cats and display only minor differences.
Other characteristics of the Angora
The Angora cats do not differ strongly from the other ''non-breed'' cats. The sharp differences between breeds were created through artificial selection and restricting certain colours to particular breeds. The Angora cats are natural random bred cats, which although similar, have some individual differences.
The age is the most important factor, when describing the Angora cats charachteristics. The Angora cats go through a morphological transformation which causes them to revert back to a neonatal appearance (similar to young kitten) at some indeterminate time between 18 months and 3 years or longer.
The Angora cats like many cats matures slowly. When a cat is young, its body seems more delicate, legs longer, head slimmer and ears appear large.
At about 3 years old Angora is sturdier and has solidly built strong body, but not cobby type like Persian and never slender like Siamese, Oriental cats. Medium to large size preferred; the tail medium to long and in balance with the body measures.
How big the Angora can get? Some genetically destined will be really heavy and big cats; in the contrary others will stay smaller in size. How big cat will be depends on environmental factors: cats suffering from illnesses and from inadequate food intake tend to be a lot of smaller on average.
The Angora has large olive shaped eyes, from a bit rounder to a bit more oval, some maybe slightly slanted. Eye colors: pale blue, amber, green, odd-eyed.
Eye colors not found in turkish cats dark blue eye color like those of Siamese cats.
Ears are medium to large but always wide spaced placed in form of an open V. Face is broad wedge shaped and triangular, slightly rounded.
Nose (muzzle) should not be too long, but a very short muzzle may indicate Persian outcross; there is a light dip below eye level in Angoras profile.
Overall there must be a balance of features.
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4. Personality of the Angora cat
Are the Angora cats aggressive? Not more than any other cats, in fact many of them are very affectionate and make a really great pets.
The Angora cats have very rich personalities – they are individuals and all of them are different. In general, the Angoras are playful, energetic, good hunters and very attached to people. Some of them may prefer human company more, being loyal, almost dog-like, while other Angora cats are proud and independed, trying to make the impression they are ''aristocrats''.
No description fits them all.
Many Angora cats living on the streets are extremely affectionate as they are usually cared and loved by people. Unfortunately some of them due to lack of contact with humans or some kind of psychological trauma may be fearful and not approachable.
Turkish people love their cats. Every shop has it's shopkeepers. Parliamental buildings are not exceptions and are often guarded by a cat. A cat named Sero, probably the most famous colored Angora, ''owns'' CHP party headquarters. This cat is a TV star and has her own Twitter account as well.
Famous CHP Angora Cat Shero
Turkish Culture & Tourism brochure 24 about Ankara city, claims that ‘’The Angora cat is delicate and not well-equipped for hunting’’.
The Turkish cats are in general healthy, active and, of course, great hunters. The Angora cats were bred without human interference, randomly. Mother Nature assured the survival of the fittest.
On the other hand if you talk about white deaf cats, these cats may not be good hunters and they are very vulnerable for many things living outside that normally would not be a problem for a hearing cat. But who breeds white deaf cats? In nature some occur, but most deaf whites are bred, let’s be honest- by humans. And these cats are bred for their beauty not for improving their survival in nature.
Shopkeepers in Istanbul
5. Color me White:
White Cats Racism in Turkey
In 21st century with enormous science achievements, which helped to shape our world and the understanding about it, most of us us are still in darkness when it goes to the cats and cat breeds.
Although the origin of persistent dogma of white cat breeds is unknown, the Turkish society today still accepts the white cats only as their native breeds, excluding any other with different color of fur. These white cats got city names attached (Van, Ankara) making them appear as a different cat breeds. Superficial traits like eye color are used to identify which cat is The Angora and which is The Van.
The main players of white cat racism are Van University, hoarding over 150 white cats in their campus, Turkish media focusing on odd-eyed white cats and Turkish people who unable to get the correct information, believe that the only white cats are ‘’purebred’’.
The current trend is to call every colored cat as a certain foreigner cat breed. For example, every black cat will be called Bombay – known as a man made cat from Burmese and American SH (never mind how did they get here?). Both longhair and shorthair Anatolian cats with a black fur will be shown as an exotic ‘’Bombay’s’’. Bombay breed is not very popular nor is it well known in the world. But due to mistaken beliefs of some people it may get a bigger interest in Turkey. The Angora with tabby with white will be called Norwegian Forrest Cat or Maine Coon. Grey cat occasionally will be Russian Blue or Korat (the cat fanciers also teach falsehoods that some breeds can have only one color, which is not true!). This thinking is insane: if it seems obvious- a fur color is different - this means it is a different cat breed right?
This harmful idea is widely popularized by animal welfare groups, animal activists and their run TV programs in Turkey. Why they do this? As white cats accepted as Angora/Van breeds, activists felt that they will help to find houses for non-white cats faster, if they choose to lie for people that a colored street cat is a special breed, instead of educating them that both white and colored are the same cats. Maybe they thought it will help to redirect focus from the breeders and pet shops sold cats and instead of buying them, people will choose ‘’taking’’ a cat from the street. Of course these lies can’t go far, as people will eventually will educate themselves about the cat breeds. Many of these ‘’enlightened’’ people will choose pay money for pedigreed representatives of the breed, whose names will be already popularized in Turkey by the same animal activists.
TV programs about the Angora cats – Timeline:
1995 – The Angora Cat Documentary made by TRT although shows mostly the white cats only, it first time talks about the colored Angora cats born to white parents, including this beautiful black Angora cat. In the same year made documentary about the Van Cats (Van Kedisi) however continues to support an idea that a white cat is a different breed.
Iz TV ‘’Ankara’nin Yumagi’’ documentary - Except for Fatih Atasoy repeating the wrong information that the Angora cats are only white, Ankara Yumagin contains an important message, where The Angora Association president Dr. Tarkan Özçetin explains that the Angora cats come in many colours. The documentary features the Angora Association and an outstanding tabby - The Angora Cüneyt.
TRT Okul – Bir Evde Program – talks about the Angora and ‘’Van’’ cats and gets everything wrong. A young veterinarian Baris Boyar is chosen as an expert of Angora and ‘’Van’’ breeds. The program doesn’t tell anything new but outdated and wrong information that the Van cats are odd-eyed and Angora – amber or blue eyed, again endorsing white cat racism.
Neseli Patiler – KanalTürk
By far the most ’’racist one’’ ever created program in Turkish TV history. It teaches that every street cat from Turkey can be a breed, depending on its fur colour. A veterinarian Burçin Çavdar is now an expert of all cat breeds. Although she is confident about what she speaks, but her mistakes shine through every sentence told. ''Neseli Patiler'' teaches people that there is tabby cat breed (tekir), bombay (every black cat, including the black Angora cats), and of course only white cats will be the Angoras. They say the Angora cats historically known for about 500-600 years for their long fur also can be shorthair white cats.
The following parts of this program will turn the colored Angora cats to Maine Coons, Norwegians and who knows what else. The program is based on testimonies from supposed breed owners. Entertaining for most, but very dishonest and misleading. Encourages segregation of cats based on color and feeds white cat racism. At the same time it advertises the foreigner cat breeds, making them popular and desirable in Turkey.
Myths about The Angora Cats some Turkish people believe:
1. Angora cats are only white
False. The white fur is nothing unusual, any cat can have it. Colors of fur are very old mutations and spread everywhere in the world. Black, tabby, calico, grey, white etc etc. longhair ‘’street cats from Turkey– all are Angora cats and the fur color doesn’t make them as different races. Both Colored and white cats can be from the same parents– how could you dare to tell a white one is a breed and the colored one – a hybrid just by color alone?
2. Deafness is the charachteristic of the Angora cats
False. Deafness is not chrachteristic of the breed. It is a big problem of all white cats. Van University ‘’Researchers’’ tell that Angora cats have more deafness compared to ‘’Van’’ cats. This is unproven and false. No scientific studies on deafness were ever done comparing Angora and ‘’Van’’ cats and their claim makes no sense.
3. The Angora cats are from Ankara, Van cats from – Van city
False. No evidence to these beliefs. Both of cats don’t exist as white cat breeds. Anatolian cats are everywhere in Turkey and they could originate just about anywhere. The natural cat breeds can never be limited to one city. They are always found in wider area, in this case all Anatolia and beyond that.
4. The Angora cats are sensitive and fragile
False. The Angora cats in general are very well adapted, strong and healthy cats. If they were weak, deaf and bad hunters they wouldn’t survive for thousands of years until today!
A step forward: The black Angora kitten wins 3rd place in Ankara Pursaklar Beauty contest, 2012, November 13.
Certainly there is a hope that the discrimination of the colored Angora cats as a worthless ‘’stray cats’’ will end in Turkey soon.
Say No to the white cats racism!
6. How pure is the Angora Cat?
Because many cats in Turkey live as ''street cats'' many people believe that they must be mixed hybrids. This is of course, not truth. Most of cats in the world are random bred regional varieties not mixed breeds. Actually all breeds come from random bred (freeborn) cats not the other way round! When next time you ask what is a breed of your cat, remember this.
What does ''pure'' mean? A word ''purebred'' is not only wrong to describe cat breeds it's downright mistleading. Most of cat breeders will described their cats as ''pedigreed'' - having parents granparents etc recorded in a ''document'' known as pedigree (family tree).
There are no ''pure races'' of cats. All cat breeds have been made using random bred cats. So all we have there are freeborn natural cats and artificial populations created by cat fanciers.
Random bred cats can be grouped to regional varieties. Most of cat breeds come from Western cats (Europe and USA) and Siamese type of breeds - from Southern Asia. The Angora belongs to Anatolian/Eastern Mediterranean freeborn cats.
1) The Angora cat originated in particular geographical location – Anatolia. The Angora cats are found in streets, villages, towns, countryside of Turkey. They have existed there for millennia during which time developed enough unique characteristics to differentiate them from the cats of other areas, therefore they are genetically distinct. Moreover these cats also exist in Cyprus and other parts of the East Mediterranean.
2) If a take a longhair street cat from Turkey and nearby coutries (for example Cyprus) it will be definitely the Angora cat; only the morphology and other characteristics will guarantee that since they are gene dependent. If cat is an outcross, you may notice some unusual chrachteristics otherwise not seen in the Angora cats.
For example, Persian mix will have a stocky body, short legs, small ears, flatter face and different type of fur (wooly, may be ''silver'' coloured).
3) Mixed with... what? In Turkey most of people love cats, but not neccessary know about them. For example, a talented Turkish photographer Nukhet Barlas wrote a misleading article with name ‘’Mix-breeds of Istanbul cross-continents, cross-breeds’25 Turks think if they find a cat from same ‘’impure’’ cat population but that cat happens to be white, then it must be ‘’pure’’ Angora or Van cat (see ‘’color genetics’’). This type of thinking is illogical and ridiculous.
What if Persian or Siamese wandering the streets of Turkey and mating with local cats? Still this would be statistically insignificant event: they would soon be swallowed up in the native gene pool. It's unlikely you will see a Persian or Siamese on the street ever. If you do, you will be quick to learn that it is neutered outdoor-indoor pet.
4) ‘’Without a pedigree it's a housecat’’. The Angora cats are said to be a ''natural breed''. This means they don't need any pedigrees in order to prove that they are Angoras!
5) The Anatolian Shorthair? – it may feel confusing when we choose to call the cat with short fur - Anatolian Shorthair. This cat is not another kind of of breed. It is the same like the Angora cat (should be called as Anatolian Longhair). The Anatolian Sh only lacks the long fur the Angora has. Despite differences in fur length, Anatolian SH and the Angora are the same cats genetically.
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The Angora cats house in the Ankara Zoo and the two white Angora cats
Popularized by foreigner media, the Ankara Zoo (Atatürk Orman Hayvan Bahçesi/AOÇ) 26 is a place where the white Angora cats were bred since 1939’s. Additionally, the Angora cats were also kept in Izmir, Istanbul and other city’s zoos, however today these Zoos no longer breed them.
Some foreigners believe that Ankara Zoo ''kept these cats in impeccable condition and their breeding program was both scientific and genetically sound''27. This could not be further from the truth. Ankara Zoo does not pretend to be a scientific institution, it’s just a Zoo, having many other animals and Angora cats are only the small part of what Ankara Zoo does.
Ankara Zoo in ''Ankara kedisi evi'' (Angora cat house/''cattery'') have Van cats too. The Van cats are shorthair only, maybe it’s done to maintain an impression that the Angora and the Van cats are different.
We all know, that only white cats were selected for breeding program; we don’t think that this choice is anyhow ‘’genetically sound’’, as genetically whites and colored are not different.
White cats are prone to deafness, but colored ones don’t have such a problem. For the sake of health, white cats should not be bred with whites. This is an important reason why Ankara zoo, Van University and others should consider using colored cats in their breeding programs.
Ankara Zoo did not use selective breeding; On the other hand the Ankara Zoo cats have similar look and a good type.
It should be noted that many Turkish people don't really know what the Angora cat is. Some people easily mistake a doll-faced Persian or its outcross as the Angora cat, even when clear morphological differences are seen. Could a white Persian cat end up to the Ankara Zoo? You may never know.
These cats are very likely Persian mixes (''The Angora cats'' in Konya Zoo)
Keçiören Zoo cats, Ankara
It seems another Keçiören Zoo28 in Ankara has begun to breed the Angora cats since 2011 March, according to media reports. The breeding program is exactly the same like Ankara Zoo – white, odd eyed cats. Although the facilities are more modern than Ankara Zoo, the breeding program relies on the same outdated understanding of the Angora breed.
Van university also breeds white longhair cats which they call ‘’Van kedisi’’. The program is unscientific, because the aim of breeding program is to produce more odd-eyed cats, deafness problem is not acknowledged and both longhair and shorthair cats are kept together.
Prof. Fatih Atasoy a self-proclaimed expert 29 of the Angora cats, said he will launch the Angora cats’ research center, analogical to that found in Van 30.
He is well known for endorsing white cat’s nonsense and repeating the same facts he has read in cat books written by those who rely on cat fanciers ‘’research’’. He is famous for making some noise in media that ''soon no Angora cats will be left''31.
In this year Turkish documentary channel - IZ TV made a documentary about the Angora cats ''Ankara'nin Yumagi'', featuring Ankara Zoo Angoras. The founder of our association Dr. Tarkan Özçetin spoke about Angora cats, their history and debunked popular but false belief, that the purest Angoras are white.
Fatih Atasoy was also invited in making a documentary, where he continued with same mantra of white cats=pure and described Ankara Zoo cats according to foreigner cat fancier’s standard; it seems very funny when his words don’t match the look of the cat he describes.
The Angora cats in ‘’Ankaranin Yumagi’’ were typical large fluffy robust and heavy-boned cats with widely spaced medium-sized ears and sturdy legs. However he described them as a fine-boned elegant cat with large upright ears (etc). He is obviously programmed to say something quite contradictory to the evidence before his very own eyes which is indicative of the power of suggestion and brainwashing over reality.
Fortunately Atasoy had a rare moment of enlightenment: in an interview with Today's Zaman (2008) He contradicts his previous claims by saying: ''they don’t have a specific color; there are nearly 20 coat color variations'32.
Would it be wise to let such a person lead a breeding program of the Angora cats?
Van University ''Van Cat Research Center''
Please read about this breeding program: Van Kedisi article.
White Angora cat with ''odd-eyes''. Turkish people believe it's a breed called ''Van Kedisi'' (Van Cat). The only observable difference between other freeborn (Angora) cats and this cat - a colour of its fur!
Why these breeding programs are not good?
1) No selective breeding. Cats are only chosen for their white coat and eye color. The type, health and temperament are not taken into consideration.
2) Not based on modern color genetics: They call colored cats ‘’impure’’ and ‘’mixed breeds’’, because they are not white. Nonwhite cats born to white parents are secretly removed from breeding programs.
3) Deafness is not taken seriously.
4) Cats are kept in not best conditions; For example, Van University has too many cats; minimal human contact, that may result to ‘’wild’’, aggressive behaviors; to keep every cat healthy becomes a hard task.
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8. What should we do about the Angora cats?
1) The information about the Angora/Anatolian cats should be promoted by various ways (internet, documentaries etc.). These cats deserve a lot of more. The wrong information should be critisized.
2) Turkish people as well the Turkish government need to be informed and educated about the Anatolian cats and their place in society, culture and history.
3) Neutering cats in Turkey: good or bad? TNR method (trap-neuter-realise) is humane enough and may be used in controlling the cat populations in cities. However it gets easily overused by the animal activists. No cats should be kept in shelters which are only prisons to them. Besides most of shelters will euthanise any cats which are not adoptable and feral (untamed).
One must not forget that the Anatolian cats are indigenous species and do not belong to live between four walls. Although they tend to be lazy and prefer easy food given by human feeders, they are very good hunters and can survive perfectly without humans. They should not be made extinct too as cats are important part of ecology of Turkey. Although the Anatolian cats make great pets, they are animals not emotional objects. Cats and dogs should not be put the the same cathegory when disccussing the issues of the Anatolian cats - these are two diferent animals and two different topics!
Anatolian cats have a right to live in their own land, as they did through thousand of years.
It's important to educate the public that we should not neuter ALL our Angoras. They are special cats found only in Turkey and the Middle East. They are the true Turkish Angoras and are quite different from the impostors of the Western cat fancy clubs. We must make an effort to protect and preserve them before it is too late.
4) Oppose the Turkish Government plans which aim to eliminate cats (together with stray dogs) from the streets. If the law 5199 gets passed, most of Anatolian cats will relocated to ''natural life parks '' in other words, ''animal concentration camps'', where they will be loose their lives.
5) We should demand a scientifically sound breeding program instead of the one we have in the Ankara Zoo.
6) An inaccurate standard33 should be changed and the Angora cats in all colours should be equally recognized.
7) The Van University white cats breeding program should be abolished. If Van University believes it's a distinct breed from the Angora, words are not enough.Why not do a comparative well designed DNA study on the Angora and the Van cats? Obviously such a study would result in uncomfortable truth that Van Kedisi doesn't exist.
8) The colored Angora cats have virtually no deafness risk. If you want to breed white Angora, breed it with a colored one. Most of kittens will be white anyway, but with reduced incidence of deafness.
9) Do not breed the Angora cats with Persians! Beware white Persian outcrosses which are often sold as the Angoras cats by petshops and some individuals in Turkey.
10) Foreigner cat federations should not have the authority regarding to our native cat breed.
11) If you want to contribute or support our research and wish to register your real Angora cat, please contact us.
Sources & links
10. Lottin de la Val ‘’Sur le chat d'Angora’’ (1857), The Royal Society of London Catalogue of Scientific Papers
11. Evliya Çelebi ‘’Seyahatname’’ (1640)
16. The Turkish Angora: Revival of an Ancient Breed, Aletha Hendrickson (1976; p. 9)
21. ‘’Genetics of Turkish cats’’, Leslie A. Lyons unpublished study (January 3, 2012). (Ankara Zoo cat and imports from Turkey classified as Cyprus cats).
All our photos are from Turkey except where stated or otherwise implied (''The Angora Conspiracy'' and felis silvestris lybica).
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