Foreign Burmese is the breed name used in Canada to identify Burmese that carry the red gene. This is a sex linked gene which produces red and cream coloured males and femalesand tortie females in the 4 Burmese colours. When the Burmese cat was first introduced to North America it was thought that the sable brown was the only true, natural colour. Eventually it was recognised that champagne, blue and platinum were also naturally occurring colours resulting from recessive genes carried for a long time by the breed. On the other hand the origin of the red gene in the breed is directly the result of human intervention.
The venture to produce a red Burmese began in England in 1964. Six years of work followed where domestic and red pointed Siamese were used to develop a selection of breeding stock of cats with excellent type and eye colour. By 1972 both red and cream colours were recognised in the UK plus sable and blue torties. It was not until 1995 that these colours were accepted in Canada.Recognition in the US is more recent and the breed is called European Burmese. Outside North America no distinction is made regarding colour and all are simply identified as Burmese.
In addition to differences in colour the Foreign Burmese is somewhat different in type to its North American counterpart. This difference is due to a preference for a more foreign type in the rest of the world. The Foreign Burmese is larger than the Burmese in North America. It is longer in the body, legs and tail. The head is wedge shaped and the nose break less extreme. The eyes are still the same striking gold but rounded on the bottom with a slight oriental slant on top. The coat is equally soft and glossy and the body well muscled and strong.
Whatever the coat colour or type all Burmese share the same temperament. The playfulness of the kitten lasts well in to old age. They are strong willed and intelligent and totally devoted to the humans in their lives.
The origin of these beautiful cats is a Romeo and Juliet story with a happy ending. A Burmese breeder in London England also owned a pet Chinchilla Persian male kitten. His companion in his youth was a platinum Burmese female kitten. Once they reached maturity they were separated until one day the housekeeper, feeling sorry for them, allowed them some “playtime” together. The resulting kittens were silver shaded and of Burmese type. They were so beautiful that the breeding was repeated. Eventually a new breeding program was developed and the Burmilla breed was launched.
It was soon evident that many combinations of coat colour and pattern were possible in both long and short hair. The original breed name Burmilla was discontinued in the UK for all but the short haired shaded version of these cats. Asian is now used for short haired cats of other colours and patterns. Tiffanie is the breed name for the long haired cats. When the breed was accepted in Canada it was decided to keep the breed name Burmilla for all cats regardless of colour or coat length.
The Burmilla has a foreign type. It is a medium sized cat with a well muscled body. The eyes are full and expressive and the ears set well apart. The coat is silky and fine in texture lying close to the body. In the short hairs there is a slight lift. The long hairs have a fluffy tail with a distinct ruff around the neck. The coat is semi-long and easily maintained. Eye colour can be green or gold.
The Burmilla personality combines the best features of both the original breeds. Less noisy than the Burmese and more inquisitive and playful than the Persian, Burmillas make excellent pets in any home situation.
Basically, all present day pedigreed Burmese are descended from a little brown cat called Wong Mau brought to the US in 1930 by Doctor Joseph Thompson. During the 1930’s and 40’s Dr Thompson and other American breeders worked to establish the breed. Originally it was thought that this sable brown was the only true colour for a Burmese. Eventually it was accepted that champagne (chocolate), blue and platinum (lilac) were also naturally occurring colours. By the 1950’s the popularity of the Burmese was established around the world.
The Burmese is a very distinctive and appealing cat with a compact, rounded body. They are well muscled and surprisingly heavy for their size. The head is rounded with widely set ears, a blunt muzzle and a visible nose break. Round, golden eyes are set far apart giving a very sweet expression. The coat is short and has a satin-like sheen.
Burmese are brave and inquisitive cats frequently surprising their owners with their problem solving abilities. They can adapt to various environments and travel well. They will play for hours retrieving a ball or toy mouse but most of all they like to be with their humans sharing in whatever is happening. They are friendly to other animals and do not enjoy being an only cat. They make wonderful companions to children who always know how to keep a Burmese happy.