Some comments on Havana history with reference to the Siamese & Oriental SOP
After reading Joan Judd’s article (OUR CATS, 16 June, Page 9), I would like to add some further comments:
The Havana cat, the first self-coloured SH cat of Siamese body type was developed from 1951 onwards by breeders known as the Havana Group, its subsequent history would take too long to describe within a short article.
Moving forwards and attempting to describe the events and the consequences upon type that have placed the Havana in the dangerous position of becoming simply an Oriental Chestnut or Chocolate: in 1988 the breed advisory group FOJC became the OJBAC, by 1991, after deliberations outside the specific breed club that did not seem to have been fully consulted (originally the Havana CC thence the Havana & Foreign Lilac CC) the Havana and other self-coloured SH cats of ‘Siamese-type’ together with the Oriental Tabbies were moved from the Foreign Section to the Oriental Section; the name of the breed Club changed from the Havana & Foreign Lilac CC to the Havana & Oriental Lilac CC.
The implications of this change possibly was not apparent at the time, apart from some spirited opposition in 1999 by a breeder who pointed out that Havanas and other Oriental selfs were starting to be judged to ‘extreme’ Siamese type by some judges who regarded low horizontal ear placement, longer face and nose as examples of good type in Oriental breed. The S.O.P. since 1992, albeit very similar for Siamese and Oriental SH and LH, contains an important phrase:
The head and profile should be wedge-shaped neither round nor pointed, avoiding exaggerated type.
The inclusion of this phrase, in my opinion, should protect the Havana, however, as forecast there is a noticeable tendency for some judges to award high placement on the show bench to Havanas and Orientals similar in type to the current popular more extreme Siamese standard. The earset angle from the horizontal for these cats can be as low as 10 to 20 degrees, whereas the classic Havana earset should be a minimum of around 40 degrees from the horizontal. The effect of the longer face and drooping earset also produces an oriental eye shape that in many cases appears to be extremely narrow.
Perhaps it would be useful to examine the Siamese S.O.P. that really hasn’t changed a great deal since 1902. The versions throughout 1930s to the 1970s contain the phrase:
Head, long and well proportioned with width through the eyes . . .. 1934
Head long and well proportioned carried upon an elegant neck, with width between the eyes . . . 1968/ 1974
In the 1983 version of S.O.P. for the Siamese the phrase ‘ width between the eyes’ has changed to ‘width between the ears’. Returning to the original S.O.P. for the Havana in 1958 (Chestnut Brown as it was then) the following appears:
In other words - width between the ears is this coincidental or did the Siamese S.O.P. subtly change to bring it closer to that of the Havana and other Orientals? An interesting thought.
Currently the Siamese and increasingly the Oriental head standard appear to be translated as:
Head long, narrowing in straight lines at an angle of 60 degrees or less to a fine muzzle. The outer edge of the eye in line with the front edge of flared ears which are 10 to 15 degrees from the horizontal; the lower ear edge, preferably being below eye level.
My perception of extreme Siamese judging - not really conforming to the current S.O.P. for the breed?
Judging to the Standard of Points is an inexact science, personal preference often swaying decisions consequently affecting the policies of cat breeders anxious to win acclaim for their cats on the show bench. The wellbeing of the cats during the various metamorphoses of type does not seem to be a prime consideration. Both Siamese and Oriental cats’ bodies are becoming over-slender and tubular does this have consequences for litters, possibly pelvis too narrow for easy birth?
However, judges’ idiosyncratic interpretation of the standard is not new. In 1947 Elsie Hart, well known breeder and judge, wrote in the SCC News Sheet, June 1947:
I agree it is difficult to avoid being biased in favour of the kind of cat one prefers, but would it not be far more satisfactory if judges concentrated more on the standard of points laid down for the purpose of breeding and put aside their personal likes and dislikes?
Until there is a more rigid adherence to the S.O.P., possibly with illustrated guidance provided by the breed club, many cat breeds are being and have been changed and not always for the better.
CONGRATULATIONS to Ed and Mike, the new Show Managers of the Lakeland CC Show, and also to the Committee on a superb show.
It’s taken nine years, with Exemption and Sanction plus two Championship Show, but they can be proud of their achievements in both Club and Show.
Congratulations again from your President and retired Show Manager.
Lost cat reports
I WOULD like to sincerely apologise to all exhibitors and everyone concerned for my lost Judges Book for the Midland Counties Cat Show on 21 May 2006.
Unfortunately, I am unable to submit the reports for the show and again, please accept my sincerest apologies.
Lynne Studer (Mrs), GCCF Judge