The Siamese is one of the first distinctly recognized breeds of Oriental cat. The exact origins of the breed are unknown, but it is believed to be from Southeast Asia, and is said to be descended from the sacred temple cats of Siam (now Thailand). In Thailand, where they are one of several native breeds, they are called Wichien-maat (วิเชียรมาศ, a name meaning "Moon diamond"). In the twentieth century the Siamese cat became one of the most popular breeds in Europe and North America.
The pointed cat known in the West as "Siamese" is one of several breeds of cats from Siam described and illustrated in manuscripts called "Tamra Maew" (Cat Poems), estimated to have been written in the 1700s.
It is often said that the breed was first seen outside their Asian home in 1884, when the British Consul-General in Bangkok, Edward Blencowe Gould (1847-1916), brought a breeding pair of the cats, Pho and Mia, back to Britain as a gift for his sister, Lilian Jane Veley (Veley went on to co-found the Siamese Cat Club in 1901). However, in 1878, U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes received "Siam", a gift from the American Consul in Bangkok; this cat was also the first documented Siamese to reach the United States, and predates the Siamese's arrival to the UK by 6 years.
In 1885, Veley's UK cats Pho and Mia produced three Siamese kittens. These kittens – Duen Ngai, Kalohom, and Khromata – and their parents were shown that same year at London's Crystal Palace Show, where their unique appearance and distinct behavior made a huge impression. Unfortunately, all three of the kittens died soon after the show. The reason for their deaths is not documented.
By 1886, another pair (with kittens) were imported to the UK by a Mrs. Vyvyan and her sister. Compared to the British Shorthair and Persian cats that were familiar to most Britons, these Siamese imports were longer and less "cobby" in body types, had heads that were less round with wedge-shaped muzzles and had larger ears. These differences and the pointed coat pattern which had not been seen before by Westerners, produced a strong impression--one early viewer described them as "an unnatural nightmare of a cat". These striking cats also won some devoted fans and over the next several years fanciers imported a small number of cats, which together formed the base breeding pool for the entire breed in Britain. It is believed that most Siamese in Britain today are descended from about eleven of these original imports. Several sources give Gould's brother Owen Nutcombe Gould (1857-1929) as the British Consul-General in Bangkok, but Owen was only 27 in 1884 and not known to be in Bangkok. In their early days in Britain they were called the "Royal Cat of Siam", reflecting reports that they had previously been kept only by Siamese royalty.Later research has not shown evidence of any organised royal breeding programme in Siam.
The original Siamese imports were, like their descendants in Thailand today, medium-sized, rather long-bodied, muscular, graceful cats with moderately wedge-shaped heads and ears that were comparatively large but in proportion to the size of the head. The cats ranged from rather substantial to rather slender but were not extreme in either way.
Modern development
In the 1950s - 1960s, as the Siamese was increasing in popularity, many breeders and cat show judges began to favor the more slender look and as a result of generations of selective breeding, created increasingly long, fine-boned, narrow-headed cats; eventually the modern show Siamese was bred to be extremely elongated, with thin, tubular bodies, long, slender legs, a very long, very thin tail that tapers gradually into a point and long, narrow, wedge-shaped heads topped by extremely large, wide-set ears. The major cat organisations altered language and/or interpretation of their official breed standards to favor this newer streamlined type of Siamese, and the minority of breeders who stayed with the original style found that their cats were no longer competitive in the show ring.
By the mid-1980s, cats of the original style had disappeared from cat shows, but a few breeders, particularly in the UK, continued to breed and register them, resulting in today's two types of Siamese – the modern "show-style" Siamese, and the "traditional" Siamese, both descended from the same distant ancestors, but with few or no recent ancestors in common. In the late 1980s, breeders and fans of the older style of Siamese organised in order to preserve old, genetically healthy lines from extinction; educate the public about the breed's history; and provide information on where people could buy kittens of the more moderate type. Several different breeders' organisations have developed, with differing breed standards and requirements (such as whether or not cats must have documented proof of ancestry from an internationally recognised registry). Partially due to such disagreements, there are several different names used for the cats, including "Traditional Siamese", "Old Style Siamese", "Classic siamese", and "Appleheads" (originally a derogatory nickname coined by modern-type Siamese breeders as an exaggerated description of less extremely wedge-shaped heads). The popularity of the older body style has also led to pointed mixed-breed cats that may have few or no Siamese ancestors being sold as "Traditional Siamese" to uninformed buyers, further increasing confusion over what a "real" Siamese looks like.
The International Cat Association (TICA), in addition to the regular Siamese breed category in which modern show-style Siamese are shown, now accept a breed in the Preliminary New Breed Category called Thai, similar to the Thaikatze which are seen in Europe. The TICA Thai is recognised, which includes Siamese cats of the less extreme type or a Wichien-Maat imported from Thailand. The Thai is also recognized by the World Cat Federation. Thai are the original type of cats from Thailand, brought to America on January 3, 1879 as a gift from the American consul in Bangkok to the President's wife, Mrs. Lucy Webb Hayes.


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