The origins of the breed
There is an intriguing legend tot explain the origin of the Birman cat, also known as the Sacred Cat of Burma.
The legend states that many years before the birth of Buddha the Khmer people had built beautiful temples for their goddess Sun-Kyan-Kse, the goddess of transmutation. In one of the most beautiful . The Kittah priests of this temple possessed a hundred pure white cats. These cats played an important role in the religion: the priests who were so pure that their souls could not be missed on earth, transmuted into such a white cat after their death. The oldest head priest Mun Ha had a special companion in his white male Sinh, a cat with golden eyes which reflected the colour of his master’s beard.
One stormy night murderous raiders from Siam attacked the temple and Mun Ha was killed. The cat Sinh jumped on the body of his dying master and then the miracle of transmutation took place: the colour of his eyes changed into radiating sapphire blue, the colour of the eyes of the goddess; his white coat darkened at the feet, the tail and the ears and his face turned into a dark mask. His coat was golden shaded from then on. At the spots where his feet touched the body of the priest his coat remained pure white.
Sinh lived seven more days without eating and drinking before he died and took his master’s soul to the paradise. The next day all other ninety-nine cats appeared to have changed colours according to the colours of Sinh and from that moment on they were considered sacred cats.
The French connexion
Many people dismiss this legend as just another pretty story to explain the existence of an ordinary cat breed, created by crossbreeding. But in historiography there are clear indications that in that region there were cats who looked very much the same as the cats we know now as Sacred Birmans.
In 1919 a male and a female cat are said to be taken away form the Lao Tsun temple and transported to France on the yacht of an American billionaire. These cats were a thank you gift for an Englishman, major Russell Gordon and a Frenchman Auguste Pavie, because they had assisted the Kittah priests during Brahman attacks, saving many priests and sacred temples.
During the boat trip the male, named Maldapour, died, but the female Sitah survived. She appeared to be pregnant and gave birth to a litter. From that litter came Poupée de Maldapour, shown in 1926 at a Paris cat exhibition. In the meantime the breed had been officially recognized in 1925 by the Fédération Féline Française.
Another version of the origins of the Sacred Birman in France is an article in “Le monde félin”in 1927, in which a Madame Marcelle Adam is mentioned to be the person who imported the first Birman in 1925. Her cattery name was Maldapour and she was a president of the Fédération Féline Française.
In these years an other Birman who appeared on shows was Dieu D’Ardakan. When comparing pictures of this cat with our present Birmans it is clear that we talk about an original race of which the characteristics are present over a very long period of time.
After the second World War very few cats appeared to have survived and according to the pedigree registrations of FFF these cats were ancestors of all present cats of the breed. With these cats a breeding program was started and it is assumed that outcrossings have been made with colourpoint Persians, Siamese and ordinary cats. By 1955 the race was re-established in France. Around 1960 the first cats of the breed were exported to the United States and the United Kingdom.
It is interesting to see that in the 1950’s a lot of discussions took place about faults which breeders were trying to eliminate. And guess what that was about? Exactly, white chin spots, runners on front legs, white spots in the seal points and seal spots in the white marking. Some things don’t seem to change for ages!