Many cat breeds exist in the world today, and each breed is either natural, a mutation, a crossbreed or a hybrid.
Some breeds have stepped onto the stage only recently, but there are a few natural landrace breeds that date back centuries, if not millennia.
The Arabian Mau: An Arabian Knight
Descended from the fearsome desert cat, the sleek and powerful Arabian Mau has prowled the shimmering sands of the Middle East for at least a thousand years.
A natural landrace breed flourishing in Qutar, the UAE, Oman and Kuwait, these orange/bi-color tabbies with their mysterious green eyes keep cool because their fur lacks an undercoat.
Many of them live on the streets, and they’ve become streetwise enough to survive the harshest conditions.
The Suphalak: Cats Of Copper
Their shining golden eyes have been compared to the yellow-gold skin of the wild pomegranate, and their rich fur is the color of burnished copper: they are the gorgeous Suphalaks of Thailand, lauded in the Siamese book of cat poetry, the Tamra Maew.
Nothing about the Suphalak is anchored in reality, and their rarity in present day Thailand is explained by saying that, when the Burmese King Hsinbyushin conquered the Siamese capital in 1767, he took all the Suphalaks he could find home to Burma as they were thought to bring wealth and good luck.
The Siberian Forest Cat: Russia’s National Treasure
This huge breed lurked in Siberia’s frozen wasteland for centuries but finally came in from the cold to become Russia’s most prized possession.
Thought to be the ancestor of all long-haired cat breeds, the Siberian wasn’t only a loyal companion to generations of Russians – peasants and nobility alike – it was also a working cat and helped to control the rodent population.
Rare outside of Russia, this landrace breed is also the country’s National Cat.
The Khao Manee: White, Gold and Blue
With a name meaning “White Gem” and initially bred only by Siamese royalty, the Khao Manee, with its sleek white coat and its gold and blue odd-eyes, is a stunning site to behold.
Another ancient landrace breed, these rare Diamond Eye Cats take pride of place in the Cat Book Poems – the Tamra Maew – and can trace their ancestry back many centuries to a time when they had personal guards.
Today, the Khao Manee is a rare site in Thailand, and lucky is the person who owns one.
The Chartreux: Vive La France!
No one knows exactly where these stocky cats with their dense blue fur and startling amber eyes came from, and, depending on who you ask, they either journeyed to France with Carthusian Monks or descended from feral Syrian mountain cats.
Whatever their story, what is most certainly true is that this natural breed was almost wiped out in World War II and was only saved by crossbreeding the remaining cats with Russian Blues, Persians and British Shorthairs.
They are rare indeed but, luckily, can still be found today.