HISTORY OF THE TRADITIONAL SELKIRK REX©
Copyright, Diana Fineran May 2006
The breeds beginnings are connected with the efforts of a Persian breeder, Jeri Newman of Bopeep Cattery, Livinton, Montana. Fascinated with cat genetics, Jeri contacted friends and family to watch for any out of the ordinary cat. Sure enough, in 1987 a customer, who had bought one of Jeriís Persians, found an unusual, blue cream and white, female, curly kitten at the For Petís Sake animal shelter in Sheridan Montana, where she worked and brought the kitten to Jeri.
Quickly Jeri named the kitten Miss DePesto, due to her tendency to pester Jeri for attention and follow her every where. Newman bred Miss DePesto to her Black Persian male, Photo Finish of Deekay. The resulting litter of six kittens had three kittens in it, who had the distinctive curls. Experimentation continued with breeding Miss DePesto to her curly coated, black and white son named Noface Oscar Kowalski. Three more curly kittens and one long haired kitten were produced. The long haired kitten proved Miss DePesto carried both the dominant curl gene and the recessive long hair gene. A second litter of the same parentage produced a cruly red point kitten named Noface Snowman of Manawyddan. This kitten proved Miss DePesto also carried the recessive gene for the color point pattern.
Jeri Newman went on to add the British shorthair, American Shorthair and Exotic Shorthair to the mix and began to promote the breed. With the help of Carol Hovick and Sue Servies, who teamed up to form the QT Selkirk Cattery in Monterey, California. A black and white Traditional Selkirk shorthair, named Ditto, was one of their foundation cats. Another was named, Piglet, by Hovick, because Piglet really liked to eat. Another founding breed was Nancy McMullen of Oaktree Cattery in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The breed is well known for its sweet expression, large size and exquisitely plush fur. One of the main features of the Traditional Selkirk Rex is its curly coat. Unlike the other Rex breeds, the Devon and Cornish, whoís coats are governed by recessives genes, the Traditional Selkirk Rexís gene is dominant. This meant only one parent needs to possess the gene in order for the curly gene to be expressed in the offspring. This creates the paradox that makes the Traditional Selkirk Rex both easier and more challenging to breed than a recessive gene variety.
The advantage is a breeder can see results right away. A cat who has inherited the Curly gene from one parent will produce curly kittens at an approximate ratio of one curly to one straight coated kitten.
The disadvantage of a dominant gene is that straight coated kittens do not carry the curly gene at all. This slows down the breeding process because only cats with the curly gene can be used in a breeding program.
The plus side is a cat receiving the curly gene from both parents, which is called homozygous for the curly trait. This kind of cat is a great boon to breeders because it can be used for out crossing and all the resulting kittens will have the curly coat. It is also noted the fur of homozygous cats is curlier and softer than the coats of cats who possess only one copy of the gene.
All guard, down and awn hairs have a gentle curl, which is more pronounced around the neck and tail. Even the whiskers are curly. Guard hairs are slightly coarse, but the coat still feels soft and plush. Very dense fur stands away from the body. The coat goes through several stages as the cat grows. They are curly at birth, then loose the curliness and slowly re-acquires it again at 8 to 10 months of age. A fully developed coat arrives at about 2 years of age. Climate, season and hormones, especially in females, can effect the coat curl.
All colors are accepted, including pointed patterns.
There are both short hair and long hair divisions within the breed with slight differences.
The short haired Traditional Selkirk Rex is medium in length and arranged in loose, individual curls. The long hair version has long, wavy hair that is longer than a Maine Coonís though not quite as long as a Persians. Grooming the long hair isnít difficult, since the coat lacks the light, fly away fur that causes matting.
Very social, they are sweet, laid back, gentle, cute, fun loving and mellow, with generous amounts of love and affection for their humans. Being people centered, they stay playful and kittenish even into adulthood. They like to be where their people are, and donít do well in isolation. In essence they love people. They make entertaining, affectionate companions as well. Their mellow, tolerant personalities allow them to take life as it comes with easy going patience. A good game of fetch, being held and cuddled and even carried around on their peopleís shoulders is always enjoyed. The seem to talk to people about their needs and they are very smart.
Breeders have not noticed any health problems associated with the Traditional Selkirk Rex gene. The breed shows to be healthy and hardy.
They shed, just like any other cat and do require grooming, but their fur doesnít mat as one would expect. Twice a week grooming works best.
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