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The Birman or Sacred Cat of Burma

This fabled breed is wrapped in the kind of legend that enthralls cat fanciers everywhere. According to that legend, the Birman -- or Sacred Cat of Burma -- was honored in its native land because people there believed that the souls of departed   priests returned to their temples in the form of these beautiful cats. 
One of the holy places where the sacred cats lived       was  the temple of Lao-Tsun, located in western Burma between China and India. In this temple a priest named Mun-Ha knelt each  night in adoration before a statue of Tsun-Kyan-Kse, a blue-eyed goddess who presided over the transmutation of souls. At Mun-Ha's side as he prayed was a sacred cat named Sinh.

One night the temple was ravaged by invaders from Siam, and Mun-Ha was killed. Sinh stood at once with his paws on his fallen master, facing the statue of Tsun-Kyan-Kse. As he did, a miraculous transformation came over Sinh. His coat, which had been white, took on the golden glow radiating from the statue. His yellow eyes turned a deep, sapphire blue; and his legs glowed with a brown-velvet radiance -- except for his feet, which remained sparkling white, a sign of the purity of Mun-Ha's soul. By the following morning, all the cats in the temple of Lao-Tsun had been transformed from white to color-pointed cats just like Sinh. For seven days and nights he remained at his post. Then he died, carrying with him the soul of Mun-Ha.

Such a tale befits the Sacred Cat of Burma, adding to the stature of this breed.  Unfortunately, it adds nothing to the explanation of the Birman's origin. Siamese and longhaired, bicolored Angoras are likely participants in that mysterious beginning. It is futile, however, to speculate whether this combination -- if it was the one that produced the Birman -- was intentional or whether it simply resulted from those cats interbreeding freely in an isolated setting. But whatever the parent breeds might have been -- and wherever they might have joined forces -- they had to have been carrying genes for point color, low-grade white spotting, and long hair.

The following is taken from 'The Complete Guide to all Cats'

Though the Birman had its genesis in Burma, there is no evidence of a genetic link with  the Burmese cat who came to us originally from that same country. In 1919 the Birman  first appeared in France where, due to diverse circumstances, it took quite a few years  to become established. In the 1960s it reached England, and was recognized by the Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc, in the US in 1967.

The body color of the Birman is a creamy-white, but with golden tints lending the cat a precious appearance. The furry coat is long and silky, with a tendency to curl on the underbody. The points on head, legs, feet & tail are a contrasting color, that being seal, blue, chocolate or lilac. However, that characteristic which distinguishes the Birman  from all other color pointed cats is it's 4 pure white paws, & the laces, or gauntlets which go up the 2 back paws, ending in a V.

Said to have once been the darling of temple priests in Burma, the Birman standard     calls for a strong stocky body, bearing a round, full-cheeked head decorated with   round, deep blue eyes (the standard says the deeper blue-violet, the better).  A bushy,   full coated tail is preferred. A full ruff around the neck is desirable. Foot pads are usually pink, but can be brown.

The Birman displays a majestic bearing, and its sweet disposition makes it a delight to handle & to own.

In 1996 there are still only 4 color points accepted by CFA: seal, blue, chocolate and lilac. However, all the other U.S. registries, and all other countries of the world who register cats have now accepted the red/cream color, with it's many color combinations, and the tabby point (or lynx point*). N.Z.,Australia, France, have several other colors as well (cinnamon, fawn, silver, frost, etc.)

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Last modified: December 05, 2008

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