The first European Birmans were thought to have arrived in France about 1919, as a thank you gift for an Englishman, Major Russell Gordon, and a Frenchman Auguste Pavie. These two gentlemen are said to have assisted the Kittahs during Brahmin uprisings, saving many priests and sacred temples.

A male and female cat were dispatched by sea. Sadly the male died during the long voyage, but the female named Sitah was found to be pregnant, and gave birth to a litter in 1920. This litter contained what was described as a perfect Birman called Poupee.

Between 1920 and 1939 the surviving kittens were bred amongst themselves and to other breeds, selecting cats who most resembled Poupee, to expand and improve the breed.

The Birman was formally recognised by the French registering bodies in 1925, and began to be exhibited at the large shows. The breed was just becoming well established when the continent was plunged into war.

During the years 1939 to 1945 most of the Birman population disappeared, leaving a very small nucleus in France, and one or two in Germany, perhaps taken there by returning soldiers.

A few dedicated people then began a second breeding programme. This was done in great secrecy but was believed to involve Colourpoint Persians as well as the occasional Siamese and Domestic cats.

The first blue-point Birmans appeared about this time, maybe as a spontaneous mutation but rumoured to owe more than a little to a vigorous blue Colourpoint stud owned by one of the Birman breeders.

These breeders faced many problems, especially as the genetics of the Birman were little understood at that time, and we are lucky that they kept on for so many years, against great obstacles. It is interesting that faults mentioned in the 1950's and which breeders were trying to eliminate include, white chin spots, runners to the front feet, white spots in the seal, and seal spots in the white areas. Some things don't seem to change!

Anne Madden
Publicity Officer