The Turkish Angora cat is thought, by many, to be among the most ancient of the naturally-occurring breeds of cat, and the oldest longhair breed in the world.

It is believed that the history of all domestic cats, including the Turkish Angora cat, probably began with the African Wildcat, technically known as Felis Lybica. Still in existence in Africa today, the wildcat thrived on the mice and rodents near the food stuffs of the ancient Egyptians. Thus, Felis Lybica became the "barn cat" of Egypt, was domesticated, and ultimately worshipped by the ancient Egyptians. Prominent in Egyptian hieroglyphics, and even mummified with their humans, the cat gained a place of great respect and stature in Egypt. It seems the Egyptians were the first humans to see the cat for it's true, royal nature!

Felis Lybica is a short haired cat. However, reasonable speculation and logic suggest that the recessive, long-hair gene originally occurred as a spontaneous mutation in the cat, when it migrated to colder climates, such as that of the Anatolia region (ancient Turkey), where a fuller coat would be required for the survival of the species through the cold winters.

A less popular theory suggests that the Turkish Angora cat may have originated with a cat known as the Manul Cat, also known as Pallas' Cat. The technical name for Pallas' Cat is Otocolobus Manul, and this cat lives in the cold, remote and mountainous regions of Mongolia, Tibet, Afghanistan, Western China and Russia, and Northern India and Pakistan. Their coat is longer, denser and heavier on their tummy than any other part of their body, allowing them to survive the cold, snow and ice that defines their environment. They were believed to have been domesticated by the Tartars, and later migrated to Turkey.

From the early 1900s to the mid-1980s, the Pallas' Cat was hunted for its skins, with anywhere from 6,500 to 50,000 animals killed each year. In the mid to late-1980s, they became a protected species by law in Mongolia, the principal exporter of the fur. Their numbers have dwindled in some areas as a result of over-hunting, but the species yet survives in the cold, dangerous and harsh terrain where humans find hunting too difficult.

Yet another theory suggests that the Turkish Angora cat came from the Lake Van region of eastern Anatolia (the ancient name for modern-day Turkey), and is today, the distant cousin of the Turkish Van cat. The Turkish Van is also an ancient breed, believed to live in eastern Anatolia for perhaps centuries. The cat is named after the Lake Van region where it was found, and today, the color patterning on the cat - white with color on the head and tail - is called the "Van" pattern. The Van pattern can be found on many breeds of cat, but for the Turkish Van, it is one of the main features defining the breed. The Turkish Van breeds "true", meaning that within the breed, the color pattern of the kitten is always a replica of the color pattern on the adult.

There are many similarities between the Turkish Angora and the Turkish Van. Among them: The Turkish Van was re-discovered in the mid 1900s. It is also a rare breed of cat, worthy of protection for the survival of the breed. For this reason, there is a controlled breeding program for Turkish Van cats in Turkey. Also like the Turkish Angora, the Turkish Van is more likely to be intrigued by water (and is nicknamed the "swimming cat"). To be considered a pedigreed purebred Turkish Van or Turkish Angora cat, one must be able to prove the cat's ancestry back to it's native Turkey.

Zirdeli Cats thanks Karen Hooker of Pairodocs Turkish Vans for her permission to use the adorable photo of "Piano Man." To learn more about the exquisite, lovable and playful Turkish Van cat, visit Pairodocs Turkish Vans website

Returning to the history of the Turkish Angora, the name Angora is the historic name for the modern-day city of Ankara. Turkish legend has it that Mohammed (570-632) had his own highly regarded, odd-eyed white Angora named Muezza. To the people of Turkey, the white coat of a Turkish Angora cat ("Ankara Kedisi" in Turkish), is a symbol of purity, and white Turkish Angora cats are considered a national treasure in Turkey.

In the 16th century, primarily white, long-haired Angora cats found their way to Europe. With research, one can find notations of the Angora cat in Europe beginning in the late 1500's, when they became a prized possession and a status symbol for the wealthy and the royal.

In a book published in 1889, author Harrison Weir describes not only a white Angora cat, but also black, slate, blue, and even a black smoke (fur that is white at the base with black tips) cat, with white being the "most esteemed" color of them all. Included with his descriptions, was this drawing, which shows the cat very similar to those Turkish Angoras we see and cherish today.

In the late 1800's in Europe, the terms Angora cat and Persian cat became interchangeable, applying to all long-haired cats. Today, the only genuine "Angora" cat is the Turkish Angora.

In 1917, the government of Turkey began to work with the Ankara Zoo to protect it's treasured Turkish Angora cats. There, a strict breeding program was developed to save and preserve this rare breed of cat. In an effort to save the breed from extinction through undesired out-cross breeding, the government and the Zoo kept a tight reign on the cat, and it was nearly impossible to obtain an Angora cat from the Ankara Zoo. A special thanks to Harvey Harrison of Angorarama cattery in Costa Rica, for his permission to use this photo of the Ankara Zoo tom!

In the 1920's, "the 1st German Association for the Protection and Breeding of Angora Cats" was established in Germany, making this the first "breed club" in history for the Turkish Angora cat. The preferred color for the breed during this era was pure white, and the breed enjoyed a period of relative stability in Germany.

But by the 1940's, throughout Europe, there was so much out-cross breeding (interbreeding) between the Angora cat, the round-headed "Persian" and Russian long hair cats, that the characteristics unique to the Turkish Angora were eventually replaced by the look of today's Persian cats. Then, inevitably, in the mid-1950's, the name "Persian" became the official name for the cats we recognize as today's Persian cats.

Nearly the complete opposite of the silky and single-coated, long and delicate Turkish Angora, the Persian cat has a shorter body, called "cobby", and is lower to the ground, with a long, thick coat and undercoat. Where the head and face of the Turkish Angora cat is smooth, long and pointed, the Persian cat's face, head and eyes are characteristically round, with round, low-set ears that lie close to the head. The CFA breed standard for the Persian aptly describes the Persian's face as having a "sweet expression".

Zirdeli Cats wishes to thank Gina Hargett of CotnHill for permission to use the sweet picture of "Special". To learn more about the Persian Cat, visit CotnHill, where you will find some truly adorable Persians!

By the time the "Persian" cat became the predominant long-haired cat in Europe, the true Turkish Angora was thought to have been inter-bred out of existence. But thanks to the love of the country of Turkey for their beloved cat, there thrived, in the Zoo in Ankara, a colony of pure Turkish Angora cats - just waiting for the right time and the right people to participate in the re-birth of this unique and regal breed around the world.

In 1962, an American military officer and his wife, Colonel Walter and Liesa Grant, were granted permission to take a breeding pair of Turkish Angora cats from the Ankara Zoo, to the United States. Named Yildiz and Yildicek (Star and Starlet), the pair began the first breeding program for the Turkish Angora cat in the United States. In 1966, the Grants returned to the Ankara Zoo and were permitted to bring a second breeding pair of of Turkish Angora cats back to the United States. Following the Grants' lead, others were able to import cats from the Ankara Zoo to Europe and the United States and thus, the Turkish Angora cat was re-born in Europe and found a new home in the western hemisphere!

To continue with the history of the Turkish Angora cat in the United States and the Cat Fancier's Association, visit our Cat Shows page!

To read a well done and wonderfully detailed history of the Turkish Angora cat, click here!