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Peterbald

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Peterbald

Description

Peterbalds are graceful cats that at first glance appear to be hairless, but in fact, most are covered with short, fine down. Like the Sphynx, it’s more accurate to say the ideal Peterbald cat is furless. When you reach done to pat this cat you’ll feel it’s body warm and soft to the touch, and the texture of a this hairless cat is soft and supple, like suede.

Peterbalds vary in their amount of hairlessness. Each kitten in the same litter can have a variety of hair types, from fine down to a full, straight coat, depending upon the genetic makeup of the parents. It’s thought that polygenes can greatly influence the coat, or lack thereof. Some Peterbalds have fine down over their entire bodies; the down may or may not disappear with age. Some cats lose the pattern with which they were born when they lose their coat. With others, the pattern goes more than fur deep and remains visible on the skin when the coat is lost. Some cats have what is called a brush coat—a full, dense coat with short, curly hairs, or a coat with sparsely scattered short, curly hairs over the entire body. Cats with the brush coats are not preferred in the show ring, but are essential to the breeding program.

The Peterbald is medium-sized with wrinkles over most of its body. Wrinkles are found on the head, at the base of the neck, the base of the tail, the top of the legs and down both sides of the body to the underbelly. (All domestic cats are wrinkled, but their fur makes the wrinkles impossible to see.) The body is long, sturdy and lean , with firm musculature and medium-fine boning. The legs are long. The feet are oval and medium in size, with long, agile, prominent toes. The tail is long, straight and whippy. The neck is long and slender.

The head is shaped like a long inverted triangle, with extra large, oversized, pointed ears that are broad at the base and set lower than the line of the wedge. The forehead has several vertical wrinkles. The chin is strong, with the tip of the nose in line with the tip of the chin. Whiskers and eyebrows, if they exist, are wavy and may be broken. Eyes are medium in size, almost almond in shape, and are neither protruding or recessed.

Adult males usually weigh 8 to 10 pounds; adult females usually weigh 6 to 8 pounds. However, weight and size can vary according to the bloodline. Permissible outcrosses are Oriental Shorthair, Siamese and Don Sphynx. All colors and patterns are allowed.

History

Also called the Petersburg Sphynx, the Peterbald has no connection to the Sphynx breed found in North America. The newest recognized hairless breed, the Peterbald was deliberately created by mating the Russian Don Sphynx breed (also known as the Donskoy and Don Hairless) with Siamese and Oriental Shorthairs, to produce a hairless breed with a Siamese head and body type.

Until the 1980s, the government of the former Soviet Union discouraged its people from owning household pets. Cats were generally working class random-bred domestics, earning their keep as mousetraps and rat catchers. However, citizens who could afford to keep and breed cats and dogs did so; owning a companion animal was considered a status symbol, although no  clubs or registries then existed.

In 1987, government restrictions were lifted and Russian breeders and fanciers formed cat clubs and began keeping breeding records and registering their cats. The two largest associations, the Fauna Club in Moscow and the Kotofei Cat Club in Saint Petersburg, provided official pedigrees. In 1988, the first Russian cat show was held in Moscow, and since then shows have been held every year. With the end of the cold war, cat lovers in both Russia and the United States had opportunities not available before, such as sharing information and exchanging pedigreed cats.

The Peterbald arose in this new atmosphere of feline freedom. In 1993 in Saint Petersburg, a brown mackerel tabby Don Sphynx male named Afinguen Myth was mated to a tortie Oriental Shorthair female named Radma Vom Jagerhof. The first litter was born in January 1994 and included hairless kittens, proving that the gene governing hairlessness in the Don Sphynx is dominant, unlike the recessive gene that governs the North American Sphynx’s lack of fur. It’s likely the gene was the result of a spontaneous mutation, because for at least the last 100 years hairless cats have been found all over the world, including France, Morocco, Australia, Canada, at least four different states in the United States, and Rostov-na-Donu, Russia, the original home of the Don Sphynx.

The new breed gained quick popularity in Saint Petersburg, and was named after its city of origin. To increase the limited gene pool, Peterbalds were crossed with additional bloodlines of Don Sphynx, Siamese and Oriental Shorthairs. Because the Oriental Shorthair and Don Sphynx comes in so many colors and patterns, the Peterbald inherited many of them, including the recessive pointed pattern from the Siamese.

However, the ultimate goal was to breed Peterbalds who would always produce hairless offspring. To accomplish that goal, breeders prized cats who were homozygous for the dominant hairless gene—that is, cats that had inherited two copies of the gene, one from each parent. Such cats would produce only hairless offspring, even when bred to an outcross. And two homozygous cats bred together would produce only homozygous kittens. Accomplishing this goal is easier said than done, since it’s difficult to identify homozygous Peterbalds.

The Kotofei Cat Club in Saint Petersburg is affiliated with the international division of ACFA, which helped open the door for Peterbalds to immigrate to North America.

Today, the Peterbald is growing in popularity in and out of Russia. The Peterbald is recognized and accepted for championship by Russian cat clubs, and in 2006 achieved that goal in North America. In 1999, TICA accepted the breed for evaluation. In 2002 TICA accepted the Peterbald as a Preliminary New Breed and then promoted the breed to Advanced New Breed status. In February 2006 TICA’s board voted to advance the breed to championship. The same year TCA also accepted the breed, and ACFA followed in May 2009. North American fanciers are working toward recognition in the other associations as well.

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