THE ANGORA IS a breed over which there is a good deal of controversy and confusion, caused partly by its history and partly the naming of breeds. There are two quite distinct breeds which carry the Angora name, but they have common characteristics. For this reason they are dealt with together in this section.

ORIGINS OF THE BREED

THE BREED KNOWN in North America as the Turkish Angora is not recognized in Britain. It is a natural breed from the area of Ankara and still exists there in its original form in the local zoo.

The British Angora breed is a relatively recent invention, given Preliminary recognition in 1977, resulting from a scientific breeding programme without reference to Turkish Angora stock. It was recognized in the United States in 1988 as the Javanese or the Oriental Longhair.To complicate matters even further, some breeders insist that the only true Turkish Angora is a white one, and it is true that the Ankara zoo keeps only whites to ensure the purity of the breeding line. The distinctive Turkish Van presents yet another complication.

A separate breed, it has a superficial resemblance to the Turkish Angora, and was once known in Britain as the Turkish Cat. Angoras were among the first cats to reach Europe from the east, which they did in the sixteenth century together with Persians, and to begin with the two were bred indiscriminately. It is by no means clear whether Angoras and Persians share a common ancestry or whether the Angora is derived from accidental breeding with foreign or Oriental types.

REVIVING THE BREED

GRADUALLY, PERSIANS TOOK the ascendant in Europe and the appearance of any Angora features in Persian cats was frowned upon. The result was that Angoras fell out of favor around 1900 and their numbers outside Turkey dwindled into extinction. There were two ways of trying to revive the breed in the west – either to go back to Turkey for original stock or, the British choice, to recreate the Angora by breeding from shorthairs of the oriental type carrying the longhair gene.

The American cat fancy chose the direct route. In 1962 an American breeder imported a pair of white Angoras – an odd-eyed male and an amber-eyed female – from the zoo in Ankara.

A second pair was brought over in 1966 and these two pairs founded the revived breed in the United States. At first they were registered as Longhairs, but in 1968 a separate Angora breed was established and two years later it was recognized by the Cat Fanciers’Association in the United States. Other colors have since been bred, but white remains by far the most popular color. The manufactured British Angora was given recognition in 1977. It is similar to the Turkish Angora but more foreign in appearance, with a more sinuous body conformation and a more wedge- shaped face with larger ears.

CHARACTERISTICS

GRACE AND FLOWING movement are the hallmarks of the Angora. It is medium in size, with long but sturdy legs and small, neat paws. The coat is medium- length and fine, with a silky sheen and a tendency to waviness on the under parts. There is no fluffy undercoat, which makes the Angora easier to groom than a Persian. Angoras tend to molt rapidly and heavily in summer, replacing their coats with equal rapidity when autumn comes. The ideal head is a wide, gently pointed wedge, with a straight, unstopped nose, and large, pointed ears set high. In good show specimens the tips of the ears and the chin form a perfect triangle.

The tail is long, thin and gently tapering to a plume of silky hair at the end. The Angora often carries its tail horizontally over its back so that the tip almost touches the head.

White Angoras, despite their popularity, carry the same tendency to deafness as white Persians, especially if they are odd-eyed. All Persian (UK Longhair) coat colors are permitted, with the exception, in the United States, of chocolate, lilac, and the Himalayan pattern.

TEMPERAMENT

ANGORAS ARE ALERT and intelligent, and respond well to play. They are adaptable and make loyal, affectionate pets, famous for their gentle nature. In the natural breed, litters are normally about four strong, but in the British version numbers tend to be higher. Kittens develop quickly, opening their eyes earlier than Persians and practicing play routines as soon as they can move about. The adult coat is not fully developed until the cat is two years old, and may even take up to five years.