Cat Breeds from Asia

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At a glance

  • Birman
  • Burmese
  • Dragon Li
  • Japanese Bobtail
  • Khao Manee
  • Konja
  • Korat
  • Persian
  • Siamese
  • Singapura
  • Suphalak
  • Turkish Angora
  • Turkish Van

About

Asia has provided us with an array of stunning cats which are often referred to under the umbrella of ‘oriental’ although this term is distinct to the oriental cat breed, which is essentially a Siamese type cat in non-pointed colours and did not originate from Asia.

Maew Boran is a natural breed of ancient cats from Thailand which comes in a variety of colours and patterns. Several of the breeds featured in this article fall under the umbrella of Maew Boran in Thailand, these include the following:

  • Siamese
  • Korat (Si Sawat)
  • Khao Manee
  • Suphalak
  • Konja
  • Thaiburmese
  • Thaitonkinese

Some of the recognised Maew Boran breeds including the Siamese, Burmese and Korat have been modernised in the Western world and have a distinctly different appearance to that of the traditional Thai breeds. More can be read about these differences on The International Maew Boran website. Unfortunately, there is little information on many of the Maew Boran breeds due to their rarity.

Birman

Birman cat

  • Origins: Myanmar (Burma)
  • Developed: France
  • Coat: Longhair
  • Other names:  Sacred Cat of Burma
  • Weight: Males 5-6 kg (11 – 13.2 lbs), females 4-5 kg (8.8 – 11 lbs)

The Birman is an ancient breed of cat who originated in Myanmar, now known as Birma.

The origins of the Birman are now entirely known, but it is thought that there was likely a colony of longhaired white cats who mated with Siamese cats.

Appearance:

The standout features of the Birman are its striking blue eyes, and white paws which give the appearance of gloves. The long and silky coat is cream with dark points that are typical of the Siamese. The gloved paws are said to be a symbol of devotion, in reality, this is caused by the white spotting gene.

Personality:

Birmans are a gentle affectionate and intelligent breed who love people and can form a close bond with one particular family member. They don’t do well if left alone for long periods. Consider two cats if you are out of the home for long periods.

Burmese

Chocolate and blue Burmese

  • Origins: Myanmar (Burma)
  • Developed: United States and United Kingdom
  • Coat: Short
  • Other names: 

Named after their country of origin Burma, the exact origins of the Burmese are shrouded in mystery. There is mention of a copper-coloured cat in the ancient Thai Cat Book which was written during the Ayudhya Period, stretching from 1350 – 1767.

Appearance:

The Burmese is a small to medium cat well-muscled cat with a short, close-lying coat and stunning gold/amber eyes. Burmese cats are often described as a ‘brick wrapped in silk‘, as they are heavier than they appear.

Personality:

Burmese cats are known for their laid back and loving personality who remain playful into adulthood. Once they have worn themselves out, the Burmese loves nothing more than sleeping on their favourite human. Their dog-like personality means they are never far from you and unlike some breeds, the Burmese cat doesn’t play favourites, they like everybody equally.

Their curious nature can sometimes border on intrusive when they insist on checking out the contents of a visitors handbag or toolkit. But that shouldn’t pose too much of a problem as they can work their charm even on non-cat-lovers.

Dragon Li

  • Origins: China
  • Developed:
  • Coat: Short
  • Other names:  Chinese Li Hua or China Li Hua, Li Hua Mao

The Dragon Li is a relatively new breed of cat from China which was developed from a landrace (a local variety of species arising from development and adaptation over time to conditions of a localized geographic region and that typically displays greater genetic diversity than types subjected to formal breeding practices). Unlike most cat breeds whose common ancestor is Felis sylvestris lybica, the Dragon Li’s wild ancestor is thought to be the Chinese mountain cat (Felis silvestris bieti). 

Appearance:

The Dragon Li is a medium-sized cat with a stocky and strong build. The golden-brown coat is contrasted with darker broken mackerel pattern. The ears have a distinctive ear tipping and the almond-shaped eyes are a luminescent yellow to green.

Personality:

Intelligent and affectionate, the Dragon Li is a cat who enjoys the company of his or her human family and gets along well with other pets. Their independent nature and high energy means they enjoy being given the space to roam, and they are known to be exceptional ratters.

Japanese Bobtail Cat Breeds from Asia 1

  • Origins: Malaysia, Burma and Thailand
  • Developed: Japan
  • Coat: Short and long
  • Other names:  Mi-ke (pronounced mee-kay)

The Japanese Bobtail is a natural breed of cat which is believed to have been introduced from China about a thousand years ago, possibly at the instigation of the cat-loving Japanese Emperor Ichijo. Bobtails were the exclusive pets of nobility for centuries who used to walk them on a leash. They were allowed to spread to the general population in the seventeenth century as pest controllers.

Appearance:

A moderate-sized cat with a lean and muscular body, the original Japanese Bobtail was shorthaired, however, a longhaired Japanese Bobtail was developed in 1954.

The tail is a stump between 2-4 inches long and tightly curled on itself, the fur on the tail is longer than the rest of the body.

Personality:

The Japanese Bobtail is an intelligent and lively breed of cat who remains this way well into adulthood. Because of this, they are easy to train. Words used to describe Japanese Bobtails include curious, active, talkative and playful.

Khao Manee

Khao Manee

  • Origins: Thailand
  • Developed:
  • Coat: Short
  • Other names:  Khao Plort, White Gem, White-Jewelled Cat, Diamond Cat, Diamond Eye, Khaomanee

Originally known as the Khao Plort, the Khao Manee is an rare, natural breed of cat from Thailand with a stunning white coat and blue, gold or odd-eyes (blue and green or yellow). The first mention of the Khao Manee is in the Tamra Maew (Cat Treatises) which describes a set of 23 different coloured cats, 17 of whom were thought to bring good luck.

King Chulalongkorn (also known as King Rama V -20 September 1953 – 23 October 1910 loved the Khao Manee and allowed his son Prince Chum Rom Kreth Udomsak, to raise and breed them. Prince Chum Rom Kreth Udomsak eventually passed caretaker duties to his daughter, Princess Ruang Jit Jarang Apakorn. In 1957, Princess Ruang Jit Jarang Apakorn passed the cats on to the family of Namdee Witta, a retired film producer and is the nephew of Princess Ruang Jit Jarang Apakorn, and the number of cats expanded to 300.

Appearance:

The Khao Manee is a medium-sized cat with a white short and close-lying coat which is smooth and has very little undercoat. As with most Thai cat breeds, the Khao Maneeis a semi-foreign type; lithe and athletic with medium boning. Males are slightly heavier than females. Eye colour may be yellow, green or odd.

Personality:

Active, outgoing, inquisitive, naughty and friendly are words used to describe the Khao Manee. This is an extremely social breed of cat who forms close bonds with their human family.

Konja

  • Origins: Thailand
  • Developed:
  • Coat: Short
  • Other names:  Ninlarat

A black Maew Boran, the Konja has a glimmering close-lying coat and yellow eyes. Outside of Thailand, the Konja is one of the lesser-known of the Maew Boran cats.

Appearance:

The Konja has a sleek black coat which gives it the appearance of a black panther with yellow or green eyes. Appearance-wise, the Konja is very similar to the Bombay, however, these breeds are unrelated.

Korat

Korat cat

  • Origins: Thailand
  • Developed:
  • Coat: Short
  • Other names: Si Sawat

One of the oldest natural breeds in the world, the Korat originates from Thailand and the breed gets its name from the province of Cao Nguyen Khorat. The Korat is featured in the Cat-Book Poems, a book dating back to 1350-1767 which is held in the National Gallery of Bangkok.

It was known as a blue Siamese when it first appeared in Europe at the Holland House Show, London in 1896.

Thai cat expert Pichai-Ramadi Vasnasong described the Korat as one of the eight types of ‘Siamese cats‘ in Thailand.

Appearance:

The Korat is a small to medium cat with a muscular build and a stunning close-lying silver-blue coat. Head is heart-shaped, with large, luminous green eyes and ears that are set high on the head. Nose length is in proportion to the face with a slight stop.

Personality:

Korats are an inquisitive, intelligent, active, faithful and calm cat. Despite their friendly nature towards their human family, the Korat is quite a shy cat and reserved around strangers.

Persian

Persian cat

  • Origins: Iran (formerly Persia)
  • Developed:
  • Coat: Long
  • Other names:

The Persian is one of the oldest cat breeds whose history is not entirely known, but it is generally believed that they originated in Persian and Turkey. Pietro Della Valle, an Italian traveller is credited with introducing the Persian cat to Europe, arriving in his homeland of Italy in 1620 with them.

Appearance:

Persians are a large, heavy-boned breed with a cobby body on short thick legs. The predominant feature of the Persian is the long and thick coat which comes in all colours and patterns.
There is quite a difference between the modern-day Persian to the original type. Selective breeding has changed the face shape which now has a considerably flatter appearance.
Persian cat nose
Personality:
Persians are one of the most laid-back and placid breeds cat breeds who generally don’t get into trouble. Words used to describe the Persian include gentle, docile and sweet. They make a loving companion without being demanding.

Siamese

Seal point Siamese cat

  • Origins: Thailand
  • Developed: United Kingdom
  • Coat: Short
  • Other names: 

Possibly the most instantly recognisable of all cat breeds, the Siamese cat is an ancient breed of cat with a colourful history and many legends surrounding it.

One legend is that Siamese cats guarded the Buddhist temples and were considered sacred. When a high-ranking person died, a Siamese was chosen to receive the dead person’s soul. The cat was removed from the royal household and sent to one of the temples to spend the rest of its days living a ceremonial life of great luxury, with monks and priests as his servants.

Author Sydney W. France claims that the Siamese was a cross between the Sacred Cat of Burma and the Annamite cat, which was introduced into the religiously sealed and guarded Burmese temples, and were imported into Siam when the Cambodian Empire of the Khmer fell to the attacks of the Siamese.

Acting Vice-Consul at Edward Blencowe-Gould introduced the first Siamese cats, named Pho and Mia to England and gifted them to his sister, Lilian Veley. Lilian went on to co-found the Siamese Cat Club in 1901.

Appearance:

The original Siamese was a moderate to slender breed with a long body. The unique pointed coat is a pale cream with dark points on the face, ears, legs and tail, which is caused by a mutation on the C (colour) locus which causes partial albinism on the warmer parts of the body. All Siamese cats have blue eyes which can range from pale to a deep royal blue.

Modern Siamese are considerably finer than their ancestors, however, some breeders have been working to breed Siamese closer to their ancestors, which are commonly referred to Classic, Traditional and Applehead Siamese.

Personality:

The Siamese cat is a highly intelligent breed of cat who will often form a close bond with one member of the family and can sometimes become jealous towards other family members or pets.

One of most talkative cat breeds, the Siamese love to give their human companions a running commentary with their unique, deep and loud meow.

Singapura

Singapura cat

  • Origins: Singapore
  • Developed: America
  • Coat: Short
  • Other names: Drain Cat, Singapore River Cat, Kucinta

The Singapura is the smallest breed of domestic cat which is known for its large eyes and ears and close-lying ticked fur. They are said to have originated from drain cats in Singapore although their history is shrouded with controversy.

In 1971, Hal Meadow, a geophysicist working in Singapore, noticed three unusual-looking brown-ticked cats. He sent these cats back to his friend Tommy in America aboard a company ship. Then in 1974 the now married Hal and Tommy was transferred to Singapore, and they brought along five of their cats, two Burmese and three grandchildren of the original cats shipped over from Singapore in 1971. These grandchildren were named Ticle, Tes and Pusse. They declared the Burmese as such to quarantine, not knowing what to declare the other three cats as Tommy declared them to be Abyssinians as they looked like Brown Abyssinians to her.

The Meadows continued to breed with these cats. Ticle and Pusse had two kittens named George and Gladys. These cats were recognised by the Singapura Cat Club provisionally as Singapuras.

Following the fall of Saigon in July 1975, the Meadows returned to America, bringing back Ticle, Tes, Pusse, George and Gladys. They then set about obtaining official recognition for the breed and in 1981 presented the Singapuras to the American CFA as a natural breed, in 1988 they were accepted for championship status with the American CFA.

Appearance:

Singapuras are a dainty and elegant cat with a muscular body which makes them surprisingly heavy when you pick one up. The legs are slender but muscular, leading to small, oval-shaped paws.

The head is round with large, expressive eyes which range in colour from hazel to yellow which are surrounded by dark eyeliner. The nose is brick red, with the same dark markings as the eyes. Cheetah marks (or lines) run from the inner eye to the whisker pads, and the traditional tabby M marks the forehead.

Personality:

Singapuras are cheeky, lively, extremely curious, full of mischief, affectionate, intelligent, inquisitive, fun-loving cats, which actively seek out human company. They love to be up high and will gladly ride on the shoulder of their favourite human. This is a cat who thrives on love and attention and displays no shyness towards strangers.

Suphalak

  • Origins: Thailand
  • Developed:
  • Coat: Short
  • Other names: Thong Daing

The Suphalak is the rarest of the Maew Boran colours and has a close-lying rich brown coat. A written description and pictorial of the Suphalak first appeared in the Tamra Maew which were ancient Thai manuscripts written by Buddhist monks over 300 years ago.

Appearance:

The Suphalak is a medium-sized cat with a well-muscled and athletic body with a rich brown coat which takes on a reddish tinge in the sun. The head is in proportion to the body with stunning yellow/gold eyes.

Personality:

Suphalak cats are very people-oriented, intelligent and playful and are sometimes referred to as dog-like in personality.

Turkish Angora

  • Origins: Turkey
  • Developed: Turkey and America
  • Coat: Semi-long
  • Other names:

Turkish angora

The Turkish Angora is one of the oldest naturally occurring breeds of cat whose name comes from from the capital of Turkey, Ankara, formerly called Angora. Longhaired cats have existed in the Middle East for centuries, and they were brought to Europe in the 1600s which is was when the earliest mention of the breed occurred.

The arrival of the Persian cat in the early 20th century overshadowed the Turkish Angora and the breed almost vanished. The Ankara zoo established a breeding programme to save the breed from extinction, concentrating on white cats with blue, amber and odd eyes.

Appearance:

Turkish Angoras are a strong and muscular cat but not cobby, the head is a modified wedge and the eyes are an almond shape.

The coat is close-lying, semi-long and extremely fine in texture with a long plumed tail.

Personality:

The Turkish Angora is an energetic and curious cat who must check out everything new that enters the house. They thrive on human companionship and are known to form a strong bond to one person.

Turkish Van

Turkish Van

  • Origins: Turkey
  • Developed: United Kingdom
  • Coat: Semi-long
  • Other names: Swimming cat, Van Kedi (Turkey)

The Turkish Van is a natural breed occurring in the mountainous region of Lake Van in Turkey, near the border of Iran. There is archeological evidence to suggest domestic cats have been in Turkey for over 7,000 years and during the Roman occupation of the Van region between 75 to 387 AD, a large, pale, self-coloured cat appeared on battle-standards and armour which are now housed in the Louvre.

British photographers Laura Lushington and Sonia Halliday observed longhaired white cats with ginger colouring on the head and tail while working for the Turkish Tourist board in 1955. Laura and Sonia were given a pair of Van kittens named Van Attala and Van Guzelli Iskenderun which they brought back to England.

When mated the cats produced offspring with the same colours and markings as the parents. Laura and Sonia went on to acquire five more cats from Turkey and established a breeding programme.

Appearance:

The Van has a similar appearance to the Turkish Angora with the same long, silky fur, but with no undercoat. The coat is white, except for the head and tail which are red. The eyes can have blue eyes, amber eyes or one of each colour.

Personality:

Turkish Vans are affectionate, independent, calm, soft-voiced, intelligent and playful without being over the top. They have earned the moniker swimming cat due to their love of water. Some Turkish Vans will form a strong bond with one member of the household.




Julia Wilson is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care.Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. She enjoys photography, gardening and running in her spare time.Full author bio Contact Julia