Foreign Burmese is the breed name used by the Canadian Cat Association to designate Burmese Cats with a red gene in their ancestry. This breed distinction is peculiar to North America. Some American associations use the name European Burmese for this group of Burmese.
All Burmese cats bred in the western world today can trace their origins back to a little brown cat called Wong Mau, introduced to the west coast of America in the 1930's. However, British show records from the 19th century describe a solid-coat brown "Siamese" which was most probably what we know as a Burmese. In the eastern world, drawings and records dating back to the 16th century feature a small brown cat of foreign type. Burmese legends link this cat to residence in temples and the homes of royalty and nobility. anyone who has shared their home with a Burmese will know that they possess an inherited memory of their former status and act accordingly.
For many years in North America, a dark brown coat, called sable, was believed to be the only possible for a pure-bred Burmese. It therefore came as something of a shock when blue Burmese appeared in litters in the 1950's. Subsequently, other new colours appeared and eventually four naturally-occurring colours were recognized, first in Britain and then in North America in the 1970's. The four colours were sable (brown UK), champagne (chocolate UK), blue, and platinum (lilac UK). Each of these coat colours is naturally-occurring as a result of recessive genes carried for a long time by the breed.
On the other hand, the origin of the red gene in Burmese cats is directly attributable to human intervention. The kittens resulting from an accidental mating between a blue Burmese female and a red tabby domestic male inspired a group of British breeders to start working to produce red, cream and tortie Burmese. Commencing in the 1960's, several lines of Burmese were produced from Siamese, Oriental Shorthair and domestic mates carrying the red gene. The end of the 1970's recognized ten coat colours for Burmese in the United Kingdom and most other cat associations worldwide. The Canadian Cat Association recognized the Foreign Burmese in all ten colours in 1995, and they have been an active part of the show scene ever since.
In addition to the colour differences found in the Foreign Burmese compared to the North American Burmese there is also a distinctive difference in type which is reflected in the show standards. This is a result of a preference outside North America for a more foreign type. The Foreign Burmese is somewhat larger than it's American cousin. It is longer in the body, legs and tail. The head is wedge-shaped, rounded with the ears well spaced. The eyes are gold in colour with a rounded lower line and a slight oriental slant to the upper. The muzzle is blunt with a noticeable nose-break in profile. The body is muscular and surprisingly heavy in relation to the size. The tail is medium length with a rounded tip, and the coat is short, smooth and glossy.
Whatever the coat colour or type, there is no escaping the Burmese temperament . The playful streak associated with kittens persists into old age with the Foreign Burmese. The are strong-willed and intelligent, and thrive on interaction and company. Social by nature, they happily pair-up with other cats, dogs and other pets. They are also very good with children, making the Foreign Burmese a wonderful family pet.
Breed Secretary: Ann Kidd email