Harriet's History Archives
Understanding The Birman Breed
by: Harriet Rindfleisch 2/12/79
It is up to every Birman breeder to know his lines and be able to prompt the sale of his kittens accordingly. Truthful facts should be a concern, well searched out and advice given to the ones purchasing the lines. Why should the new owners go from pillar to post seeking the information on the Birmans they had purchased from a Breeder? It is a sad state of affairs when the rush is on to breed litters, scatter them about, yet unable to answer questions pertaining to the CFA shows and of course, a bit of history about the breed, the antecedents and especially the information found in the standard of perfection for the Birman breed.
How a breeder can perfect the breed without exhibiting is a fine question to ask of those unfamiliar with CFA shows! It is upsetting to conscientious breeders to place the best of their litters to those that give pretense they will show the cat or kitten, then back down with many excuses for not attending shows. With the scattering of the CFA shows in every region, it is not difficult to get the Birmans out to shows. CFA shows are sponsored by clubs and the aim is towards perfecting the breeds of cats in competitive classes. Judges give their time and talent to the helpfulness towards understanding the standards. It is the duty and obligation when breeding to give time and effort in seeking knowledge of the breed. The range of information the awareness and understanding a breeder gains towards perfecting the Birmans cannot be expressed enough. In competitive classes the more perfected conformity to CFA standards of the cats exhibited is noteworthy in characteristics of the breed and Judges set aside the awards according to their opinions. Granted each Judge evaluates the exhibits, often differently, yet experience allows those seeking knowledge vast information to digest on the breed.
Going back to the subject of placement of quality cats and kittens...that very subject has been a grievance of Birman breeders in their placements of show quality Birmans when the new owners have kept them from exhibiting in classes. Breeders have every right to complain especially if there has been a mutual agreement to show the Birman and the new owner has backed down on the giving of time and effort to get the cat to the shows for evaluation.
One often hears the term, "back-yard-breeder"....and here is where the seriousness of breeding and perfecting Birmans would pull from the slump all such breeders that would fall into that category by not attending or striving to perfect their lineages. When one seeks first-hand what the CFA shows can offer in gained knowledge of the breed, he would be far from the 'brand' of a back-yard-breeder! Perhaps it is difficult to define the quality of Birman litters, nevertheless the attendance of the CFA shows, the study of the breed's standard can and will help those that put a bit of time and effort into breeding the Birmans.
Each breeder should strive towards that obligation if his thoughts are serious in working with Birmans.
Sacred Cat of Burma - Head Type
by Harriet Rindfleisch June 20, 1976
The head of the Birman has a strong skull that is BROAD and ROUNDED. In defining the term BROAD: OF LARGE EXTENT FROM SIDE TO SIDE... WIDE, EXTENDING ALL ABOUT - CLEAR - OPEN - FULL. With the term....BROAD and ROUNDED, the Birman's head is in similarity to....globose - spherical - circular and favoring the rotund effectiveness. No way is this breed's head representing that of being thin - square - oblong or lean and of an angular featurement.
The verbatim English translation of the original French standards term the skull to be strong, broad and rounded. Note there are no further comments regarding the translation of the head type, as far as broad and rounded but mentions like that of a Persian and not like that of the Siamese which is thin and elongated. Hence the translation should be our breeding goal and any other head type considered would point a finger directly towards....tampering with a breed's standards!
The Birman has always carried a full cheek. How then can it be visioned that the head is "slightly longer than wide"! If so, that man-made feature has been adopted with little heed of bringing the facet of the standard to the cat. Lest we forget, the cat is ALWAYS brought to the standard. It is simple to adopt breeding stock that reproduce the longer head type in progeny. Unless the present standard that presents the broad and rounded head becomes imprinted into a defined clarity, the progress of the breed's head will eventually give way to the "longer than wide" characteristic, which is definitely a misrepresentation of this Sacred Cat's head-type.
If other continents have been content to breed their Sacred Cats to the conformity of the original French standards, how then can contentment be found to slip the pens with other than the effective rounded measurement given to the breed's head type! What would happen to the full cheeks ... recalling the translation of the original general appearance ... like that of a Persian and not like that of a Siamese! >From July 1967 to February 1973, the breed's standard supported the nose as "medium in length". Pens slipped to delete the phrase, adding "length in proportion to size of head".
Firstly, we know any nose must be in proportion to the size of the head, thereby little was changed as far as the precise definement and it can be found the Birman's head is still with the broad and rounded featurement as commanded. Another facet was deleted, "on the nose". The nostrils are set low, by deleting "on the nose" there could be a misconception to interpret the nostrils placed low on the head, which would lead to the belief that the Birman is with a shallow chin. No way is the Birman's chin shallow, it is well developed, supporting a strong lower lip, the formation of perpendicular lines with the upper lip. We find the nostrils are on the nose, itself, a trait and precise characteristic of the Birman which can be found in no other breed of cat. Examine the Birman's nose, note the effectiveness of the chin, look at the featurement of the full cheeks, for they must blend into a beautiful broad and rounded head.
From the strong skull appear ears that blend to give volume to the large head. The ears are set far apart, as much to the side of the head as on top of the head, neither small nor large, but an intermediate form. For over seventy-five years, precise characteristics have been handed down to breeders, even in the setting-up of the breed's standards to CFA's Championship recognition, as closely as possible the English translation confirmed to the French version of the breed's standard. Must we play the role of a higher Deity, changing something that definitely was not meant to be, such as "slightly longer than wide" head type!
Reason it out, if this is allowed to take place, in a few years another change will present itself for man is rarely satisfied to rectify his own mistakes, rather it be, and at the same time, more easy to change a factor than rectify a mistake. For shame if this is allowed to happen to the Birmans! Look to the Balinese, a lovely breed with a "slightly longer head-type". Is this what we desire in our Birman's head? Rumbling can always be heard regarding standard changes and when enough rumbling hits the 'grapevine', often action gives over to happenstance.
Review the Birman's original gifted standards. It should shake every Birman breeder and owner to the realization this Birman could easily become a man-made specimen. Rather than slip the pen, nature should enhance and improve upon and refined, but never changed! There is one solution -- evaluate the cat to each facet of the present standard. Unless this is carried through confusion will surface, for the cat is EVER a manifestation of the unique and changeless standard. Surely guilt of tampering with the standards would be far removed from any of our hands...as the breed was...so let it be!
We should not be working at cross purposes with other continents. You will agree, there are enough difficulties in breeding towards the present standard, without adding to the standards one jot or tittle until we are more secure with this breed's future. We were fortunate enough to be given this beautiful Sacred Cat, a treasure to keep....unspotted and undefiled by the push of a pen! Turn back to view photos of the various French Birmans as far as the head type desired. Look to Cunga... Opal.... Hamlet.... Korrigan.... Karios de Lugh.... Deesse de Madalpour, the French model of broad and rounded heads. Can their head by found with a "slightly longer than wide" appearance? Indeed not, they are 1970 models wrapped up in the 1925 versions, if we are wise with wisdom and knowledge left by those faithful breeders that knew this Birman.
Submit the cat to the standards.... it takes a humble man to admit his mistakes, and a more humble man to strive to rectify them. If the Balinese head type is desired, then breed and work with that beautiful animal, but return to the French translation of the broad and rounded full cheek Birman if the breed is the goal desired to progress and become our original inheritance of the breed's characteristic traits. The head of the Birman has a strong skull...broad and rounded! More like that of the Persian, than the Siamese! How then could it be...."slightly longer than wide"?
The verbatim English translation speaks boldly...and that was the Birman!"