by Rosie Alger-Street
Thought you might be interested to know why and how I got involved with Bombays and then Asian Selfs. The why is easy - because I love them. The how is slightly more complicated. However, if I am honest, I suppose it could be summed up in one word — pride!
I have always admired black cats from the day over twenty-five years ago when I saw a Foreign Black at a show. The sound patent leather coat looked really black and wet on this exhibit and it shone from head to foot. I wasn't surprised to learn later that it got Best in Show.
A number of years later, Mrs. Margaret Somers, Chairman of the Burmese Cat Club, had some early Bombays on exhibition at a show and I got talking to her about these Black Burmese which fascinated me. I told her about the Foreign Black that I had never forgotten and the gleaming wet looking solid coat, and how lovely if we could get this look on the Bombays.
I was even bold enough to mention a little theory I had on how this might be achieved. Margaret, not being one to mince her words, thought I was crazy and told me so in no uncertain terms! These days, knowing her much better, I would have laughed and stayed and discussed the point but in those days I was still easily intimidated by the idea of the Burmese hierarchy, so mumbled something and ran!
This is where my pride came in! Having a stubborn streak and wanting an excuse to breed Bombays anyway, I decided I would try out my theory.
I kept it very quiet, working on the principle that if I was wrong, then lots of lovely pet cats would have been produced and no harm done. If I was right, then hopefully in the fullness of time I could contribute to the breed by offering a different line, thereby helping to widen the gene pool, and also produce a coat that I felt was synonymous with the breed. I was very fortunate in having a lovely cat-orientated friend, Mary Morrison, who was more than happy to help me out with rearing the early generations at home and finding loving owners.
Where to start! For those interested, my theory made sense to me, but probably to a geneticist it was totally nutty. However, not being a geneticist, I blindly went ahead. My theory worked on paint-box colours!
A brown Burmese is genetically black, but comes out brown because of the Burmese restriction gene. Remove the Burmese restriction gene and you have a black cat. The Burmese dilute of the dominant brown gene is recessive blue. Hence with the full expression genes, the dilute of black is blue. Any really black object has an almost blue sheen. You will see that an artist who is trying to portray a black object will shade with blue. So I went for a full expression blue cat to get my black Bombay line with a sound coat, thereby hopefully eliminating the brown roots. It may sound crazy, but sometimes crazy theories work.
I finally found the right cat. A little blue girl called Chloe who needed a new home. Her background was unknown, but it was obvious that not both her parents were from the wrong side of the sheets and most cat people thought she was probably a half Russian Blue and half something else! She had a lovely short, sound, full expression blue coat, good type, a delightful temperament and fitted the bill admirably. She arrived pregnant, and when I saw the results of her clandestine mating it confirmed my hopes. In 1989, I mated her to my blue Burmese stud, Ch. Typha Plush Velvat to consolidate the blue, therefore hopefully setting the coat. (By this time any geneticist reading this has probably crawled into a hole or gone grey!) She had two kittens and I kept the full expression girl Typha Velvatina Salix, known as Willow. These she had to have by caesarean section, so I didn't breed from her again and she lived out the rest of her life very happily with Mary.
For the next four years I did a series of test matings with different colours, hopefully learning more about the breed and the coat. During that time all kittens went as lovely pets without progression except for the two black queens I kept from Willow's line: Typha Duskidaisy and her daughter Typha Black Ambergris. From the daughter, I produced Typha Patience Provedit and Typha Prudence Perchance. They were the fourth generation and my first real Bombays. I was very pleased with their type and the reaction from people when they saw their coats. I had only used my own lines thereby creating a totally different pedigree from other Bombays. But whether to try and progress further now that I have achieved my goal was the question.
The truth was that, ironically, having actually produced a legal Bombay, I wasn't sure what to do about it. Having got so engrossed in the actual doing, I had never really thought about the logistics at the end. I therefore spoke to Mrs. Pring, the then Secretary of the GCCF, who was extremely helpful and suggested I exhibit and get a reaction from other Bombay breeders. That should give me guidelines as to what to do next. Patience and Prudence were therefore put on exhibition at the Kensington. I was very touched by the reaction from other breeders. They were very helpful indeed and unanimously encouraged me to go forward.
I therefore took Chloe and Patience to the Asian Seminar in 1995. Patience was a typical Bombay extrovert and flirted her way from person to person, but Chloe had never been to a function before and I was slightly concerned how she would cope. Happily, she took it all in her stride and purred her way around the tables. I was very proud of her. The Asian BAC then kindly recommended that Chloe be added to the list of accepted outcrosses before 1990 and the Council of the GCCF endorsed this. Our Bombays had arrived. One day I must thank Mrs. Somers for her original reaction. It was only a throw away and she probably doesn’t even remember the incident, but the subsequent outcome has certainly enriched our lives.
We then had a shiny black very typy Bombay boy at stud Typha Black Pantha (coat absolutely solid to the roots), whom we loved dearly until he left us in 2011 after fathering many beautiful kittens.
Sadly, Chloe died in February 1999 (probably over 16 years old) and was buried in the garden next to our Scottie dog, Muffin, who we lost the previous November. A red rose is planted on the rockery, which we can see from the house. We shall not forget her.
Once again, thank you Margaret, we would never have had any of them without you. Thanks also for all the support I have had from the Asian Group Cat Society Committee and other Bombay breeders; in fact, everyone involved with this lovely breed of cat. Without all your enthusiastic help I would never have been able to legalise our lines and become part of this exciting venture in the cat fancy.
A final note to all you geneticists out there — sorry!
Bombays and Asians Selfs have progressed a long way since I wrote this article. They now have full Championship Status and I became the GCCF Council Delegate for the Bombay and Asian Self Cat Club and a member of the committee for quite a few years. I was delighted to be so involved in such an exciting developing breed.
Having got involved with the breed because of my passion for Bombays, the ironic twist is that Barrie and I are probably best known now for our Asian Selfs, particularly the chocolates. The richness of this chocolate colour is so vibrant, we both just love it. We produced the first Grand Champion Asian Chocolate Self, Admilsh Typhamegan, who had the first all-chocolate self litter (5 girls). We also produced Typha Xanthia, Champion Typha Kalhua, and Champion Typha Saffron - three of the most fantastic chocolate queens of outstanding type. We showed Xanthia three times as a kitten at The Kentish, National and The Asian & Bombay Breed Show. She was Best of Breed at all three shows and also Best in Show Asian Self Kitten at the Asian & Bombay Breed Show, having a Red Card Day. Her coat was completely sound which is very rewarding. Saffron and Kalhua again had fantastically sound coats and made championship in three straight shows.