Bizans Turkish Angoras - History


         Bizans is the Turkish word for Byzantium, with its capital in Constantinople, now Istanbul, Turkey, which was the center of the Christian world from 330-1453 A.D., over a thousand years.*  (The same word is spelled Byzance in French and pronounced nearly the same way.)  We chose Bizans for our name to refer to Turkey's history and to reflect the antiquity of the fabulous Turkish Angora cat.  

         You can find versions of histories of the Turkish Angora breed on several different Turkish Angora cat sites, but my favorite on the subject is the article written by B. Iris Tanner (now Zinck), who wrote it with some input from my first mentor, Barbara Azan.  I thank Iris for her permission to reprint it here. 

The Turkish Angora

By B. Iris Tanner & Barbara Azan

Long before the Maine Coon came out of the Maine forests . . . long before the Persian’s star soared into ascendancy . . . it was the Turkish Angora that ruled the courts of Europe.

First documented in the 16th century when they were brought to Europe from their native Turkey, these elegant cats were the darlings of the French aristocracy and are supposed to have been kept as pets by Cardinal Richelieu and Marie Antoinette. From France, it was a short trip to England and the beginnings of the cat fancy. However, England was also where Turkish Angoras were first interbred with Persians — a process that nearly led to their extinction.

By 1903, the interbreeding had merged TAs and Persians to such an extent that judge Frances Simpson asserted that “There are two distinctive breeds, viz., the long-haired or Persian Cats and the Short-haired or English and Foreign Cats.” Fifty years later, in April 1964, National Geographic magazine prefaced an article on cats with the following statement: “Before discussing Longhairs, which today are practically synonymous with Persians, there is one thing to get straight at the outset: Angora cats are not to be found in these parts anymore.”

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the breed’s death were somewhat exaggerated. This lost-and-found longhair was not yet down to its ninth life. Back in Turkey, breeding programs had been established at the Ankara and Istanbul zoos with wild native stock. Two populations of semi-domesticated TAs were preserved and from this foundation, as well as from private Turkish breeders, the breed has been gradually rebuilt in this country and in Europe. In 1954, the first Turkish import was brought to the United States by Mrs. Lyn Raquel Pierce of Kenlyn cattery. Other imports arrived in subsequent years, but the best known were Yildiz (“star") and Yildizcik (“starlet”), imported by Colonel and Mrs. Walter Grant in 1962.  In 1967, the Grants sought recognition for the breed at the CFA Annual. CFA registration began the following year. White TAs were accepted for provisional showing in 1971 and were approved for Championship competition in 1972. In 1978, after a long and often uphill struggle, colored Turkish Angoras were finally given the same Championship privileges as their white relatives.

Elegant, brilliant and loving are the perfect words to describe the Turkish Angora.  Elegant…. Oh yes! A lithe Turkish Angora sits up regally on its long, finely boned legs, a silken sheen of gossamer fur dripping from its slender, graceful neck, with its delicately pointed face and large, expressive, almond eyes and has a crown of large, pointed, tufted ears set high atop its head.  It is no wonder that its breeders and the Turkish people are so enthralled with this regal creature.

Turkish Angoras have roamed the countryside and villages of Turkey, virtually unchanged through many centuries.  The character that led to their survival is strongly instinctual and very intelligent.  They are a very hardy breed, having few, if any, health problems. The coat is single, meaning that there is no undercoat. Their silky coats, developed through eons to protect them in the cold Turkish winters, while shedding down to almost nothing in the heat of the Turkish summers; have a sensuous, satiny feeling to the touch, unlike that of any other breed.

But the Turkish Angora isn't to be admired for its looks alone. Beauty is only fur deep.  According to fanciers, this active breed is "purr poetry in motion."  You haven't seen true beauty until you've seen an Angora in action.  When animated, which is most of the time, Turkish Angoras move with the fluid, coordinated grace of small, furry ballet dancers. 

But it's the personality of the breed about which fanciers wax poetic.  If you want a cat that's like a dog in its affection for its owner, this is definitely the breed to have.  A Turkish Angora will reward you with exuberant affection; entertain you with its wonderful sense of humor and loves to show off.

 Angoras adore their owners, whom they will follow about the house trying to assist, no matter what the task.  They are extremely inquisitive and must know exactly what you are up to, so they can “help." They will search your closets and drawers or even your purse, looking for heaven knows what.  One will find oneself asking a cat with its nose in your purse, ”Did you put something in there?”

They are a very athletic breed; they love nothing better than leaping to the tops of doors to make them swing to and fro.  You will wonder how they can possibly reach the high places in which you will find them.

Angoras tend to bond with one favorite person rather than the whole family, and for that reason are particularly good companions for people living alone.  They still will shower affection on others they know and like, but only at their chosen person will they gaze with large, liquid eyes full of trust, adoration, and devotion.  They become ever-present companions showing unconditional loyalty and love.

The kittens are little imps from the moment they begin to walk.  They are fuzzy little balls of fur, scampering around the house.  They are loving and lovable even at this age.  Their coat usually starts to change at the age of nine weeks.  It becomes silky and starts the process toward the mature, silky coat.  As teenagers (4-8 months), the coat is rather short, having just a fluffy tail and a little bit of britches and belly fur.  As they near eight months, the coat lengthens and fills out.  The mature coat is finally attained at about two years or earlier when the cat is neutered or spayed.

The body of the Turkish Angora is long. This describes it most clearly.  It has long legs, long tail and a long, finely muscled, slender torso, with all parts in perfect balance. The key word is LONG. As for refinement, in the Turkish Angora, refinement means delicate features with no hint of coarseness anywhere about the cat. The boning must be fine. The silky, fine coat of the Angora changes according to the season; from a short coat with only slight britches and fluffy tail in summer to the full winter coat with medium long, silky hair complete with mane, britches, and lush, plumy tail. The coat must be silky, fine and single with no hint of shagginess.

It is an exciting time to be working with Turkish Angoras, marveling as new colors, patterns and combinations are produced for the first time, watching as younger cat fanciers are drawn to the beauty and elegance, as well as the marvelous intelligence and loving personality of this ancient breed. We will be applauding, as people grow more accepting of our efforts to produce healthy, refined cats with consistent type and sweet temperaments. The spirit and skill that today’s breeders are contributing should create even wider acceptance in the years ahead!

Having an Angora in your house is a rare and wonderful thing. The Angora is a unique mixture of passionate love, intense curiosity and much humor. You will never be lonely or bored. Life will never be dull with one or more of these lovable rascals in your home.  Once you have had one Turkish Angora cat, you'll never want any other kind!"

You may find the website for Iris' and her husband Robert Zinck's cattery here.