Colour: Only one colour is recognized: Blue-Grey (Genetically, this is a ‘diluted black’).
Terms used to describe this breed include: friendly, good-natured, accommodating, playful, self-assured, hardy, uncomplaining, quiet, devoted, gentle and placid. Said to like children and dogs. Characteristically lazy until a rodent appears, when it becomes a savage hunter.
Domestic Breed: An old French breed, dating from the 1300s or even earlier. The name of 'Chartreux Cat' was first used for this breed in 1750. It is sometimes referred to as the 'Chartreuse cat', the 'Carthusian Cat', the 'Monastery Cat', or the 'Blue Cat of France'. Sometimes known as the 'smiling cat'. In France it is called the Chat des Chartreux; in Germany it is the Kartäuser; in Holland it is the Karthuizer ; and in Italy the Certosino .
Appearance: A strong, heavily-built, broad-headed, short-haired, blue coated, orange-eyed cat with rather finely boned legs. Affectionately described by one American breeder as 'a potato on toothpicks'.
History: A cat of obscure origin. As with several other ancient breeds, there are a number of conflicting stories as to how it began:
(1) It originated as a cross between an Egyptian Cat and a Manul Cat. There is no scientific evidence whatever to support this fanciful idea.
(2) It was originally imported into France, in the 17th century, from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa by Monks of the Carthusian Order.
La Grande Chartreuse, just north of Grenoble, in SE France near the Italian border, was the principal monastery of the Carthusians, a Roman Catholic order established in the year 1084. Renowned for their yellow and green liqueurs, the Carthusian monks have also become famous for their own special breed of monastic cat. The oldest reference to link the monks with this breed is found in Bruslon's 1723 Universal Dictionary, in which he says: It 'is called Chartreux because of the monks of this name who owned the breed first.'. Thirty years later, a little doubt has crept in: 'Chartreux cats, perhaps named because it was the monks of this name that were the first to have this breed.' (Chevalier de Jancourt in the Grand Encyclopaedia of 1753). Unfortunately there is no archival evidence that they ever possessed such a breed. Replying to a query about the Chartreux Cat in 1972, the Prior of the Grand Chartreuse had this to say: 'We have never had the Chartreuse order...at the Cape of Good Hope. As for the subject of a breed of cat which had been of use by the Grand Chartreuse, our archives stand silent. Nothing lets us assume that a breed of this type of cat had been utilized in any epoch of our long history.'.
(3) It originated in the Middle East and was given to the Carthusian Monks by the knights returning from the Crusades. The fact that blue-grey cats were recorded from Syria, Cyprus and Malta, all places where the crusaders were active, has been offered in support of this theory. But again, there is no archival evidence that the monks ever received this type of cat.
(4) It originated in the Middle East and arrived in Europe about 450 years ago, where it was exploited by the fur trade, its woolly pelts being highly prized for their fine, dense texture.
(5) It began in Northern Europe and Siberia, where its thick, woolly coat protected it from the intense cold, and later developed into both the Russian Blue and the Chartreux. If this is true, then the famous Blue Cat of France may simply have been a non-pedigree European domestic, wandering the fields and alleyways until it was taken up as a special breed. An early Encyclopaedia published in London in the 1780s suggests that blue cats were, at that time, the dominant form of domestic feline in France. The author of the encyclopaedia, George Howard, states categorically that : 'In France the cats are all of a bluish-lead colour.'.
If either (4) or (5) are correct, they beg an obvious question. How did this cat become associated with the Chartreuse Monastery? A possible answer may lie in a reference to the word 'Chartreux', in Bruslon's 1723 Universal Dictionary. There, mention is made of a fine wool imported into France from Spain, called the 'Pile de Chartreux'. Bearing in mind the very fine, woolly coat of this breed, it may well have been that the cat was named after the wool and that the monks of La Grande Chartreuse had nothing to do with it. Later, their connection may have been assumed, simply because they had the same name. In this way, legends can easily be born and then repeated time and again until they are part of a widely accepted tradition.
Whichever of these stories is true, we do know for certain that the breed is recorded, named and illustrated by Buffon in his 18th century Natural History. And 19th century British authors were also aware of the breed, although by then it seems to have become less common: 'Bluish-grey is not a common colour; this species are styled "Chartreux Cats", and are esteemed rarities'. (Charles Ross, 1868).
By the 1920s, French cat breeders had started to take a serious interest in the Chartreux . In 1928, two spinsters, the Leger sisters of the Guerveur Cattery, began a selective breeding programme on the small island known as the Belle-Ile- sur-Mere. Their foundation pair were a male called Coquito and a female called Marquire. They made good progress and, by 1931, were able to exhibit the breed in Paris. Sadly, however, their efforts were interrupted by the chaos of World War II.
After the war the breed was barely surviving and the decision was taken to re-construct it using it non-pedigree French cats that had blue-grey coats. This was done until the original shape and style of the Chartreux had been achieved. It is these re-constituted cats that comprise the foundation stock of the modern Chartreux. (This also explains why some authorities now refuse to distinguish between the British Blue, the European Blue and the modern Chartreux.)
In 1970 ten of these new Chartreux were imported into the United States by the California breeder Helen Gamon. There, an enthusiastic group of breeders continued to develop them until they had gained championship status.
Personality: Terms used to describe this breed include: friendly, good-natured, accommodating, playful, self-assured, hardy, uncomplaining, quiet, devoted, gentle and placid. Said to like children and dogs. Characteristically lazy until a rodent appears, when it becomes a savage hunter.
Related breeds: There are several breeds of blue-grey cat and the relationship between them has been hotly disputed for many years. They are:
(1) The Russian Blue; (2) The British Blue; (3) The Maltese; (4) The Chartreuse Blue; (5) Blue European Shorthair; (6) Exotic Shorthair Blue.
Other blue breeds, not confused with the above, include:
(7) The Blue Burmese; (8) Korat; (9) Foreign Blue; (10) Blue Longhair.
Colour form: Only one colour is recognized: Blue-Grey (Genetically, this is a 'diluted black').
1990. Simonnet, J. The Chartreux Cat. Synchro Co., Paris. (Translation of Le Chat des Chartreux , 1989 )
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