Origin: Cornwall, England
Colour: All colours, patterns and combinations of colours and patterns are acceptable in this breed.
Terms that have been used to describe this breed include: individualistic, playful, extrovert, intelligent, inquisitive, affectionate, spirited, sweet-tempered, gentle and friendly. It has been called 'the greyhound of the cat fancy'.
Domestic Breed: Appeared in 1950 in the county of Cornwall, England. Originally called the 'English Rex', until a second form of Rex Cat was discovered in nearby Devon. Sometimes referred to in the popular press as the 'Poodle Cat' or 'Coodle'.
Appearance: A short-coated, wavy-furred cat with curly whiskers and eyebrows. Slim-bodied, with long, slender legs, the hind legs being taller than the front ones. The head is wedge-shaped and the ears large and pointed. The tail is long, fine and tapering.
In a typical feline coat there are three main kinds of hairs: guard hairs, awn hairs and down hairs. The guard hairs and awn hairs are together called the 'top-coat', and the down hairs are referred to as the 'undercoat'. It is generally stated that in the Cornish Rex Cat there no guard hairs and that the coat is almost entirely made up of down hairs. This is not strictly true. Microscopic analysis of Rex hairs reveals that the awn hairs are present but greatly reduced, so that they are almost like down hairs. In fact, all the hairs are reduced in length by the Cornish Rex gene, even the down hairs, giving the Rex Cat a coat that is about half the thickness of that on a typical cat. The fur is also much finer, each hair being about 60% the typical thickness. This delicate coat falls into ripples or waves that give the animal its unique appearance.
Unusual Features: Because the thin coat lacks guard hairs, this breed suffers from exposure to extreme cold or heat. A feral Rex Cat would therefore be at a disadvantage in many climates. As with most thinly protected or naked species, the Rex Cat has a slightly higher body temperature than normal - one degree higher than typical breeds of domestic cat. Its metabolism is also higher, giving it a much bigger appetite. If its coat is brushed too vigorously, bald patches may appear. Generally speaking, this is a delicate cat that requires more careful attention than a typical breed. As a breed, it has one special advantage - namely, that it is less likely to cause allergic responses in people who are sensitive to normal cat hair.
This breed typically has a strange body posture, with the back arched and the underside 'tucked up'. Associated with this is a remarkable leaping ability, even from a stationary starting position.
History: The first Cornish Rex Cat was born in an old farmhouse on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall on the morning of July 21st in 1950. A Red Tabby male in a litter of five kittens, born to an ordinary farm cat called 'Serena', was observed to have an unusual, curly coat. The owner, a Mrs Nina Ennismore, kept this kitten and, on the advice of a geneticist, mated it back to its mother, a tortoiseshell.
The new litter contained two curly-coated kittens and one plain-coated one. A second back-cross produced further curly-coated kittens, and the new breed was established.
Mrs Ennismore had, in the past, bred Rex Rabbits and decided to name this new feline mutation after the rabbit breed. The comparison is not particularly accurate. The first Rex Rabbit appeared as a mutation in France in 1919. It was given the name of Castorrex, meaning 'King of the Beavers', but this was eventually abbreviated simply to 'Rex'. The special quality of its coat was that it was 'heavily plushed and velvety' and lacking in guard hairs. If the dense, even coat showed any signs of being wavy or curly it was considered faulty. This is where the comparison with Rex Cats falls down, since for them a closely-curled coat is an essential characteristic. A more correct term would have been 'Astrex' - the name given to another breed of rabbit, introduced in 1932, in which the fur is tightly waved. Despite this, the name Rex has survived and become generally accepted.
The first male Cornish Rex Cat, the founding father of the breed, was named 'Kallibunker'. He sired two litters, and then his son 'Poldhu' continued to act as a stud and produced several more litters by being mated to his female relatives.
Rather surprisingly, Kallibunker was put to sleep by his owner as part of an economy drive to reduce her growing cat population which, by 1956, had grown to forty individuals. Mrs Ennismore, disillusioned at the lack of appreciation for her new breed, and short of funds to support her large feline family, had most of them destroyed, including both Serena and Kallibunker, a sad end for these historic felines. She did however, keep enough of the Rex cats to enable the breed to continue.
One of 'Poldhu's' daughters, called 'Lamorna Cove' was exported to America. She was already pregnant, having been back-crossed to her father 'Poldhu' before leaving Cornwall. Arriving at San Diego in 1957, she produced a litter of four Rex kittens and established the breed in the United States.
Because the very first Cornish Rex Cats reputedly lacked stamina, careful outbreeding with a variety of non-Rex queens was undertaken to strengthen the breed. This was done using one of Kallibunker's sons, 'Champagne Charlie', and Burmese, Siamese, Russian Blue and British Shorthairs. This out-breeding reduced the number of Rex kittens in litters to one in four, but considerably improved the stock. It also added the possibility of a wider variety of colour forms.
The Cornish Rex Cat was eventually given official recognition, by the CFA in America in 1964, and by the GCCF in Britain in 1967.
The question has been asked as to why such a slender, elongated breed should be found living on a farm in southern England. Because of the climate, with its long, cold, wet winters, British feral cats tend to be of the stockier, heavy-bodied type. The Cornish Rex looks much more suited to a hot, dry climate, and it has been suggested that Kallibunker's ancestors may have arrived in Cornwall from North Africa or the Middle East, brought there in ancient times by Phoenician traders visiting the famous local tin mines. There is no proof of this, but it would certainly explain the rangy, skinny body of this remarkable breed.
Personality: Terms that have been used to describe this breed include: individualistic, playful, extrovert, intelligent, inquisitive, affectionate, spirited, sweet-tempered, gentle and friendly. It has been called 'the greyhound of the cat fancy'.
Related Breeds: The Cornish Rex is closely related to the German Rex. They share the same gene for curly-coat. The Devon Rex, despite its close geographical proximity to the Cornish Rex, has a different curly-coat gene.
GCCF: All colours, patterns and combinations of colours and patterns are acceptable in this breed.
CFA: Also accepts all colour and patterns, but specifies the following: White; Black; Blue; Red; Cream; Chinchilla Silver; Shaded Silver; Black Smoke; Blue Smoke; Classic Tabby Pattern; Mackerel Tabby Pattern; Patched Tabby Pattern; Brown Patched Tabby; Blue Patched Tabby; Silver Patched Tabby; Silver Tabby; Red Tabby; Brown Tabby; Blue Tabby; Cream Tabby; Tortoiseshell; Calico; Van Calico; Dilute Calico; Blue-Cream; Van Blue-Cream and White; Bi-color; Van Bi-color.
1973. Ashford, A.E. and Pond, G. Rex, Abyssinian and Turkish Cats. Gifford, London.
1974. Lauder, P. The Rex Cat. David and Charles, Newton Abbot.
1982. Urcia, I. All About Rex Cats. TFH, New Jersey.
Cornish Rex Society. Address: 720 Fisherville Road, Fisherville, KY 40023, USA.
Rex Breeders United. 446 Itasca Ct. N.W., Rochester, MN 55901, USA.
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