Norweigian Forest Cat
Colour: Any Colour
Norwegian Forest Cats are a friendly and slow maturing breed. They are not fully grown until about five years old.
Domestic Breed: The Viking cat. A large, long-haired Norwegian breed. In its homeland it has been known as the Skaukatt or Skogkatt, or more formally as the Norsk Skaukatt or Norsk Skogkatt. Its Norwegian nickname is the 'Wegi' or 'Wegie'. They are also often referred to as 'Skogs' or 'Norgies'. In 19th century Norwegian folk-tales it is an enchanted cat and is referred to as the 'Fairy Cat'. In France it is called the Chat de Bois Norvégian, the Chat des Forêts Norvégiennes, or simply the Norvégien; in Germany it is the Norwegische Waldkatze.
Appearance: A large, powerfully built cat with long hair, a full ruff, tufted ears and a bushy tail. The front legs are slightly shorter than the hind legs. It is a giant among cats, similar in size to the American Maine Coon. The long outer coat is glossy and water-resistant, while the thick undercoat adds protection against the cold. In this breed the winter coat is even thicker than the summer one. Inevitably, this means a heavy moult once a year.
Legendary History: Norse folk-tales often speak of huge cats, perhaps inspired by the genuinely impressive bulk of the real-life Norwegian Forest Cat. One legendary cat was so heavy that even the god Thor could not lift it off the ground. The wagon of Freya, the blue-eyed, blonde-haired goddess of love and beauty, was drawn by two powerful cats. Any mortals who placed pans of milk in their cornfields for her cats to drink would have their crops protected by her. It was Freya who gave us Friday ( = Freya's day) and this became a popular day for marrying. If the sun shone on her wedding day it was said of the bride 'she has fed the cat well', meaning that she had not offended the feline favourite of the goddess who, in return, had given her good weather.
Cats were chosen to serve the goddess Freya because their fecundity reflected hers. The early Christians declared her a witch and banished her to the mountains. From their association with her, her cats were also seen as evil forces and were thereafter condemned to torture and death at the hands of the pious.
Factual History: The true story of how the Forest Cat came to be in the Norwegian countryside may never be known. There are six current theories:
(1) Long ago, Viking ships brought Scottish Wild Cats to Norway, where they gradually changed into the Forest Cats we see today. (There are no indigenous wild cats in Scandinavia.)
(2) Domestic cats from Europe reached Scandinavia on board trading ships. Once there they escaped and hybridized with the imported Scottish Wild Cats, in the process gaining a thicker coat and larger bone structure.
(3) Angora Cats were carried by boats from the Middle East, to the ports of the Mediterranean and from there to Scandinavia in the 16th century, where they crossed with the descendants of the imported wild cats, creating a bigger-boned, heavier-coated Angora.
(4) Angora Cats, arriving by ship and escaping into the freezing Norwegian countryside, simply became bigger and bigger, with a thicker and thicker coat, as an adaptation to the climate, without the intervention of any imported wild cat stock.
(5) Long-haired Russian Cats (= modern Siberian Forest Cats) found their way to Norway on board ships plying the Baltic and North Sea routes.
(6) Ordinary local domestic cats that became feral and lived rough slowly became bigger and more heavily furred.
Of these various theories, those involving Scottish wild cats seem to be the least likely. Any breed of domestic cat exposed to sub-arctic conditions will soon become larger and thicker-coated if it is to survive. A more elaborate explanation of the origin of this breed is hardly necessary.
We are certain of one thing, however, namely that, whichever way it may have arrived, the Norwegian Forest Cat lived there for centuries as a farmyard cat, without any particular attention being paid to it. Then, in 1912 the first named Norwegian Forest Cat, a male called Gabriel Scott Solvfaks, was recorded by the Norwegian Cat Society. Nothing much more was heard about the breed for a while until, in the 1930s, cat enthusiasts began to take a greater interest. Planned breeding programmes followed, and the first Norwegian Forest Cat Club was formed in 1938, but further progress was interrupted by the Second World War.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Norwegian enthusiast Carl-Fredrik Nordane, it found favour again in the 1970s and before long was being seen at cat shows in many different countries, where its impressive size, elegant shape and magnificent coat made a great impact. It was given the international name of Norwegian Forest Cat in 1972, and it gained international championship status in 1977. In a few years it had been exported as a pedigree cat to the United States and most European countries, although it was late arriving in England, a breed club there not being formed until 1987. In 1995 it was estimated that there were approximately 1,000 of these cats in the British Isles.
Personality: Terms used to describe this breed include: rugged, sturdy, intelligent, agile, confident, calm, quiet, athletic, strong, quick, bold, mischievous, outgoing, affectionate, good-natured, playful, alert, responsive, inventive, independent, adventurous, adaptable, brave and loving. A skilful tree-climber, this is definitely not an indoor cat.
Colour forms: In Norway, the most popular colour form is the Black and White. Outside Norway, the tabby is generally favoured. According to one source, all colours except chocolate, lilac and Siamese pointing are acceptable; according to another source, all colours except chinchilla and Siamese pointing are acceptable. Colour combinations bred so far include: Black Smoke and White, Blue Tabby and White, Blue Tortie Smoke and White, Brown Tabby and White.
Norwegian Forest Cat Club. Address: 9 Sundridge Road, Woking, Surrey, GU22 9AU, England.
National Norwegian Forest Cat Club. Address: 17 Ashwood Road, Trenton, NJ 08610-1328, USA.
Norsk Skogkattering, Danmark. Formed in 1975. A Danish breed club with 400 members worldwide. It issues a quarterly magazine in Danish - Huldrekatten - and an English newsletter. Address: Hermelinvaenget 8, DK-2880 Bagsvaerd, Denmark.
Norwegian Forest Cat Breeders Consortium. Address: 1859 Vintage Ct., Corinth, Texas 76205, USA.
Norwegian Forest Cat Fanciers' Association. Address: 2094 Sandpiper Ct., Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082, USA. or 2507 Ocean Drive S., Jacksonville Beach, Florida 32250, USA.
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