Like most of the dramatic changes in appearance which have affected cats, the Cornish Rex breed was the result of a chance mutation. It arose in a litter of farm cats, born in 1950 on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. Owner Nina Ennismore noticed that one of the five kittens differed dramatically in appearance from the others. Called Kallibunker, The had a body type more like that of a Siamese, but the most striking feature was his curly red and white coat.
- BREED DEVELOPED: 1 950s
- COUNTRY: United Kingdom
- TYPE: Shorthair
- BODY SHAPE: Athletic and muscular
- MAXIMUM WEIGHT: 5 .5kg/ 12lb
- PLUS POINTS: Playful and quiet
- WATCH POINTS: Greasy coat, especially at the base of the tail
Nina Ennismore’s vet noticed that Kallibunker was a Rex cat and so put her in touch with AC Jude, who was particularly interested in the Rex mutation that had occurred previously in mice. AC Jude advised her on a breeding programme to establish this Rex characteristic in cats.
ESTABLISHING THE BREED
By 1956, Nina Ennismore had 40 cats as a result, but was unable to obtain any real interest from cat fanciers. Highly discouraged, she began to have some of her original cats put to sleep, but luckily enthusiasts then started to become involved in setting up a breeding programme, both in the UK and the USA, where the breed was introduced in 1957.
Initially, Burmese and British Shorthairs were used as outcrosses for the UK breeding programme, but this detracted from the elegant appearance of the original Rexes, as their offspring became cobbier in appearance. This led US breeders to try other outcrosses, notably Siamese, to restore the original type associated with the Cornish Rex. Some of these cats were then brought to the UK and helped fix the breed’s appearance.
The short, wavy coat is caused partly by the absence of the longer outer guard hair, while the awn or secondary guard hairs are shorter, so they resemble down. With the Black Smoke type, while the undercoat is whitish, the dark coloration is present in the awn hairs. These only display a little white at their bases, with the remaining part of these hairs being black, so there is a distinct contrast in the coat.
- The curly nature of the Cornish Rex’s coat extends to its whiskers and eyebrows as well as its coat. These cats can be more vulnerable to becoming chilled when the weather is cold and damp as their coats are thinner.
- Cornish Rex kittens tend to have wavier coats at birth than adults, but this characteristic then fades when they reach the age of about six weeks old, becoming re-established again as the kittens grow older.
- Similar mutations to the Cornish Rex have cropped up elsewhere in the world, notably in Germany in 1931, and in Ohio, USA in 1944, before the emergence of the Cornish Rex.