The Birman cat is believed to have originated in Burma, where it was considered sacred, the companion cat of the Kittah priests. There is a legend as to how the Birmans developed the colors they are today: Â“Originally, the guardians of the Temple of LaoTsun were yellow-eyed white cats with long hair. The golden goddess of the temple, Tsun-Kyan-Kse, had deep blue eyes. The head priest, Mun-Ha, had as his companion a beautiful cat named Sinh. One day the temple was attacked and Mun-Ha was killed. At the moment of his death, Sinh placed his feet on his master and faced the goddess. The catÂ’s white fur took on a golden cast, his eyes turned as blue as the eyes of the goddess, and his face, legs and tail became the color of earth. However, his paws, where they touched the priest, remained white as a symbol of purity. All the other temple cats became similarly colored. Seven days later, Sinh died, taking the soul of Mun-Ha to paradise.Â”
The modern history of the Birman is almost as shrouded in mystery as its legendary origin. What is known for certain is that, probably around 1919, a pair of Birman cats were clandestinely shipped from Burma to France. The male cat did not survive the arduous conditions of the long voyage, but the female, Sita, did survive, and happily, was pregnant.
From this small foundation the Birman was established in the western world. The French cat registry recognized the Birman as a separate breed in 1925. By the end of WW II, only two Birmans were left alive in Europe, and a program of outcrossing was necessary to reestablish the breed. Most cat registries require at least five generations of pure breeding after outcrossings to fully accredit a breed for championship competition. Birmans were recognized by England in 1966 and by The Cat FanciersÂ’ Association in 1967.
The ideal Birman is a large, long stocky cat. It has long silky hair, not as thick as that of the Persian, and is of a texture that doesnÂ’t mat. The color of the coat is light, preferably with a golden cast, as if misted with gold. The Â“pointsÂ” - face, legs and tail - are darker, similar to the Siamese and colorpointed Persian color patterns of seal point, blue point, chocolate point and lilac point. The almost round eyes are blue, set in a strong face with heavy jaws, full chin and Roman nose with nostrils set low. The very distinctive white feet are ideally symmetrical. The gloves on the front feet, if perfect, go across in an even line, and on the back feet end in a point up the back of the leg, called laces. It is very difficult to breed a cat with four perfect white gloves.
The Birman personality is marvelous - gentle, active, playful, but quiet and unobtrusive if you are busy with other things.