Enchanting Story of the Burmilla
of the Burmilla, nearly twenty years ago, has been related again and again
but the magic of that, by now famous, accidental mating will never disappear.
1981, Miranda Bickford-Smith (nèe von Kirchberg), whose prefix Astahazy was
well known, had bought, as a pet for her husband, a Chinchilla male; shortly
before he was due to be neutered, Jemari Sanquist met Bambino Lilac Fabergé,
a lilac Burmese female, who had escaped from purdah. It soon became evident
that kittens were on the way!
all Black Shaded Silver, were born on the 11th of September. A few weeks later,
Miranda asked me to have a look at them as they were starting to develop a
good foreign type as well as a short dense coat. I was very impressed especially
by two of them: Galatea who was to remain with Miranda and Gemma who was brought
to us when the Bickford-Smiths came to stay for Christmas.
quality of their type, their spectacular look and their superb temperament
prompted us to try and establish a new breed; so a mating between Sanquist
and another of Miranda's Burmese queens was arranged forthwith. This resulted
on 27th March 1982, in a single male kitten, Jacynth, who later joined Gemma
to found our Kartush line.
of cross-mating Burmese and Chinchilla parents will always produce shorthair,
silver progeny carrying two recessive genes - the 'self' gene inherited from
the Burmese and the 'longhair' gene inherited from the Chinchilla. The type
of F1 kittens may lean towards either of the founder breeds. Galatea and Gemma
were both of such outstanding 'foreign' type that we decided that the type
of our 'new' breed would resemble that of the Burmese, yet be materially different
since no new breed should be mistaken for an already recognised breed. We
drew up the Breed Standard on these lines - it is worth noting that today's
Breed Standard is uncannily similar to it.
Now a name
had to be found - as CHIN(illa-burm)ESE was obviously most inappropriate,
the two young men who used to look after the Astahazy cats, suggested BURM(ese-chinch)ILLA
which we all though strikingly suitable!
Thus we started
developing the Burmilla as a Shorthaired Agouti cat of medium foreign type,
showing a striking contrast between a coloured Shading/Tipping and a Silver
base. Matings between F1 parents selected for type only, could produce 'true'
Birmillas, Birmillas carrying self and/or longhair, Silver Shaded/Tipped Longhairs,
Smokes, Silver/non Silver Tabbies and Selfs (the last three varieties in either
longhair or shorthair).
Miranda became interested in all the different varieties occurring in the
development of the breed while my husband Charles and I were entirely identifying
with the Burmilla itself. So by common agreement, on 13th November, it was
decided that Miranda would develop the Burmilla and its related breeds of
cats within the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) while Charles and
I would specialise in establishing the Burmilla within the Cat Association
of Britain (CA) which had been formed earlier in the year. This would also
give two chances for recognition, irrespective of which organisation might
be the first to do so.
GCCF Miranda pursued a breeding policy of out mating to Burmese at every other
generation thus obtaining all varieties of 'Asians'. The club she founded
in 1985 continues her pioneering work and is now known as 'The Asian Group
Cat Society'. The GCCF recognised the Burmilla in 1995 and most varieties
can be seen today at the GCCF shows.
member of the CA, Barbara Gazzaniga, who had bought one of Gemma's and Jacynth's
kittens, was also staying with us during that fateful weekend back in November
1983. Together we formulated a Breeding Program, finalised the Breed Standard
and presented them to the CA Board which accepted both later in the month.
knew no bounds but there were only three of us, so we founded the Burmilla
Cat Club on Saturday 21st January 1984 with the aim of getting together breeders
willing to start independent lines as well as half lines ensuing from Kartush
parentage, to promote the breed by exhibiting regularly at CA shows and to
contribute to a club magazine: THE BCC MEWS.
the BCC, granted affiliation to the CA in July 1986, has held Spring Exemption
Shows and All Breeds Championship Shows in October each year - these became
International following CA's election as the British Member of the Fédération
Internationale Féline (FIFe) in May 1990. Following the winding-up of the
CA in November 2004, the BCC became Associated with the newly formed Independent
club Everycat UK in December 2003 and continues to hold International championship
definition a 'breed' must 'breed true' the two recessive genes (self and longhair)
had to be eliminated; also five 'pure' generations had to be produced before
recognition could be applied for. Inbreeding was therefore necessary: Sib
matings, Father to Daughter or Family circle. Sib mating is the fastest method
and theoretically 'fixes' 16% of genes at each generation. Back mating younger
generations to those of known genetic make-up, such as F1, would also be required
to try to eliminate from the breeding programme any parent which might not
be homozygous in the two dominant genes. Hopefully, the breed would appear
from the third generation onward when outmating to peers of another line would
enlarge the gene pool and homogenise the characteristics inherent to each
line. Breeding from outstanding specimens only was of paramount importance.
Line breeding also has the advantage of pinpointing any ancestor/s which may
be carrying any harmful trait - a near impossibility if more than one line
I embarked on such a policy with Roy Robinson's blessing and guidance. We
eventually outbred two pure F3 females with two unrelated Burmese studs. Their
progenies were brought into our Family circle, thus improving the type and
increasing our gene pool, viability and vigour.
breeders were at liberty to apply their own Breeding programme within the
framework of the approved Breeding Policy. Some started entirely new lines,
some half lines from Kartush cats; others outcrossed regularly to Burmese
(the only outcross allowed) thus achieving a faster homozygosity for the Shorthair
gene and improvement of type though greatly decreasing the incidence of Silver
offspring, ie Burmillas.
In the UK
today, besides the Kartush and Gazzella lines, several other lines are well
established: Brandywell (Caroline Turner-Russell), Zingaro-Tamimah (Michael
Garrett), Brimstone (Pauline Turner), Katchadream (Sharon Donaghie), Lakota
(Lynn McGuckian). Over the years Brandywell and Kartush kittens have been
exported to most countries of Western Europe and Scandinavia.
In 1984 Birgit
Behammer imported into Denmark two Burmillas (bred by Mrs P Bydlinski) and
began an extensive breeding programme by crossmating them to her Thamakan
Burmese, starting several new lines, importing a Kartush male in 1991 and
a Brandywell female a year later. We are all greatly indebted to her for having
promoted Burmillas on the continent and for bringing some of them to Prague
for the FIFe General Assembly where the Burmilla Breed was granted recognition
as a Shorthair breed in its own right (28th May 1994). The FIFe Breed Standard
have since been in force worldwide in all FIFe countries.
ago and further afield, Robin Moller, from New South Wales, having read an
article on Burmillas and been entranced by their spectacular looks, enrolled
another Burmese breeder, Mrs L Burgess, in her efforts to establish the breed
'down under'. Following the approval by the NSW authorities of the FIFe Breeding
Policy and Breed Standard, their newly formed Burmilla Breeders Association
of Australia has become a very active and thriving club doing extremely well
in the show ring against other breeds. This year two Kartush kittens, a male
and a female, have taken up residence with Mrs L Burgess and Robin Moller
respectively with the aim of starting new half-lines.