The Aristocats: Three Mythical Feline Breeds

Deborah Chiu

Worshiped as gods by ancient cultures, these breeds have been the favorites of kings and emperors and favored by some of the world’s most famous artists and celebrities.

It is common knowledge that there are cat people and dog people. Cats have been faithful companions of humans since time immemorial, even worship as gods in several cultures and civilizations. Some of the most iconic breeds are the Siamese, the Persians, and the adorable Angora cats. They have been a symbol of love, tenderness and endowed with the power to protect humanity as the incarnation of the goddess Bastet. In ancient Egypt, they were revered to such an extent that the Pharaohs shared, with them, the privilege of mummification. Among Romans and Greeks, they were favorite companions for the ladies of the palace and even for warriors in the army. Welcome to the world of cats!

Throughout history, cats have occupied a unique place in royal households. Thanks to their undoubted aura of distinction, they have been depicted in statues, jewelry, and paintings, demonstrating that they are the aristocrats of the animal world. Preferred by art icons such as Henry Matisse, Salvador Dali, Truman Capote, Pablo Picasso, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Andy Warhol, and Freddy Mercury, cats have a well-established hierarchy, according to their breeds. Three of them are cherished as the most exclusive: Siamese, Persian and Angora.


The Aristocats: Three Mythical Feline Breeds

With erect ears and almond-shaped, intensely blue eyes, the first reference to the Siamese comes from the manuscripts of Ayutthaya, in 1350, which described their “dark limbs and elongated silhouette.” In those days, they were the sacred pets of the kings of Siam and only the royal family could own them. Siamese cats first arrived in the West in 1884, as a gift from the British Consul General in Bangkok, Edward Blencowe Gould for his sister, and soon the elegant breed conquered the rest of the world. The Siamese is a very sensitive animal, phlegmatic and with a very distinctive personality. Genetically predisposed to worship and compliments, they are jealous and very demanding. Their deep, throaty meow is one of their most distinctive characteristics.


The Aristocats: Three Mythical Feline Breeds

Their great rival is the Persian cat, the favorite of Queen Victoria of England and Princess Beatrice of Battenberg. Originally from northern Egypt, the breed was first seen in Europe more than three centuries ago, when they came as exotic gifts from sailors for their patrons. Pietro Della Valle was passionate about these cats and became their first Western breeder. With a round face, small ears, broad muzzle and long fur, the rugged and always majestic Persian cats are like monuments to laziness, to such an extreme that they completely lack the hunter instinct characteristic of other felines. Of course, with such pedigree, they have no reason whatsoever to chase after small rodents. However, despite their genealogy, the Persian has to pay tribute to the great Angora cat, his predecessor, and the first long hair cat to arrive in Europe. The Roman Emperor, Octavian Augustus, is said to have been a lover of this noble breed. Since those days of imperial glory, Angora cats have kept their allure as the most fabulous cats.


The Aristocats: Three Mythical Feline Breeds

Absolute masters of Versailles, Cardinal Richelieu had fourteen of them. Louis XIII and Louis XVI walked around with their Angora cats as if they were luxury accessories, and for poor Marie Antoinette, they were so precious that she managed to get them to safety, which ironically the Empress could not do for herself. Extremely athletic and muscular, they are distinguished by their silky semi-long coat and a thin silhouette.

So are the Aristocats, animals that demand to be pampered and captivate us with their mystery and charm while making us believe that we are their masters. After all, they deserve reverence because, as the incomparable Jorge Luis Borges wrote in his poem To Cats, compared to them “no mirrors are quieter no more furtive the adventurous dawn.”  ■

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