The “Balinese” is not actually from Bali or any part of Indonesia. Its history begins with the first Siamese cats that were imported from Thailand to the U.S. and UK in the mid-1800s, some of whom carried the recessive long-haired gene. The Balinese breed subsequently originated from deliberate breeding efforts based around this naturally expressed genetic trait.
Initially, occasional long-haired kittens in Siamese litters were considered a fault in the bloodlines and sold exclusively as pets. There are records of these cats as early as the 1920s; “Long-haired Siamese” were first registered as show cats with the American Cat Fanciers Federation (CFF) in 1928. In the mid-1950s, breeders in the US began serious efforts to develop the long-haired variant as a separate breed. Considering Long-haired Siamese too cumbersome a name, initial breeder Helen Smith dubbed the new breed “Balinese” as a reference to the grace of Balinese dancers.