Like all domestic cats, Turkish Angoras descended from the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica). The Fertile Crescent was a place where cats were first domesticated. Cats from eastern mountainous regions of early Anatolia and through inbreeding and natural selection, developed into longhaired breeds like the Turkish Van and the Turkish Angora.
Longhaired cats were imported to Britain and France from Asia Minor, Persia and Russia as early as the late 16th century, though there are indications that they appeared in Europe as early as the 14th century due to the Crusades . The Turkish Angora was used, almost to the point of extinction, to improve the coat on the Persian. The Turkish Angora was recognized as a distinct breed in Europe by the 17th century.
Angoras and Persians seem connected. The Persian cat was developed from Turkish angora mutations by British and American cat fanciers. Although some cat associations think the Persian cat is a natural breed, in the 19th century Persians and Angoras were identical. In 1903, F. Simpson wrote in her book The Book Of The Cat:
“In classing all long-haired cats as Persians I may be wrong, but the distinctions, apparently with hardly any difference, between Angoras and Persians are of so fine a nature that I must be pardoned if I ignore the class of cat commonly called Angora, which seems gradually to have disappeared from our midst. Certainly, at our large shows there is no special classification given for Angoras, and in response to many inquiries from animal fanciers I have never been able to obtain any definite information as to the difference between a Persian and an Angora cat.”
The Angora of the 20th century was used for improvement in the Persian coat, but the type has always been divergent from the Persian – particularly as the increasingly flat-faced show cat Persian has been developed in the last few decades.
In the early 20th century, Ankara Zoo, began a breeding program to protect and preserve pure white Angora cats. The zoo particularly prized odd-eyed Angoras (i.e., Turkish Angoras with one blue eye and one amber eye), however the cats were chosen only by their color (white)—no other criterion was used. Despite the lack of selective breeding and no consideration given for the deafness problem, Ankara Zoo cats have a very similar type.
The Turkish Angora, which was brought to Canada in 1963, was accepted as a championship pedigreed breed in 1973 by the Cat Fanciers’ Association. However, until 1978 only white Angoras were recognized. Today, all North American registries accept the Turkish Angora in many colors and patterns. While numbers are still relatively small, the gene pool and base of fanciers are growing.
“Breeders in Turkey feel that the cat fancy’s fine-boned version of their national breed is unrepresentative of the true Turkish cats, which are much sturdier. American “Turkish” Angoras may have only a minimal remnant of the original Ankara Zoo DNA and are only “purebred on paper