The world of domestic cats is vast and diverse, with countless breeds that vary in size, shape, color, and personality. Unfortunately, over time, some domestic cat breeds have become extinct for various reasons, such as natural selection or lack of popularity.
Here, we will explore some of the fascinating extinct domestic cat breeds, including their history, physical characteristics, and reasons for their disappearance. From the curly-coated Prussian Rex to the strikingly beautiful Chantilly-Tiffany, these cats may no longer exist, but their legacy lives on in the world of feline enthusiasts.
Let’s delve into the world of these rare and unique cat breeds and learn more about what made them special.
Table of Contents
1. The Sumxu Cat
The Sumxu, also known as the Chinese lop-eared cat, drop-eared cat, droop-eared cat, or hanging-ear cat, was a long-haired domestic cat breed that is now considered extinct. The breed was characterized by its pendulous ears, which gave it a distinct appearance.
The origins of the Sumxu are shrouded in mystery, and there is some debate among experts as to whether it was a real breed or simply a legend. However, there are several reports from travelers and a taxidermy specimen exhibited in Germany that suggest the breed did exist. The last reported sighting of the Chinese lop-eared cat was in 1938.
The Sumxu was said to have been highly valued as a pet in ancient China, where it was believed to possess magical powers and bring good luck and fortune to its owners. However, it was also reportedly used as a food animal in some areas.
The breed is believed to have been a genetic mutation similar to the Scottish Fold, which also has pendulous ears. The name Sumxu originally referred to the yellow-throated marten, but a series of mistranslations caused the name to be applied to the alleged cat or cat-like animal.
The Sumxu was a long-haired cat with white fur and pendulous ears. It was described several times in the 1700s, with the final report being in 1938. Despite its popularity, the breed eventually died out, possibly due to inbreeding or other factors.
The Suqutranese is a domestic cat breed that was first discovered on the island of Socotra or Suqutra, off the coast of Somalia, in the late 1980s. Caroline Garrard and Charles and Betty Barrett were on vacation on the island when they noticed a pure white cat with the conformation and temperament of a Somali. This cat had a unique feature where its white fur had well-defined bands of silvery white clearly visible on the individual hairs.
Ms. Garrard had a pedigree usually a silver Somali male named Clyde, and two white shorthair females. She bred an odd-eyed “White Somali” kitten named Fanny in 1988 from the white queen Fifi Farouche and Clyde. The first-generation kittens were a mixture of Somali colors and pure whites, mostly semi-longhairs of Somali type.
In 1989, Fanny was mated back to her father, producing five White Somali kittens. Fanny’s second litter, also in 1989, comprised four White Somalis and one usual silver semi-longhair. Ms. Garrard and the Barretts set up a breeding program to seek recognition for white semi-longhairs of Somali type. They named the breed “Suqutranese” since “White Somali” was unacceptable to registries.
The Suqutranese standard is nearly identical to that of the Somali, except for the coat, which must be completely white with silver-white ticking. Additionally, the nose-leather and paw-pads of Suqutranese cats must be pink. The breeders hoped that the Cat Association of Great Britain would grant approval for the breed.
However, in August 1995, the Somali Cat Breed Advisory Committee took offense at the advertisement in various publications for “so-called White Somalis” and issued a statement that Somalis are cats with ticked coats, i.e., each hair has several alternating bands of two colors. Any cat with a coat of only one color is not a Somali and should not be described or sold as such. This statement indicates that the breed society was concerned about the purity of colored Somalis.
Since then, nothing has been heard of the Suqutranese, which is a great pity. Many Somali breeders have shown interest in re-creating the Suqutranese, and it would make a glamorous new addition to the show bench.
3. The Oregon Rex
The Oregon Rex was a feline breed that originated in the United States, specifically in Oregon during the 1950s. Like other cats with the “rex” gene, the Oregon Rex had a curly and short coat that set them apart from other breeds.
Despite being playful and friendly in nature, the Oregon Rex proved to be challenging to handle. Perhaps this trait led to their numbers declining and eventual extinction in the 1970s.
Like many extinct breeds, it’s difficult to piece together the full history of the Oregon Rex. However, it is believed that the breed was a result of a spontaneous mutation that occurred in the genes of a Siamese or a Havana Brown cat. The curly hair trait was then bred through inbreeding to produce more cats with similar coats.
Due to the rarity of the breed, the Oregon Rex never gained much popularity beyond its native state. As a result, it was never recognized as an official breed by any significant cat associations.
Despite their limited time on earth, the Oregon Rex remains an exciting and unique part of feline history. It’s a reminder that even the smallest genetic mutations can create entirely new and distinct breeds. It’s also a cautionary tale about the dangers of inbreeding and the importance of genetic diversity in preserving breeds for future generations.
4. The Mexican Hairless Cat
The Mexican Hairless Cat, also known as the Aztec Cat or New Mexican Hairless, was a unique and rare cat breed first documented in 1902 by Mr. E. J. Shinick, who owned a pair of hairless cats. These cats were novelties at the time due to their lack of fur, although they grew light fur along their backs and tails during winter. Despite having very little hair, they were known to have markings similar to striped tabbies.
Originating in Mexico, these cats were thought to be descendants of hairless cats found in South America. They were small in size and almost completely hairless except for the light fur on their backs and tails. Due to their lack of fur, they were sensitive to temperature changes and had a higher rate of heat loss than coated cats. This made them warm to the touch and heat-seeking.
Although they were well-documented in media reports in the early 20th century, the Mexican Hairless Cat gradually disappeared, and the breed is now considered extinct. While the exact reason for their extinction is unknown, it is believed that their rarity and unique traits may have contributed to their decline.
5. The Italian Rex Cat
The Italian Rex was a breed of cats that originated in Italy in 1950. The breed was known for its short, curly coat, similar to other Rex breeds. The Italian Rex was a rare breed that vanished after only a few years of existence.
The Italian Rex breed was discovered when three kittens with curly coats were born to a non-Rex mother. The kittens were named Kira, Kiki, and Koukla. These kittens were bred together to create the first Italian Rex breed. The Italian Rex had a distinct curly coat, which was smaller than other Rex breeds. The breed was also known for its slender body and long legs.
Unfortunately, the Italian Rex breed didn’t last long. The breed disappeared after only a few years of existence. It’s believed that the Italian Rex’s unique coat resulted from a recessive gene, making it difficult to breed. As a result, the breed failed to gain popularity, and it eventually became extinct.
6. The Prussian Rex
The Prussian Rex was a curly-coated cat breed discovered in Konigsburg (Kaliningrad), East Prussia, in the early 1930s. This breed was also known as “Munk,” named after its owner Frau Schneider’s cat. Munk was the offspring of a Russian Blue/Chocolate Angora cross, resulting in his unique curly coat.
While there were either one or two other curly-coated cats in Munk’s litter, they were castrated. Munk was allowed to mate freely with local cats until he died in 1944/45, there are no known descendants of this breed, and there was no attempt to breed them in a controlled way.
As its name suggests, the Prussian Rex was likely originally from Prussia. However, despite being discovered in the 1930s, the breed did not gain much attention until the appearance of the German Rex in 1946. The German Rex was also a curly-coated breed, and some have suggested that Munk may have been related to the German Rex in some way. However, there is no concrete evidence to support this theory.
Unfortunately, the Prussian Rex did not survive as a distinct breed, likely due to the lack of controlled breeding programs and the inability to produce a viable population of curly-coated cats. Nevertheless, the Prussian Rex remains an interesting footnote in feline history.
7. The Sieburg Rex Cat
The Sieburg Rex cat, an extinct domestic cat breed, was a spontaneous mutation discovered in Sieburg, Germany in 1979. The breed was named after its place of origin, and its unique coat was characterized by a curly, or “Rex,” texture.
The first Sieburg Rex was a black and white male cat named Pushkin, also known as Kater Preu. Pushkin was initially used in the German Rex breeding program but was later found to have a different mutation than the German Rexes he was bred with.
When Kater Preu was bred with a German Rex, he produced straight-haired offspring, indicating a different genetic mutation. However, when some of his offspring were bred together, they produced curly-haired, Rex-coated kittens that were dubbed German Rex. Sadly, no further investigation was conducted into the Sieburg Rex’s unique mutation, and the breed was ultimately lost.
The Sieburg Rex’s loss is a reminder of the importance of thorough genetic research and conservation efforts. The discovery of a spontaneous mutation like Kater Preu’s could potentially lead to the creation of a new breed or the revival of an extinct one. In the case of the Sieburg Rex, unfortunately, the opportunity was missed, and the breed became another extinct cat variety.
The Chantilly-Tiffany, also known as the Chantilly or Tiffany, was a beautiful semi-foreign breed with a full semi-long coat. This breed had a silky, soft, and smooth coat that lacked an undercoat, making grooming much easier than other cats with undercoats. The feline was slow to mature, typically taking up to two years to reach its full stature, and its eye color would intensify with age, changing from a bright and clear yellow to a more golden hue.
The head of the Chantilly-Tiffany was a broad, modified wedge with gentle curves, a medium-length nose, and a strong, broad, short, softly squared muzzle with defined whisker pads. The breed originated in chocolate color and was later accepted in various colors, including blue, cinnamon, lilac, and fawn. Solid, mackerel, ticked, and spotted tabby patterns were accepted, and shading in solids may occur toward the underside.
The Chantilly-Tiffany was known for its striking appearance, resulting from its rich color and full, silky semi-longhair coat, plumed tail, contrasting neck ruff, and ear furnishings. However, this breed faced extinction in the 2010s after a fire destroyed Amorino Cattery and its archives, which were home to the breed.
The last known Chantillys in the US were Frosty and his daughter Acey, and when Frosty was shipped to a Nebelung breeder in Norway, efforts were made to breed him to a female Nebelung. Although one kitten, Acey, was produced, the Norwegian breeder gave up on the Chantilly breeding program after the death of Frosty. As far as it is known, the Chantilly-Tiffany is now considered extinct.
The extinction of any cat breed is a sad but inevitable reality for us cat lovers. While some breeds have survived through breeding programs and careful preservation, others have been lost forever. These extinct breeds represent a unique piece of feline history and serve as a reminder of the ever-changing world we live in.
By learning about and appreciating these lost breeds, we can gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the diversity of the feline world. While we may never see these cats in person, their legacy lives on through the stories and records of those who knew them. Hopefully, this piece of writing will serve that purpose as well.