Thai legend of Siam cats



A lot has been written about Thai cats, including I wrote about them in different years. The history of Thais is pretty well studied and is not a secret. At the same time, most people far from breeding cats still call Thais Siamese and, seeing photos of modern Siamese cats, are very surprised: “Is it Siamese? Can not be!” Therefore, I allow myself to repeat the history of Thai cats, known to many.

Thai cat breed was recognized in 1990.

Siamese and Thai cats (two separate breeds in modern felinology) have a common ancestor – the Siamese cat, which existed in the late XIX – early XX centuries and got its name from the country where it came from. Until the end of the 19th century, few people outside the state of Siam (as Thailand was called until 1939 and in 1945-1948) saw Siamese cats. The National Library of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, stores the 14th-century manuscript “Cat Book Poems”, and among the magnificent miniatures decorating this book, there are also images of Siamese cats with dark brown markings. That is, we know for sure that cats with such a color were, at least in those distant times.

There are several myths about how the Siamese cat first came to Europe and America. Here is an excerpt from an article on one British site (all translations were made by Tatyana Kim):

“According to a frequently repeated legend, the role of the Siamese cat in the house was not assigned to catch mice and rodents, it was to serve as a guide for the departed souls of the house owners. When a member of the royal family was dying, one of his beloved cats should have been buried with him. It is not as terrible as it sounds. The graves there have many exits through which the cat could escape. When this happened, it was believed that the soul of the deceased moved to the cat. After that, the returning cat was given special worship and veneration. Because of this sacred role that the Siamese cat played in local religious rituals, a ban was imposed on the collection and transportation of Siamese cats outside the country. Only in the case when it was required to show special honor in relation to a foreigner, could a Siamese cat be presented to him as a valuable gift. But,

Siamese cats were also mentioned in England until 1884 when Mr. Gould brought Pho and Mia. Mentions were random. For example, about the appearance of Siamese cats in European zoos as an incredible curiosity. It is also known that during the first cat show in the Crystal Palace in 1871 in London, there were already at least several Siamese owners. Unfortunately, no records of these cats have been preserved. And how they ended up in Britain before 1884 remains a mystery.

The problem still lies in the fact that in those days, in fact, any animal could be called the name of the country where it came from. In other words, any cat brought from Siam could become “Siamese” without any specification of its appearance. The earliest confirmed mention of a real Siamese cat dates back to 1879, then the article in the London newspaper Daily Telegraph published a message “about a pair of juniors, immigrants from Siam, with a black muzzle, ears, legs, and tail sitting behind closed yellow-gray curtains. .. “. The owner of this outlandish couple was a lady by the name of Kanlif-Lee. The following mention is made in the classic book on felinology “Cat” by professor-biologist George Jackson Mywart, published in 1881. You can read the following there: “The Royal Siamese cat is one that has a uniform yellow-brown color, with very dark marks. She has a tendency to darken the color on her face … She also has amazing blue eyes and a small head. ”

In fact, the first fully documented case of exporting a Siamese cat as a gift was recorded in America. The White House veterinarian was treating an unusual patient, about which he made a corresponding entry in the diary. It was a gift to the wife of the reigning president of Rutherford, Lucy Webb Hayes, from the American consul in Bangkok, David Stickles. A cat named Siam began his long journey in 1878 from Bangkok, first to Hong Kong, then on a boat, he sailed to San Francisco, and from San Francisco across America through a train to Washington. He did not live long after his arrival at the White House in early 1879. In September, he became ill and in October of that year he died, despite the fact that he was fed the best dishes that can be prepared in the kitchen of the presidential house. A documented case of the import of a Siamese cat into the UK dates from 1884. We all know a well-known case: Edward B. Gould, the current Vice-Consul (and not the General, as they usually say) brought a Siamese pair from Bangkok. They say that he received it directly from King Chulalongkorn (the ruler of Siam from 1868 to 1910, the son of the Siam king, who is very well known in the West as the protagonist of the famous musical “The King and Me”, we also know this king from the film “Anna and the king “). Probably, the Vice-Consul received an offer from the king to choose any farewell gift for himself, and he chose royal cats for himself. The king did not like this choice, but reluctantly he kept his promise.

Some authors are skeptical of this story, believing that it was invented in order to draw as much attention as possible to the Siamese breed. There is not a single record of Mr. Gould himself that he received these cats as a gift. But so much romantic nonsense has been written about how difficult it was for him to get these animals. Most likely, cats were bought at a market in Bangkok, along with other goods. Partial proof of this version is found in a letter written by Gould’s sister Liliana Valvi, who received these cats as a gift from her brother. Many years later, in 1930, she wrote: “It is curious to note that my first cat, Mia, this beautiful cat, cost my brother only three tiki last – (a tikil was approximately $ 0.5) “. However, this information destroys only half of the legend, because in the letter it was only about a cat. It is possible that the Pho cat was indeed received as a royal gift from the king, after which Gould decides to get a cat for him and turns to a much less noble source. ”

No matter how the Siamese cats get to England, the fact remains: they were so different from the usual British that they attracted everyone’s attention. Newspapers called them nothing more than a “nightmare” … but who can resist the charm of these mysterious, stylish, aristocratic creatures? And soon Siamese cats began their triumphal march through Europe, and from the beginning of the XX century and in America, “Siamese” fever began, which raised the Siamese cat to the crest of love and popularity.

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