Birmans are long and massive cats with thick-set legs of medium length and short, strong paws. They have a strong and rounded head with medium sized ears that are spaced well apart. Their nose is medium in length with no “stop” but with a slight dip to profile. The checks are full and round with a full, well developed chin that is tapered but not receding. Their eyes are almost round but not bold, blue in colour, the deeper the blue the better.
Birmans have long silky fur with a full ruff around the neck and a medium length bushy tail. The distinguishing appearance of the Birman cats arises from the Himalayan coat pattern and the characteristic white feet. The front paws have pure white symmetrical gloves and the back paws have pure white gauntlets which taper up the back of the leg and finish just below the point of the hock.
The Sacred Cat of Burma – The Legend
In a temple built on the sides of Mount Lugh, lived in prayer the very holy Kittah Mun-Ha, a great Lama holy of holies, the one of which the God, Song Hio himself, has braided his golden beard. Not a minute, not a glance, not a thought of his life was not dedicated to the adoration, contemplation, and holy service of Tsun Kyan-Kse, the goddess with the sapphire eyes, the one who presided over the transmigration of souls, the one who permits the Kittahs to live again in a holy animal for the duration of its animal existence, before taking again a haloed body with the full and holy perfection of the great priests. Near him was meditating Sinh, his dear oracle, an all-white cat whose eyes were yellow, yellow from the reflection of the golden whiskers of his master and from the golden body of the goddess with the heavenly eyes…..Sinh, the cat to advise, whose ears, nose, tail and extremities of his legs were dark like the colour of the earth, mark of the stain and impurity of all that touches or can touch the ground.
Now, one night as the malevolent moon had permitted the murdering Phoums who came from the hated Siam, to draw near the sacred place, the Grand Priest Mun-Ha gently entered death, having at his side his divine cat, and under his eyes the despair of all his overwhelmed Kittahs….. It was then that the miracle came about – the only miracle of immediate transmigration: in a bound, Sinh was on the golden throne and sat on the head of his sagged master. He leaned on that aged head which, for the first time, was no longer looking at the goddess. And as he sat stiffened before the eternal statue, one saw the bristly hair of his white spine become suddenly golden yellow. His golden eyes became blue, large and deep as the eyes of the goddess. As he was gently turning his head to the south door, his four paws which were touching the old skull became dazzling white, up to the place that the silk of the holy garments were covering. And as his eyes were turning from the south door, the Kittahs obeying his commanding look, which was full of serenity and light, hurried in the first breeze to close the heavy bronze doors.
The temple was saved from profanation – Sinh, however, had not left the throne and on the seventh day, without having made a move, facing the goddess, eye to eye, he died – mysterious and hieratic, carrying to Tsun Kyan-Kse the soul of Mun-Ha, too perfect for the earth……
And when seven days later, the assembled priests consulted before the statue to decide on the succession of Mun-Ha, all the cats of the temple ran up, and all were dressed in gold with white gloves and all had changed to deep sapphire the yellow of their eyes, and in complete silence they surrounded the youngest of the Kittahs so thus reincarnated ancestors were designated by the will of the goddess.
Thus ran the legend until the beginning of this century. Then apparently the temple was raided again, but this time it was saved by the help given by Major Gordon Russel and Monsieur Auguste Pavie. A year or two later, the two men, who were now living in France were sent two of the sacred cats from the temple as a gift. The male died en route, but the female survived and proved to be in kitten. The litter lived and became the first Birmans to be seen in Europe, or so the story goes. Presumably the kittens were used for breeding, and it was in 1925 that this variety was recognised in France. It was in danger of becoming extinct during the Second World War, but it survived due to the efforts of one or two breeders, and by the 1960s the breed was again well established. In 1965 the late Mrs Elsie Fisher and Mrs Margaret Richards went to the Paris cat show and saw and fell in love with this magnificent breed. Before the end of the year, working in partnership under the prefix “Paranjoti” they had imported two females and a male. The male a seal point was Nouky De Mon Reve and the two females both bluepoints were Osaka de Lugh and Orlamonde de Khlaramour. The first litter to be born in this country was on the 3rd July 1966, Nouky was the father and Orlamonde the mother. There were eight kittens in the litter. To increase the gene pool Mrs Towe imported Pipo de Clos Fleuri a seal point in 1966. In 1967 the partnership of Mrs Richards and Mrs Fisher had disbanded and Mrs Fisher bought in another male – a blue point – Ghandi Von Assindia. Two years later Miss Betty Brown imported a male Solomon Von Assindia. Solomon died in 1984 aged fifteen. Two more cats were imported in the early seventies, Shani de la Valliere a seal point female and Dandy Von Aroldessen a sealpoint male. All the original imports became Champions with the exception of Orlamonde. All the Birmans in this country will have all or some of these eight cats at the back of their pedigree.
The legend also has it that when a priest dies, his souls was transmigrated into the body of the cat and upon the cats death the priests souls transition into heaven had been accomplished – and according to Major Russell Gordon “But woe also he who brings about the end of one of these marvellous beasts, even if he did not mean to. He will suffer the most cruel torments until his soul he has upset is appeased”.