FULMER ZAIDA (1895)
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The fame of ZAIDA as she was originally known, for some time at least, came close to eclipsing that of her older eminent and illustrious fellow Chinchilla, 'Ch. Silver Lambkin'. But whilst his fame was associated with his huge ongoing contribution to the breed as a stud and the sire of studs and queens, her fame was associated specifically with her obvious beauty, more particularly for her unmarked clear silver coat and her amazing run at winning top honours at shows. In this respect, she continued to be a flagship for the breed, and the high bar for Chinchilla breeders everywhere to emulate. And what was equally astonishing, was that she was not from the 'Lambkin' strain herself, both her sire and dam being from unrelated lines.
For some years, in fact, she was the most well-known of all Longhairs, collecting win after win in much the same way as her shorthair contemporary, the sable classic tabby 'Ch. Xenophon', who became famous for amassing what would have been an insurmountable tally of wins in the Shorthair Division. She likewise continued to collect a remarkable tally of her own. Her fame and beauty was international, and kept the focus of longhair breeding firmly centred on what was considered to be a truly English breed of longhaired cat, the "Chinchilla".
In fact, the two most popular longhair varieties were, at this time, Blues and Silvers (Chinchillas) with both varieties being bred side by side by nearly every major breeder in the country. And for those that were specialising in colours other than Blue, the Chinchilla was nearly always their primary or secondary variety.
Unknown Silver Laddie, Chinchilla | Unknown Zaida, Jul-26-1900, Chinchilla Silver, F | Punch Silvie of Lyndhurst, Chinchilla Tabby
'Zaida' was born 15th February, 1895, bred by Mrs. Bluhm, of Lyndhurst, Manchester, who over a number of years collected and bred from some of the most outstanding silver bloodlines available in Great Britain. In this case, she bred her modest chinchilla female, 'Silvie of Lyndhurst', to Mrs. Balding's recently acquired 'Silver Laddie', a formerly unknown male who had taken the silver world by storm with a dramatic win at the Crufts Show of 1894 by taking the coveted First and a Cup in the variety.
On that occasion Mrs. Balding wasted no time in obtaining him for her breeding program, for the specific purpose of an outcross. This farsighted move not only gave her the ability to move forward with her own program with confidence, but also the many breeders with whom she shared her lines.
There are absolutely no records preserved of whatever lines constituted the background of 'Silver Laddie' and all we know about him is that which is proffered in Mrs. Balding's advertisements which boldly claim that he was: - "NO RELATION TO SILVER LAMBKIN". "This cat is of the cobby, round-headed type, so much admired in the present day. He was bought soon after he won first and Cup at Cruft's, 1894, as an outcross for Mrs. Balding's Lambkin strain, for which purpose he has been a huge success."2
Frances Simpson gives us a significantly more detailed insight into the contribution of 'Silver Laddie' to the Chinchilla variety:
"As the sire of Lady Decies 'Champion Fulmer Zaida', the most lovely chinchilla female that has ever been seen, 'Silver Laddie', who is now unfortunately gone to his happy hunting grounds, can claim to have been one of the most noted of sires, more particularly as he was also the father of many others of great value, prominent amongst which were Miss Horman's 'Aramis', Miss Snell's 'Starlight', 'Silver Cherub', 'Lady of Quality' (one of the most perfect chinchillas ever bred), 'Charterhouse Pixie' (the dam of 'Tod Sloan'), and numberless others."3
Her dam, 'Silvie of Lyndhurst' (NCC: 1884) ² was a modest chinchilla female, born in 1892, bred by a Mrs. Hurst, from an obscure sire named 'Punch' and an equally obscure dam named 'Tabby'. Despite the paucity of information about 'Silvie's' heritage, something about her must have appealed to Mrs. Bluhm, who had a good eye for a cat and who already had a reputation as an astute breeder. So, on the whole, from the combination of these two relative unknown bloodlines, was produced this amazingly beautiful, clear-coated female. The only other record of 'Silvie of Lyndhurst' is in the 're-entries' in Volume V of the National cat Club, where the spelling of her name has altered to 'Sylvie of Lyndhurst', her ownership remains the same, and her win at The Crystal Palace, where she took a second in 1897, is duly added.
'Zaida' first appears in Volume IV of the National Cat Club Stud Book and Register, which was compiled with all entries between March 1895 and March 1896. Upon her initial entry, the breeder and owner are both listed as Mrs. Bluhm. But by the time of the publication of Volume V, (covering the period 1896-1899), she appears a second time in the 'Re-entries' under the ownership of Miss Gertrude Willoughby, along with her major wins between 1896 and 1899. So it is unclear as to exactly when she became the property of Miss Willoughby (later Lady Decies), but it is likely to have been while she was still quite young, possibly as early as when a kitten in 1895 or a young adult in 1896.
Miss Willoughby was already deeply involved with cats, and had already established a significant cattery at Slough when she married Lord Decies. At that time, there was only naturally some curiosity as to whether her new husband would be amenable to her all-consuming hobby or even share any interest in it. But on this account, there was no reason for concern, which was made clear when the following excerpt from an article about the cats at Beresford Lodge was published in the December 19th issue of Our Cats in 1903:
"When the Fulmer cattery removed from Slough to Birchington-on-Sea, on the occasion of the marriage of Miss Gertrude Willoughby with Lord Decies, there was just a question in the mind of those in the beautiful cats bearing this prefix as to whether they would maintain their ascendency in the show world! But, fortunately, for all those concerned, Lord Decies takes quite as warm an interest in the cats as does his wife. He has been all his life as keen a fancier as he is a sportsman, and the fact of his being the master of the harriers, and greatly attached to his stables and kennels, does not make him look down upon the cat as an inferior animal. Lord Decies has bred cats himself for 15 years, and owns to an interest in even smaller animals of the furry type. At the present moment at Birchington, there is a 'bird room' containing some very choice specimens. (One cockatoo has really the sense and affection of a child!). A tame mongoose, which will go through a series of tricks at the bidding of its mistress, and one or two valuable and rare Toy Bull-terriers, which have the run of the house. But the cats are very prime favourites both with Lord and Lady Decies, and the pretty and tasteful rooms at Beresford Lodge are full of the signs of their presence and the trophies they have won. Several beautiful portraits by Luker stand about on easels, and in the middle of one long room is a gilded show pen on a polished table, for the convenience of showing off any cat which may be brought in for inspection.
"No, since its removal to Birchington, the Fulmer cattery has most certainly added to its laurels, and at our shows we now welcome two enthusiastic and popular fanciers in the persons of both Lord and Lady Decies."4
Lady Decies managed two catteries, one at her usual residence at Beresford Lodge, and another at her summer residence at Birchington-on-Sea.
Frances Simpson gives us by far the best account of the arrangements at Birchington, as well as a little insight into the preferred place of 'Zaida' in Lady Decies heart.
"Lady Decies' catteries, at her pretty summer residence at Birchington-on-Sea, are indeed most perfect in their arrangements, and every detail for the comfort and well-being of the inmates is considered. The stud cats have separate single houses, with good-sized wired-in runs, and luxurious and cosy sleeping apartments in the rear.
"The main cattery is in a sheltered portion of the grounds, and will accommodate a large number of cats. The runs are arranged with boxes, benches, chairs, and ladders, and the sleeping places, built of brick, are most comfortably set up. By a system of wooden blinds the strong sea breezes and the bright rays of the summer sun can be regulated. There are side blinds and top blinds. The floors of the spacious catteries are wood, covered with cork carpet, and they are raised about a foot from the ground, so that there is a free current of air passing under the boards, thus securing absolute freedom from any damp.
"In the house, there are three rooms set apart by Lady Decies for her pussies. In two of these the queen mothers have their families, and the other is used as the cats' kitchen. The beds for the cats are specially designed by Lady Decies. The walls of the cats' rooms are adorned with pictures by Louis Wain, and there is a display of prize cards won by Lady Decies' famous cats. 'Zaida', so well known as the winning silver female, is the privileged occupant of Lady Decies' boudoir, and here the aristocratic little lady makes herself at home on the soft cushions and couches."3
Lady Decies owned some of the most renowned cats ever to be exhibited. At the time that Frances Simpson wrote her epic work for Cassell's, Lady Decies owned, 'Zaida', the world's most famous Chinchilla female, 'Lord Southampton', arguably one of the most reputable and desired Chinchilla males and a son of 'Ch. Silver Lambkin', and the redoubtable 'Ch. Xenophon', the Brown Tabby Shorthair who represented one of the very few cats who could compete at a level equal to 'Zaida'.
'Zaida' has one full litter sibling of record, a silver tabby male, who was registered by Mrs. Bluhm as 'SILVER GIFT'. It is unclear as to whether he was sold as a breeder or as a pet, but the new owner of record was a Mr. J. Hathoes Spurry.5
Three years later, Mrs. Bluhm appears to have repeated the breeding which produced 'Zaida' but on that occasion, the only result registered was a silver tabby female, born on 7th July, 1898 and duly registered as 'Westholme Pearl'. 'Pearl' was owned by Miss F. Worthington.5
Things get a little more interesting we when review her sire-siblings by 'Silver Laddie'. Among the four most noteworthy are:
'CHARTERHOUSE PIXIE', Chinchilla Female born 29th March, 1895. Sired by 'Silver Laddie' and out of Miss Gresham's exceptionally valuable 'I, Beauty's Daughter', who was already the product of another famous outcross, her sire being Mrs. McLaren Morrison's 'The Nizam' and her dam being 'Beauty of Bridgeyate' the mother of 'Ch. Silver Lambkin'!. Mrs. Balding and her sister Miss Gresham were working together in trying to establish more than one outcross line to the sons and daughters of Mrs. Balding's 'Ch. Silver Lambkin'. By breeding his dam to 'The Nizam' they succeeded in producing one. By acquiring 'Silver Laddie' Mrs. Balding had cleverly claimed another. But by breeding 'Pixie', the sisters had produced a female which contained both outcross bloodlines. 'Pixie' became the property of Miss Saunders of the Charterhouse cattery, the same Miss Saunders who was the owner of the first and famous clear coated silver, named 'Sylvie' (born 1879), to whom Harrison Weir had awarded Best Longhair Cat at the Crystal Palace in 1886.5
'LAVENDER' (Silver Female, date of birth unknown, c.1896). Sired by 'Silver Laddie' and out of Miss Kirkpatrick's 'Peggoty'. Although we can find no individual registration for 'Lavender', she does appear in The Cat Club Register as the dam of 'Silver Cupid', a shaded silver male born 18th April 1899, bred by Mrs. Rock, but owned by Miss Kirkpatrick. From this we must deduce that Miss Kirkpatrick bred her blue queen 'Peggoty' to Mrs. Balding's 'Silver Laddie', selling their shaded silver daughter 'Lavender' to Mrs. Rock. Mrs. Rock then bred 'Lavender' to 'Iver Surprise' to produce the Chinchilla male 'Silver Cupid', who then became the property of Miss Kirkpatrick.5
'SILVER STARLIGHT' (Silver Male, born 23rd April, 1898). Sired by 'Silver Laddie' and out of 'Minette', a silver daughter of 'Ch. Felix'. 'Starlight' was bred by Mrs. Gosnall and owned by Mrs. Snell. He proved to be a relatively popular stud, and was used by a number of prominent breeders over queens mostly descended down from 'Ch. Silver Lambkin', and some with links back to 'Ch. Felix'. Among his better known progeny are Mrs. Nicholay's 'Iver Clara', the chinchilla male. 'Lord Clive' (out of 'The Seraph'), and HRH Princess Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein's 'Puck III', (out of Lady Marcus Beresford's 'Windsor Dimity').5
'ARAMIS' (Chinchilla Male, born 16th July, 1898). Sired by 'Silver Laddie' and out of Miss Horsman's 'Priscilla' (by Lord Silverhair, a son of Ch. Silver Lambkin). Like his sire sibling 'Silver Starlight', 'Aramis' became a popular stud cat, siring a good number of chinchilla offspring. Two of his better kittens were Miss White Atkins 'Bitterne Silver Belle' and HRH Princess Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein's 'Ch. Chela', the latter of which had been bred out of Miss Horsman's own 'Gertie' (by 'Bitterne Silver Chieftain', out of 'Lassie of The Limes').5
The show successes of 'Zaida' were without parallel in Britain for more than 60 years. She carried off more than 150 prizes, including medals and specials, and her crowning achievement was being twice selected as Best Cat in Show, at the Crystal Palace!
Our first quotes come from Frances Simpson, who in The Book of The Cat simply states:
"Lady Decies is the proud possessor of the incomparable 'Zaida', whose record of wins is a marvellous one. As all the cat world knows, 'Zaida' is accounted the lightest and most unmarked specimen in the fancy."3
"Not only as a chinchilla, but when competing with all breeds of cats, both long-haired and short-haired, 'Champion Fulmer Zaida' has proved her excellence, and has on more than one occasion secured the cup at the Crystal Palace for the best cat in the whole show. She was bred by Mrs. Bluhm, one of the pioneers of chinchillas, and, it is stated, has now won, 136 first and special prizes, and that Lord Decies has refused £90 for her."3
In an article written in 1903 by Walter T. Roberts, entitled "Some Celebrated Cats and Their Owners", published in Cassell's Magazine, the following humorous account is given of one of 'Zaida's' wins at a Regional Show:
"A rather funny incident occurred some years ago at a show at Manchester, when 'Zaida' with two other notable pussies - 'Lord Bobs' (Mrs. Collingwood's 'Royal Bobs') and 'Midshipmite', a splendid cat owned by Miss Beal - were being judged for first place. The visitors crowded round the three cats, the pussies looking very solemn. After conferring together for a little time, Mr. Ward announced that the judges had given the pride of place to 'Zaida', whereupon 'Lord Bobs' muttered a loud and prolonged 'Mi-aw'. The effect was indescribably comic, and those standing near broke into loud laughter, in which they were joined by the judges."16
'Zaida's' successes were only naturally met with a combination of awe and admiration, but also a certain amount of angst. This was not because of her wins, but because, as a singularly clear-coated specimen, one or two admirers found it difficult to believe that anyone could breed anything as good, basically claiming that she was a 'sport' or in today's vernacular, 'a fluke'. As an example, the following is an excerpt from a letter to the editor of 'Our Cats' published on 15th October, 1904.
"Madam,- May I say and few and last words about Chinchillas? I have been much interested in the numerous letters in your paper taking up the cause of Zaida, but unfortunately no writer, I think, except Mrs. Gregory, is a breeder of Chinchillas. They hold up Zaida as an object-lesson and an ideal have before breeders, but they do not say how a similar animal is to be bred. How many owners of Chinchillas have been trying for years to produce cats as pale as Zaida, without result?"9
The writer also adds: "I am very glad to see that Mr. Mason and Mr. Louis Wain are taking up the cause of Shaded Silvers, a really beautiful variety and much healthier than Chinchillas. A shorthaired silver tabby is a very lovely creature, but a long-haired one, when not in coat, does not show its markings clearly, and its chief beauty is lost. I should like to know if anything resembling Zaida has been bred from her; if not, how are we to get more cats of her pale colour, unless from some chance mating....."9
Of course today, we have the benefit of hindsight, and we can quote: 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again!' We know now, that 'perseverance and selection' did in fact win the day and that, within less than 20 years from when this letter was written, a good number of clear-coated chinchillas were indeed being produced and exhibited with success. These, of course, went on to become the foundation of the clear-coated beauties of the latter twentieth century.
As to 'Zaida's' perceived value? At one point, after her second triumph at the Crystal Palace Show, Lady Decies was offered the staggering sum of £1,100 for 'Zaida', which was summarily refused. This transaction, if it had proceeded, would have made her by far, the most valuable pedigreed cat ever bred.8
It is Frances Simpson who first tells us about 'Zaida' as a breeder:
"Zaida has produced some first class kittens, amongst which was Miss Sisted's 'Pearl' (Fulmer Pearl) the owner of the latter pretty queen being a most devoted admirer of the chinchilla and sparing no expense to further its interests."3
This statement clarifies two points of interest, the first and most obvious being the confirmation that 'Zaida' was in fact a perfectly normal dam of kittens, capable of producing admirable progeny, even due to an apparent lack of verifiable information! The other, provides us with information as to the ownership of 'Fulmer Pearl', who happens to be the only precious daughter of record.
'FULMER PEARL' appears in the The Cat Club Register Vol IV (1900), as a chinchilla female, born 29th July, 1897. Her sire is listed as Mrs. McLaren Morrison's chinchilla male, 'Ameer', her dam as Miss Willoughby's 'Champion Fulmer Zaida' and with breeder and owner as Miss G. Willoughby.5
Of all the males she could probably choose from as a mate for her 'Zaida', 'Ameer' was an interesting choice by Miss Willoughby. His dam was 'Lambkin Queen', who combined 'The Nizam' (an outcross line also owned by Mrs. McLaren Morrison) and Miss Balding's 'Beauty of Bridgeyate', the dam of 'Ch. Silver Lambkin'. One cannot help but wonder whether she had possibly taken this route upon the advice of Mrs. Balding, who very probably took a personal interest in how such a famous and strikingly beautiful chinchilla female should be bred.
To date, no photographic evidence of 'Fulmer Pearl' has been located.
Lady Decies was extremely fortunate to have owned three of the most significant and sought after cats living at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. These were the two outstanding chinchilla's in the form of 'Zaida', by 'Silver Laddie', and 'Lord Southamption' by 'Ch. Silver Lambkin'; but also the superlative brown tabby English short-hair 'Ch. Xenophon'. These three were literally 'giants' of the show ring.
'Zaida' was the pride of the Fulmer Cattery, and was treated like a queen among cats. She was upheld as the epitome of her variety. She was, in her own time, an enigma; the evidence of things hoped for, and the promise of things yet unseen.
Registers associated with this article include The Incorporated Cat Fanciers Association of Great Britain (TICFAGB), National Cat Club (NCC), The Cat Club (CCR), Beresford Cat Club (BCC), Feline Federation Francaise (FFF), Siamese Cat Registry (SCR), US Register & Studbook for Cats (USR)including Supplement(USRS), The Studbook of the American Cat Association (ACA), and the Studbook & Register of the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA).
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