GALLERY: Angora/Longhair/Persian: Silver Tabby
There can be little doubt, that the Silver Tabby cat, when clearly marked, and whether Long-haired or short-haired, is simply spectacular to behold. They are a feline vision of loveliness and contrast.
Although relatively small in number by the turn of the twentieth century, their impact and success on the show bench was none-the-less disproportionate, with the best examples regularly finding high favour with adjudicators.
Two of the most eminent of early judges and feline authors, thought similarly; so it is to their opinions and authority that we now turn. Miss Frances Simpson, in The Book of The Cat, began her chapter on Silver Tabbies with these words:
"There can be no question that a really good silver tabby will carry off the palm even from the most exquisite unmarked silver cat, and in this assertion I feel I have the support of all our professional judges, for with the 'mere man,' it is well known, the pale silvers do not stand high in favour. Men call them 'wishy-washy,' insipid, and wanting in expression, and are generally displeased at this sport in the fancy that has spoiled the handsome silver tabbies of years gone by.
"No doubt there is cause for complaint, for the inter-breeding of silvers with silver tabbies has undoubtedly done much to destroy the clear defined markings, which in tabby cats is their chief glory. Now of course, it is easily understood that these tabby markings in a long-haired cat cannot be so distinct as those that appear to such advantage in the short-haired breeds. 'The better the coat the weaker the markings' may be said of Persian silver tabbies and judges have been known to give the highest award to an out-of-coat specimen just because the markings are more evident than in a cat in full pelage."
Then from Mr. Charles A. House, we read the following commentary about Silver Tabbies, written the very same year:
"The Silver Tabby is, in my opinion, one of the handsomest Cats on the show bench, but it is not so popular to-day as it used to be, for the simple reason that the breed has lost much of its charm in the rage for Chinchillas. In colour the Silver Tabby should be pure clear Silver with rich deep, black markings."
But not everyone agreed that the combining of Chinchilla and Silver Tabby lines was detrimental. Breeders were aware that the Chinchilla was, in fact, drawn out of the Silver tabby and therefore breeding a clear-coated cat was seen as the more difficult prospect. Frances Simpson gave the opposing view in this quote, from a well-known authority on breeding silver tabbies, published in Fur and Feather:
"A great deal has been said as to the disadvantage of crossing chinchillas with silver tabbies, but we think this applies more to the detriment of chinchillas than of tabbies. Provided the tabby, on one side, is of a very decided type, the chinchilla, having come originally from the same stock, may not prove a bad cross. Miss Cope's 'Silver Tangle,' for instance, one of the best marked silver tabby queens, is the child of the chinchilla 'Silver Chieftain,' and of a queen bred from a silver tabby sire. A good young queen belonging to Mr. Hoddinott, was bred from 'Lord Argent' and a tabby mother. 'Champion Felix' was bred from 'Topso,' a heavily marked tabby, and 'Lady Pink,' a cat that would nowadays have been called a light shaded silver with white markings."
But there is no better authority than that gained by 'experience', and so it is from Miss Leake, that we find the most convincing historic facts and arguments for the breeding and exhibiting of well-marked silver tabbies.
"Possibly among the rarest of our long-haired cats may be classed the really well-marked silver tabby. Twenty years ago he existed, and was, indeed, more commonly met with than to-day. For at that time chinchillas were practically unknown, save for a few scarce specimens, and the silver cats of that day were commonly called 'grey' Persians, and were nearly always tabbies. But with the popularity of the pale chinchillas began the downfall of the heavily marked tabby. Instead of breeding for the preservation of markings, everyone worked their hardest to breed out markings, and the real tabby kittens were almost unsaleable..... But at last the tide has turned, and people are beginning to realise that there is a character, a beauty and a contrast of colouring in a good tabby, which lend to them, a charm all their own."
But Miss Leake's best advice is for the handler or judge of a Silver Tabby long-hair when placed on the show bench. Like Frances Simpson, she alludes to the fact that a cat in full coat is at a distinct disadvantage over one that is not in full coat and suggests how this should be overcome by a competent judge:
"The massive frill, and the long light shoulder tufts give the cat a very pale frontage; and if he be placed in a show pen side by side with a cat whose coat is just coming, whose marks show up, in all probability he will take a second place. No stroking, blowing of the coat, or other device will show off a tabby cat. He must be made to get up and walk. Then the long coat falls apart, the spine lines reveal themselves, the side patches fall into place, and bars, stripes, and swirls, and rings all are to be seen. Even then you will not see them all at once, but as he moves and turns, one by one the points will show themselves."
In the show ring of today, we may enjoy watching our judges do exactly that, attracting the exhibits attention with a wand, and allowing them to stretch, and rise up and move around on the judges table, better to see them in the full bloom of their beauty.
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