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In the annals of feline history, it is generally the males that have the most far-reaching and long-term impact on either one or multiple breeding programs, but this is seldom the case with a female, except in those instances where she produces a popular male, which in his turn greatly influences the breed.
But in the case of 'Polyphema', we have an exception, for not only did she produce a prepotent male of her own era, but she also produced some of the very best females of the next generation., one of which, Champion Eve, would ultimately pass down the family bloodlines through her progeny to future generations; all the way down to the current day.
Miss Forestier Walker, sister to Lady Vyvyan, recounts in The Book of The Cat (1903), the origins or their strain of Siamese:
"A pair from the Palace were given to Mrs. Vyvyan and myself in 1884-5,and we have been very careful in breeding , mating when possible with such good cats as Mrs. Lee's celebrated 'Meo', Miss Moore's 'Siam', Mrs. Harrington's 'Mechi', etc, and have bred in consequence, the famous 'Tiam-O-Shians' II, III, and IV, 'Polyphema', 'Susa', 'Kitya Kara', 'Goblin', 'Champion Eve', 'Mafeking', 'Vishuddha', 'Ah Choo', 'Suzanne' and many others."1
This statement is supported by one from Mrs. Carew-Cox, who, in the same chapter informs us:
"Miss Forestier Walker and her sister (Mrs. Vyvyan), who have owned and bred many beautiful specimens, first made acquaintance with this breed in 1883, and soon afterwards were presented with 'Susan' and 'Samuel' direct from the palace at Bangkok. 'Tiam O Shian I' also came from Bangkok. All these cats had kinked tails. From 'Susan' and 'Tiam O'Shian I' - mated with Mrs. Lee's 'Meo', Mr. Harrington's 'Medu', (Mechi), and Miss Moore's 'Siam',- descended, amongst others, the following well-known and typical cats: 'Bangkok', 'Tiam O'Shian II', 'Goblin', 'Kitza Kara', 'Queen Rhea', 'King Wallypug', 'Prince of Siam', 'Tiam O-Shian III', 'Adam', 'Eve', 'Cupid', 'Mafeking', 'Rangsit', 'Vishudda', 'Tiam O Shian IV', 'Suzanne', 'Ah Choo', 'Tornito' and 'Evangeline'."1
When considering the nineteen cats listed by Mrs. Carew Cox as notable descendants from this strain, 'Polyphema' is most noticeable by her absence! And yet no fewer than five of the cats included in this list are her direct progeny!
Puppy, seal point Tiam O'Shian III, seal point | Susa, seal point Polyphema, Ju1-25-1895, seal point Siamese, F | Tiam O'Shian II, seal point Priscilla, seal point Mrs. O'Shian, seal point
'Polyphema' was born 25th July 1895, bred by Miss Forestier Walker. She was sired by Lady Vyvyan's 'Tiam O'Shian III' and out of Miss Walker's line-bred queen 'Priscilla'. Her date of birth is however, erroneously recorded in both the CCR, (The Cat Club Register), and the SCR, (The Siamese Cat Register), as 25th July 1885! Given the dates of birth of her recorded litters being 1899, 1900, and 1901 respectively, this would have put her at between 14 and 16 years of age when producing them! It would also have meant her birth predated that of her own sire. The error was most likely a clerical one in the CCR record, published in1902, which was then erroneously duplicated in the SCR, when that was printed in 1924.
It is important to remember, that power or strength behind any specific breeding, cannot always be attributed to the quality of the male alone. Sadly however, at the time, this was often considered to be the case, which is why so many breeders advertised the particular merits and show records of their studs and how many winning progeny they had produced within a specific show season. But thoughtful and experienced breeders also know that a brood queen, who is herself line-bred upon a good foundation, be it based on a respected male or female, is more likely to be a consistent producer, regardless of to whom she is bred to!
The beauty of 'Polyphema', which she shared in equal measure with 'Eve', was a base line upon which future generations could build. In the case of 'Polyphema', although in the litters bred back to her sire 'Tiam O'Sihian III' she produced top show specimens such as 'Eve', 'Ah Choo' 'Suzanne' and 'Tiam O'Shian IV' , we should not rush to credit their quality solely to the sire, for she was inherently equally responsible for the success of this line going forward into succeeding generations. Her own dam 'Priscilla' was the result of a direct and heavy line-breeding, based solely on a tripling of the original 'Tiam O'Shian I', (sire, grandsire, and great-grandsire), and it is through her, that there is direct preservation of the originally imported line, to 'Susan' (Imp.Thailand).
'Tiam O'Shian III' carried a more obtuse and indirect doubling on 'Tiam O'Shian I' but in combination with 'Priscilla' that line was imprinted into 'Polyphema' a full five times! Is it any wonder then, that when she herself was bred back to her sire, the resultant progeny would carry the first and original imported 'Tiam O'Shian' in their pedigree no less than seven times.
Being bred back to her sire at least three times that we know of, all her own progeny from these breedings were subsequently also her own sire-siblings, carrying, as we have already explained, a historical line-breeding based upon the original 'Tiam O'Shian I' a full seven times. These cats, are all dealt with separately under the heading of 'Breeding & Progeny'.
What is generally unknown, is that she had at least one dam sibling, a male named 'Gipel Tarik', whose record in the Siamese Cat Register, confirms that he was bred by Lady Vyvyan (confirming that his dam is the same 'Priscilla') and was owned by Mrs. Allen Maturin. With this entry, another mystery is created. His date of birth is simply given as August, 1895. This clashes with the date of birth of 'Polyphema', also from 'Priscilla' ,whose date of birth is 25th July.
Another complication is that the sire of 'Gipel Tarik' is given as 'Tommy'. No progeny are recorded for 'Gipel Tarik' ,but there are other Siamese recorded as sired by 'Tommy', but 'Tommy' himself remains "unlisted". The only other listed progeny of 'Tommy', are 'Penang' and 'Perak', both females bred by Mrs. Murray Ramsey, and neither of which have any progeny of record.
So this mystery has only two possible outcomes. Either 'Priscilla' had a litter to two different males in different years (with no original or ongoing record of 'Tommy'), or that 'Tommy' was the pet name given for 'Tiam O'Shian III' and that 'Polyphema' and 'Gipel Tarik' were possibly littermates with the date of birth for the male being erroneously entered as August, instead of late July.
Although Mrs. Parker-Brough alludes in comments to the considerable success of 'Polyphema' as an exhibit, we can find no official record of what constituted those wins.
It was through her progeny that Polyphema contributed the most to the establishment of the Siamese breed in the United Kingdom. From her four litters of record, three of which were back to her sire, 'Tiam O'Shian III', and one to 'Champion Wankee', she produced the following:
'Boojum', was retained by Mrs. Backhouse, and was the sire of 'Boojum II' out of 'Ranee who was in turn was the sire of 'Prince Vudighi'.(out of his litter sister 'Bandoola')
Regretfully, no images can currently be found of any of 'Eve's progeny.
Eve's grandson, 'Prince Vudighi' , and hence, 'Boojum', 'Boojum II' 'Bandoola', 'Wankee' and 'Eve' may all be found on the pedigrees of many of today's Siamese, a great many coming down from the sons and grandsons of 'Prince Vudighi', through cats such as 'Litabois' and 'Bigabois' to name just a few.
Of 'Eve's own show career, we have the following comments from Miss Forestier Walker and Mrs. Parker Brough respectively:
"Mrs. Backhouse's 'Champion Eve' was a distinguished prize-winner."1
"Probably Mrs. Backhouse's 'Champion Eve' and Mrs. Vyvyan's 'Polyphema' were the best females exhibited."1
'TIAM O'SHIAN IV' & 'VISHUDDA'
In a subsequent litter from 'Polyphema', born 15th May 1899, were two males; one of them being the famous 'Tiam O'Shian IV', who very quickly became the most popular Siamese male in the country beside 'Ch. Wankee.'. The second male from this litter was 'Vishuddha'. 'Tiam O'Shian' was retained at stud by Lady Vvvyan, while 'Vishuddha' was held by her sister, Mrs. Forestier Walker. 'Vishuddha' was shown, gaining a First and Challenge, at the Botanic Gardens Show of 1900.
'Tiam O'Shian', of course, was widely used, but sad to say, despite this, few if any, of his own lines have survived to this day, but the combination that produced him, lives on in the progeny from his older sibling, 'Eve', who as the dam of 'Bandoola', is the forebear behind 'Prince Vudighi' and thence to 'Litabois', who may consequently be found behind most Siamese of today.
'AH CHOO' & 'SUZANNE'
A repeat of the successful breedings that had produced 'Eve', 'Tiam O Shian IV' and 'Vishudda' then produced on 3rd May, 1900, the lovely females 'Ah Choo' and 'Suzanne'. 'Suzanne' was retained by Lady Vyvyan, but 'Ah Choo' went to the owner of 'Ch.Wankee', Mrs. Robinson.
'Ah Choo', who was a most appealing looking Siamese, had distinguished wins at Manchester in 1901, followed by Firsts at the Botanic and Crystal Palace Shows of 1902. Her photo, by Landor, is a delightful and revealing study, giving us an insight into what appears to be her friendly, almost 'impish', inquisitive personality. It also shows us the beautiful contrast between her light body colour and her dark, well defined points; genetic traits which have no doubt been passed down through the generations, through her sister 'Eve'. Mrs. Forestier Walker then reveals another interesting piece of history:
"Mrs. Robinson's 'Ah Choo' was chosen as a model for the medal of the Siamese Club."1
So now we know that this wee lady impressed enough fanciers and members of the newly formed Siamese Cat Club, to be selected as the most suitable model for the Clubs first medallion.
Although we have no images of 'Suzanne', we do have the following commentary from Mrs. Carew Cox:
"In awarding prizes in the Siamese classes at the Cat Club Show at Westminster in 1901, I found 'Suzanne' quite the best cat present, and upon referring subsequently to a catalogue was not surprised to find that Mrs. Vyvyan was her owner."1
'TAMAGNO', 'DE RESKE', 'NADA' & 'VAN DYKE'(aka VAN DYK)
In a breeding to 'Champion Wankee', 'Polyphema' produced four kittens, born 8th February, 1901. The litter was comprised of three males, 'Tamagno', 'De Reske', and 'Van Dyke', plus one female, 'Nada'. All were originally retained by Lady Vyvyan, probably because she desired to run them on before choosing which male should possibly be retained as a future stud; and there is little doubt that from such a wonderful outcross, that she would have kept the sole female 'Nada' for breeding.
However, the lack of any registered progeny from any of these as adults is indeed most unusual. One possibility worth considering is that at this time a great debate was raging over whether the standard for the Siamese should allow for a kink in the tail. Lady Vyvyan's own stud, 'Tiam O'Shian IV' was known to have a straight tail, without a kink, while 'Champion Wankee' clearly did have one.
Whether any of the progeny had kinked tails is unknown, but regardless, Lady Vyvyan is likely to have retained something from this breeding going forward, if only to preserve the outcross lines.
The combination of bloodlines in the breeding of 'Priscilla' to 'Tiam O'Shian III' was unique. That 'Polyphema' was the result, and that she was such a reliable breeder who consistently reproduced her own best qualities in her progeny, is a testament to the successful 'fixing' of the imported foundation bloodlines in her gene pool, through a combination of 'in-breeding and selective outcrossing'. This is where the experience of Lady Vyvyan and Miss Forestier Walker in particular, shines through.
'Polyphema' may not have made Mrs. Cox's list of notable Siamese from the 'Tiam O'Shian' strain, but this seems to be a genuine oversight on her part, concentrating more on the famous names of her progeny. 'Polyphema' in fact, represented the genetic pinnacle of that breeding program to that point in time, and it is almost too terrible to consider what would have been lost, if she had not been the successful brood queen, that she ultimately proved to be.
Any experienced breeder worth their salt, when offered a cat for breeding, will, before anything else, ask to see the pedigree. Any novice, needs to learn above all else that every cat is a genetic package on four legs, and that there is far more to breeding than putting a male and female of the same breed together, hoping for a good result!
Our hold on the genetic packages that we are entrusted with, in each and every cat that comes under our care, is at best, tenuous, and a very great gift. How important it is therefore, to learn and truly know what you have been given, to know your pedigrees and all the valuable history contained in them.
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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