TOPSO OF DINGLEY (1886)
PHOTOS | SOCIAL MEDIA | REFERENCES
Dubbed by author Helen M. Winslow as 'the Best Long-haired Silver Tabby in England'1, 'Champion Topso of Dingley' stands at the very apex of a long family tree of famous Silver Tabby Longhairs, a number of whom have made a significant contribution to the history of Silver Tabbies both in the United Kingdom and the United States.
He also features on the pedigrees of a good number of chinchilla cats, which have likewise been bred from his descendants, duly mixed with the offspring from other Silver Persian bloodlines. But his successes and those of many his offspring were due in the main to the untiring efforts of his devoted owner and admirer, Miss S. Anderson-Leake.
On her expertise as a specialist breeder of Silver Tabbies, in 1903, Miss Frances Simpson commends:
"Miss Anderson Leake is justly celebrated as a most enthusiastic and successful breeder of silver tabbies, and is our greatest authority on this variety. As far back as 1887, 'Topso of Dingley' was exhibited by Miss Leake at The Crystal Palace. This cat was said to be of Irish descent, but his ancestors were sunk in oblivion. Not so, however, his progeny, for the winnings of his son, 'Champion Felix', owned by Miss F. Moore, of Beckenham, are fresh in the minds of those who, like myself, can remember beautiful cats of bygone years. In 1889, Miss Leake entered 'Topso' and two toms in a class for 'Blue or Silver Tabbies, with or without white'. 'Felix' was also in this class, as a winner of the Challenge Cup. Miss A. Leake's 'Abdul Zaphir', and the present representatives of the breed, 'Abdul Hamet' and 'Marquis of Dingley' are household names amongst silver tabby fanciers."2
It is acknowledged by Frances Simpson, that Silver Tabbies were the original root stock of all silvers, but that in the craze for breeding an unmarked silver cat, namely the Chinchilla,- that the silver tabbies of the day suffered materially. This appears to have begun with the appearance of 'Ch. Silver Lambkin' (born in 1889), sired by the Smoke 'Ch. Perso' and out of 'Beauty of Bridgeyate'(1885), a daughter of the appropriately named silver 'Chinnie'(1883).
Writing in 1903, Miss Simpson points this out clearly in her chapter on Chinchilla's where the difficulty in breeding well-marked silver tabbies with the desired long coat of the Persian is likewise explained:
"The third in the group of silvers, is the silver tabby. The points are here stated: The (Ground*) colour of a silver tabby should be pale, clear silver, with distinct black markings. (*Editor) This variety, ought in equity to have been mentioned first, as it is the original stock, but it has been overshadowed by the superior attractions of the chinchilla. (Silver tabby enthusiasts will perhaps pardon this eulogy of my favourite breed). There is not the slightest doubt this handsome cat, the silver tabby, has suffered materially from the craze for the newer variety, and consequently the type has not been kept pure. They have been bred over and over again with cats of less markings in the hope of breeding chinchillas, until at the present day there are very few silver tabbies true to type.
"The position of the silver tabby in the feline scale is very peculiar. As a Persian it is of course, necessary that its coat should be long and fine, whilst as a tabby it is desirable that the markings should show up to advantage. How to reconcile the two is the puzzle, for the longer the coat the less the markings are evident, as the stripes are merged in the flowing coat, so that we sometimes see at the cat shows exhibits woefully out of coat in the first rank, as the markings are much more distinct. It follows, then, in this variety of the silver, a long coat is distinctly a disadvantage when competing at shows."2
Unknown Unknown | Unknown Topso of Dingley, May-1886, Silver Tabby, M | Unknown Unknown Unknown
'Topso', who was born at some time in May 1886, can claim the singular distinction of being the 1000th cat to be registered by The National Cat Club, whose registration numbering began with 1001, with 'Topso' gaining the spot with '2000'. His entry is given with 'Sire' and 'Dam' as unknown. No breeder is listed and his owner is recorded as Miss S. Anderson Leake, Dingley Hill, Bradford, near Reading.
And so it is to Miss Leake that we look for the best description of the correct markings on a Silver Tabby Long-hair. These excerpts are just a sampling of her very full and profoundly in-depth description of what actually constitutes a well-marked Silver Tabby:
"Possibly amongst the rarest of our longhaired cats may be classed the really well marked silver tabby. Twenty years ago he existed, and was, indeed, more commonly met with than today. For at that time chinchillas were practically unknown, save for a few scarce specimens, and the silver cats of that day, were more 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 makings, everyone worked their hardest to breed out the markings, and real tabby kittens were almost unsaleable. Those that were produced were frequently ventured and sold at a low price for pets. The lightest specimens in a litter were preserved for breeding purposes, and rarer and rarer became the deeply marked silver tabby. 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. Added to this, they are exceedingly rare and difficult to produce."2
"Competent judges agree that to breed regular, symmetrical, and well-coloured markings is no easy task, for contrast is the grand point in a silver tabby. His ground coat, from tip to tail should be pure pale white silver. On this light silver ground-work lie the most beautiful even dark mottlings, dark to the point of blackness. These markings are most difficult to describe. A dark stripe runs the whole length of the spine. Then comes a light stripe on either side, then two more dark stripes, but these are broken just behind the shoulder by a transverse bar of light silver, and widen on the shoulder into considerable sized patches. The markings on the sides are not stripes, but patches, elliptical in shape, generally three in number, and partially encircles by dark stripes. He shoulder is particularly heavily barred and striped, as are also the hind quarters. The legs are barred throughout their length, the face should be dark, with dark tufts, and the back part of the hind legs from the knee downward is black, (The hocks* Ed.) as in a Southdown Sheep.
"The head is most beautifully pencilled, the cheeks possess double or triple swirls, the eyes are outlined by dark rims; on the forehead the lines form a complete triangle, which is repeated at the nape of the neck. The chest is encircled with a perfect dark ring, called 'The Lord Mayor's chain', but this is concealed when the large light frill is in full beauty, as is also the neck triangle. The whiskers often contain all the different shades of colour found in the coat. The ear tufts should be long and light. The tail is generally ringed from trunk to tip, but this is not noticeable after kittenhood, owing to the great length of the hair. Also, the hair to the root is much darker on the tail than on the body.
"Not only evenness and regularity of markings go to the making of a good tabby, but sharpness and depth of colour in the dark parts, and clearness of colour in the light parts. A great deal has been said of late regarding the depth of the black markings; but it is quite as necessary to insist on the purity of the silver tone. No suspicion of brown must be tolerated, neither any blue or grey tone.
"There is no question that, as a tabby, a long-haired cat is handicapped by its length of coat. There are some people who would rob him of his crowning glory in order that his beautiful striping may the better appear. But surely it were better for them to confine themselves to short-haired cats if they cannot appreciate the marvel of long-haired tabby markings. For marvellous they truly are, when we consider that the dark marks are only formed by tips to the hair of some quarter of an inch in length. When the coat is quite short, these tips are massed together, and the blackness is, so to speak, concentrated. When the hair is at full length - of from two to four inches - it can be readily understood that the long flowing locks mix and mingle with the paler coat, and some distinctness of marking is lost. 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. Thenthe long coat falls apart, the spine lines reveal themselves, the side patches fall into place, the bars, stripes, swirls, and rings are all 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."2
As the parentage of 'Topso' is unknown, we likewise at the current point in time, have no information to hand on any possible siblings. But from a commentary in her book 'Concerning Cats' (1900), Helen M. Winslow alludes to evidence of his early successes on the show bench:-
"Topso, a magnificent silver tabby male, belonging to Miss Anderson Leake, of Dingley Hill, was at one time the best long-haired silver tabby in England, and took the prize on that account in 1887; his sons, daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters, have all taken prizes at Crystal Palace in the silver tabby classes, since that time."1
The National Cat Club Stud-book and Register also records his first wins with his registration, which were: "1st, Crystal Palace, 1887; 2nd, Crystal Palace, 1889. Sire to Ch. Felix and many other prize winners."3
'Topso' has an enviable record as a silver tabby stud male, one only matched by his own great-grandson, Miss Leake's 'Abdul Hamet of Dingley'. From this primary progenitor of many silver tabbies, but also smokes and chinchillas, we can list the following key progeny:
'CH. FELIX', Silver Tabby Male, date of birth unknown. NCC: 10453
Among his prominent daughters, 'Miss Fluffie of Dingley' (whose dam was 'Brookville Fluffie'), sired by 'Ch. Silver Lambkin', 'Miss Fluffie' was bred by Mrs. Robinson; and 'True Love of Dingley' bred by Mrs. Turner, out of 'Sunshine' and owned by Miss A. Leake. 'Miss Fluffie' went on to be the dam of many more famous 'Dingley' cats, all sired by 'Abdul Hamet of Dingley'.
Another silver tabby grandson was 'Aramis', sired by 'Felix Mottisfont', bred by Miss Freeland and owned by Mrs. Frank Worthington.
Among prominent granddaughters, were 'New Forest Fairy' by 'Felix Mottisfont', bred by Miss Freeland and owned by Miss Hester Cochran; then later by Mrs. White Atkins. And 'Argent Dainty', by Ch. Adbul Zaphir of Dingley, bred by Miss Anderson Leake, originally owned by Mrs. Lely, but eventually owned by Mrs. Champion.
'HUZ OF DINGLEY', Chinchilla Neuter, born April, 1892. NCC: 20043
'CLIMAX' (Described as Silver Grey..Chinchilla? with no date of birth). (NCC: 1034)3
'SULTAN OF DINGLEY', Silver Tabby Neuter, born April, 1893. NCC:20033
'SOLOMON OF DINGLEY', Silver Tabby Male, born 15th August, 1894. NCC: 20023
'SIR VISTO', Silver Tabby Male, born 31st March, 1895. NCC: 20863
'SILVER BAR', presumed Silver Tabby Male, date of birth unknown. By 'Topso' out of 'Lady Pink' and therefore a full sibling to 'Ch. Felix', 'Cimax' and 'Sultan of Dingley'. Recorded in the CCR as the sire of 'Fairy Queen', a Silver Tabby female bred by Miss Phyre and owned by Miss M.G. Micklethwaite.4
'JACOB', presumed a smoke male, date of birth unknown.Rgeistered CCR By 'Topso' out of 'Bluebell'. 'Jacob' was probably bred by and was certainly owned by Mrs. . Nicholay. He is listed as the sire of 'Iver Cinderella', a Smoke female born in August 1891, which would suggest that 'Jacob' was one of the earliest sons of 'Topso'.4
'SYLVIA', presumed Silver Tabby, date of birth unknown. Listed as the dam of a number of cats, and with her sire as 'Topso of Dingley' (Silver Tabby) and dam as 'Stella of Dingley' (also a Silver Tabby). As her dam 'Stella' is known to have been born in 1887 and died in 1892, this puts the birth of Sylvia as 'predating 1892'. Bred by Miss Anderson Leake, and probably sold to Miss Crompton Roberts, who bred from her, the famous Chinchilla, 'Lord Argent'.3
'POLLY', presumed a light Silver Tabby or Chinchilla, date of birth unknown. Listed as the dam of 'Ch. Ranji' (Black Smoke born in October, 1897. 'Polly' was owned by Mrs. Davies, who bred 'Ranji' and sold him to Mrs. A.M. Stead.4
'ADRIENNE', Chinchilla Female, born 14th April, 1894. NCC: 18703
'DAINTY DIAMOND OF DINGLEY', Silver Tabby Female, born November, 1894. NCC: 2232.3
'WATERSHIP TRILBY', Smoke Female, born 22nd August, 1895. CCR 4
'OCLE FLUFFIE', Silver Tabby Female, date of birth unknown. CCR
Later, Miss Fluffie would be line-bred to Topso's Great Grandson, 'Abdul Hamet of Dingley' a number of times, and this would produce 'The Marquis of Dingley', 'Zano', 'The Dingley Owlet','Dingley Fashion', and 'The Dingley Potentate'.
'LADY KITTY', presumed a Silver Tabby Female, date of birth unknown.
'LOST', pattern unknown female, date of birth unknown.
'SHADY', styled as a Self-Silver female, date of birth unknown.
Among his most famous Grandsons are included:
'CH. ABDUL ZAPHIR OF DINGLEY', Silver Tabby male, born 1891
Included in Abdul Zaphir's wins as a Silver Tabby are: 1st at the Crystal Palace in 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, plus Silver Medal and Special. This was supplemented later by 1st, Crystal Palace, 1897, 1898, 3rd at Brighton 1898, and 1st at Westminster in 1899.3
'LORD ARGENT', Chinchilla male, born 22nd September, 1894.
'CH. RANJI', Black Smoke male, born October, 1897.
None currently available.
'Topso' is one of the few foundation cats that can be traced across a myriad of cattery bloodlines, due to the contribution made by a number of his descendants into a wide variety breeding programs for Tabby, Silver Tabby, Shaded Silver, Chinchilla and Smoke Persians. This can largely be attributed to the wonderful work done by Miss Anderson Leake in establishing the 'Dingley' strain and then working hard to enhance and preserve it over a roughly twenty year period. Her bloodlines were duly magnified by the achievements of Miss Moore, with 'Ch. Felix', Miss Freeland, with 'Felix Mottisfont' and later, Miss Cope of 'Roiall' cattery, who was immensely faithful to the 'Dingley' strain in her own breeding , and whose cats were similarly disseminated into other catteries. 'Topso' like 'Chinnie' sits at the apex of his respective family tree, similarly a figurehead surrounded by the mystery of his origins and a testament to what one admiring person could achieve with copious amounts of love and determination.
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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