DON CARLOS (1901)
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The Blue Persian, when we step back and view its developmental changes over what is now approaching 140 years, it does phenotypically appear to have undergone tremendous change, and none more-so, than those affecting the structure of the head. The body and boning has also changed, but not as dramatically. The tail, neck and legs are all generally shorter to balance with the shorter, cobbier body. The ears are today, considerably smaller, set wider apart, with far rounder tips, fitting better into the overall rounded contours of the head. The eyes are set much wider apart, the nose is now 'snub' rather than just shorter, and with a well-defined deep break, giving the modern greatly foreshortened, brachiocephalic look to the face; while the eyes in the modern Persian cat are larger, and sweeter in expression than their earlier counterparts.
In earlier times, breeders concentrated predominantly on evenness of colour, eliminating barring in solid colours, obtaining smaller ears that were set wider apart and lower on the skull. Coat length and boning became more important, and then finally, roundness of face and eye colour that would better compliment the coat colour. On the way, as some perceived improvements were made, other somewhat detrimental effects were sustained. By foreshortening the muzzle, and gaining a flatter profile, pressure on the nasal passages and tear ducts created unsightly creases or folds down each side of the face, and in some cases, the eyes became deeper set and the brow more prominent. As breeders recognised the negative effects on health, they persevered in selecting for wider skulls to alleviate that pressure, setting the eyes further apart, and thereby reducing folds or creases, to alleviate narrowness of the nasal passages and to avoid blockages to the tear ducts. Accordingly, when assessing the modern Persian cat, experienced judges take care to select for the sweetest expression, and the smoothest facial profile.
Of course, not all cats that have contributed to the breed or in this case, a colour variety, were necessarily famous or titled. Some, like Don Carlos, are a simply one among the many links in a long chain of development, spanning decades. Even so, such cats can certainly still prove to be keystone markers for change, usually by having one or more special attributes for which they particularly stand out; effectively turning heads and demanding attention, but more importantly - changing attitudes. These are the cats which mark a new course or change of direction, and this was certainly the case with 'Don Carlos'.
In many respects, 'Don Carlos' was unremarkable except for one specific attribute, and the fact that he was descended from an established and respected line of 'Blues', with direct descendancy links down from basically all of the primary foundation blue Persian males of record; all those responsible for the rapid ascendency of the blue as a 'force majeure' in Persians as a whole.
Waterloo, Blue ENG CH Ayrshire Ronald, Blue | Hazel, Blue Don Carlos, Mar-29-1901, Blue, M | Jeremiah, Blue Beauty, Blue Miss Bluecoat, Blue
'Don Carlos' was born March 29th, 1901. He was bred by Scotland's best-known breeder and judge of Blue Persians, Mrs. MacKenzie Stewart, who also frequently officiated or exhibited at Shows held as far south as London or Brighton. She served on the committee of 'The Cat Club' when it was founded by Lady Marcus Beresford in 1898, and as Vice-President of the Blue Persian Cat Society when it was established in 1901. The sire of 'Don Carlos' was Mrs. MacKenzie Stewarts very popular blue male, 'Ch. Ayrshire Ronald', (NCC:3050) born in 1898; himself a son of the blue male 'Waterloo', born in 1899. The sire of 'Waterloo', was Mrs. Florence Marriot's foundation blue male and early Champion 'Turkish Delight' (NCC:1644), born in Spring 1890, from unknown parentage.
On his maternal side, the dam of 'Don Carlos was one of many blue Persian females, named 'Beauty', but this one identified by the unique combination of her sire, 'Jeremiah' (NCC:2106) born April 1st, 1895; and his dam 'Miss Bluecoat'. Through her sire, 'Beauty' was a grand-daughter of the watershed blue Persian male, 'Ch. Wooloomooloo'. Interestingly, by tracing 'Beauty's background we find good evidence of the complex networking being undertaken by breeders of blues at this time, in the sharing and devolution of bloodlines. 'Beauty' appears to have been originally owned by Lady Williams, who had bred her in 1899 to the blue male 'Windsor Nemophyla', owned by Lady Marcus Beresford. This combination produced 'Windsor Periwinkle' who was subsequently owned by Lady Beresford. We similarly find a full sister to 'Beauty' named 'Hawthorn Silver II' owned by Miss Bull, who was similarly bred to Lady Beresford's same blue male in 1901, to produce Miss Bull's queen 'Blue She Devil'. The same female was also bred to Lady Beresford's 'Blue Boy II' to produce Miss Bull's 'Bluestocking'.
'Beauty's' sire 'Jeremiah' (NCC:2106), was one of a number of males sired by the renown 'Ch. Wooloomooloo, and subsequently retained for breeding. He appears from the National Cat Club register to have been originally owned by Mrs. Bluhm, a well-known breeder of both Blues and Silvers, but is later recorded as owned by a Mrs. Thompson. As the dam of 'Beauty' was 'Miss Bluecoat' and she was also the dam of Miss Bull's 'Hawthorn Silver II', bred by Miss Bull; we can probably assume with some credibility that 'Beauty' was in fact bred by Miss Bull, then sold to Lady Williams, and latterly passed to Mrs. Stewart MacKenzie.
Through his dam and her grand-sire 'Ch.Wooloomooloo', 'Don Carlos' could also claim direct descendancy from a plethora of foundation blues, including a double on the original foundation male 'Old Jumbo' through 'Frisk' and 'Fluff'; but also through 'Jeremiah's' dam, 'Hawthorn Kashin', who was through her sire 'Ch. Glaucus' (born 1890), a grand-daughter of 'The Friar' by foundation blue 'Turco', and similarly as a grand-daughter of 'Zeta', by foundation Blue-Smoke, 'Ch. Perso'. On her maternal side 'Hawthorn Kashin' was also a grand-daughter of 'Ch. Beauty Boy', a son of the Miss Simpson's blue queen 'Mater', (NCC:1094) matriarch of her own dynasty of Blues.
'Don Carlos' was acquired for breeding by a relatively new fancier of Blues, Miss Marion Humfrey, while his litter sister was retained by Mrs. MacKenzie Stewart with the intention of putting her back into her own breeding program.
From the above stud advertisements for the paternal sire and grandsire of 'Don Carlos' we see that from the text, 'eyes' in both are focused on as being particularly good, and in the case of 'Waterloo' they are described as deep orange.
When the litter containing 'Don Carlos' was born, on March 29th, 1901; Mrs. MacKenzie Stewart retained a blue litter sister whom she very appropriately named 'Ayrshire Golden Eyes', for her intense eye colour. This was a familial trait, recognised as a strength traceable through the paternal side, but specifically enhanced in this litter, in both 'Ayrshire Golden Eyes' and her brother 'Don Carlos'. This enhancement was to have a significant impact on the direction of blue breeding, as we shall read later.
There is only one other full sibling of record, a blue male named 'Ronalds Boy' or 'Seagate Ronalds Boy', born in the month of April, (circa 1904) from a repeat breeding. In the notice which appears in 'Our Cats' Magazine, January 1905, the year of his birth is unspecified. But he is also found with the birth date of April 11th, 1904 under the name Ronald's Boy, in a Show Catalogue of the Midland Counties Cat Club from 1904, priced at 3 guineas.
There are of course, numerous other sire siblings, due to the popularity of 'Ch. Ayrshire Ronald' as a stud cat! The list is too long to include in this article, but it would be prudent to mention one notable half-brother, namely 'SIR ARCHIE OF ARRANDALE', who was by 'Ch. Ayrshire Ronald' and out of 'Flora MacDonald'. This male, born May 22nd, 1903, and bred by one of Scotland's other famous Persian fanciers Mrs. Finnie Young, would make his greatest claim to fame as the sire of 'Eng.Ch. Sir Archie II of Arrandale', another blue who could in fairness equally be described as a watershed blue Persian male of his time. And it is particularly worthy to note, that 'Archie II' was out of a grand-daughter of 'Don Carlos'!, namely 'Blue Lassie of Arrandale'. This combination therefore a distant doubling on Mrs. MacKenzie Stewarts 'Ch. Ayrshire Ronald' and those all-important genes for deeper eye colour.
Although there are no authoritative records of show results for 'Don Carlos', and he was not shown sufficiently to gain his Championship; he did however turn heads for various other reasons, and example of which the below excerpt from a Show Report written by Frances Simpson, remarking on her classes at the Brighton Show is an excellent record printed in Our Cats, 5th December, 1903).
"On the whole I was much pleased with the blues that came under my awards at Brighton. The four winning blues in the male class were extremely difficult to place, and I had them all out in the judging pen for quite a long time, comparing notes and balancing the points of one and the other, there being an absolute blank in my mind as to the cats before me, although two of them I had judged before. The winner, 'Don Carlos', was quite unrecognisable by reason of the vast improvement in the width of his head. 'Sailor Boy', had broadened out even since the Palace, and really appeared as a full-grown cat, whereas he was born in 1903. In the blue females Lady Decies again scored with her lovely 'Bee Bee', and Mrs. Hunt, who won second to her, may be congratulated on having a cat of such noble proportions, with deep orange eyes and tiny ears. This latter-named quality is sadly lacking in the ordinary run of Persian cats, and amongst the blues at Brighton many otherwise good specimens were marred with tall pointed ears. The two winning females, one by 'Blue Boy II'., the other by 'Big Ben', have their sires to thank for those lovely shaped small ears."
It would be fair to say, that after the turn of the century, Judges and fanciers of Blue Persians were becoming far more critical of the finer points in their cats; that other than coat and colour, boning, ear shape, size and set; and eye colour, along with eye shape and set were gaining momentum.
For many English breeders, a preponderance of weight was given to coat and colour over type, but this did change over time. In the first 30 years, (late 1880's to post WW1), coat and colour appears to have been paramount. This included not only the length and distribution of coat, and where it should appear longer (such as on the frill, or in tufting from the ears and paws); but also, to the hue of the colour, (whether light or dark) and most importantly, the evenness or soundness of the colour from tip to root. The following two quotations are a good example of this change between the first years of the 20th century and the third decade.
In his circa 1933 edition of Our Cats and All About Them, blue Persian breeder and judge, Charles House informs us: -
"Thirty years ago, when the Blue Persian Cat Society framed its first standard, 30 points were given for coat. To-day it reads 20, but 10 are given for condition. This again places a secondary property over a major one. Type is more important than coat, (Editors bolding) but by reason of a thick, long, bushy coat many a poor bodied cat has won, the heavy coat hiding the narrow body and thin limbs. These heavy-coated cats look more massive in head than they really are. Coat covers a multitude of faults in some cats."
But this had not always been his opinion, or for that matter, of other judges. It is interesting to compare the above statement, to an earlier one from Mr. House referring to coat, published 30 years earlier in 'Cats - Show and Pet', which had incidentally not been amended by the time of the publication of his Second Edition in 1912:
"The standard is far from an ideal standard in my opinion, the value placed upon the various properties being really out of all proportion. As an instance, colour and coat are put under one heading, and only thirty points allowed, (Editors bolding) whilst no less than twenty-five are allotted to the head. Surely there is not a fancier in the land who will deny that colour and coat are both of higher importance than the head. Again, twenty points for eye colour is altogether excessive."
Thankfully, we can forgive Mr. House's original enthusiasm for colour and coat over type, for 'that' was truly symptomatic of the state of play at the turn of the 19th into the 20th century, and he redeemed himself three decades later, when he himself overturned this original opinion and aligned himself with the leading breeders of the new generation in the 1930's; those who were by then placing much greater emphasis on structure and type, than on colour and coat.
We then find in the 1933 edition, his new additional commentary on eye colour, and with it, a useful and very specific reference to the Blue male, 'Don Carlos'!
"Eye colour! The fetish of some, the stumbling block of many. Years ago we used to talk of amber and orange coloured eyes in our Blues, and were satisfied. Then came that wondrous-eyed cat, Don Carlos, with eyes like burnished copper. Don Carlos set a fresh fashion and a new standard. The amber was dropped, and deep copper took its place. Even before the coming of Don Carlos I said and wrote in the first edition of 'Cats - Show and Pet' that 20 points for eyes were too many. Body then, as now, was given 15 points. The grading is not proportionate. Type, or form, is surely worth more than eye colour. Why, then, is it otherwise?"
When Miss Humfrey decided to place 'Don Carlos' at stud and advertise him in Our Cats, the following snip appeared in the Editorial columns published on 9th January, 1904:-
Don Carlos "Miss Humfrey is placing this noted young blue stud in our columns. A winner himself, Don Carlos has proved his worth as a sire, the litters sired by him averaging five to six kittens in each. He is the fortunate possessor of deep coloured eyes, which he usually bestows on his offspring."
Like his own sire, 'Ch. Ayrshire Ronald', and despite being untitled, as a mature male, with a broader head and lower set ears (as noticed by Miss Frances Simpson), and eyes of burnished copper (as noted by Charles A. House), 'Don Carlos' popularity as a stud, matched any other available. The authors own records contain a known progeny list over 70 in number. Similarly, the list of grand-children and great-grandchildren is exponentially large, even only some of these may have been used to any great extent, such as 'Sir Archie II of Arrandale' of whom we have already spoken.
Two daughters of special note are 'Berkshire Lassie' and 'Donna Ulsterina'. 'Lassie' for born October 3rd, 1903, bred and initially owned by Miss Marion Humfrey, the breeding that produced her, being based on a line-breed on her dam's grandsire, 'Ch. Wooloomooloo'. 'Berkshire Lassie' was then sold to Miss Fisher. Miss Fisher (of the famous HYVER cattery) in her turn, cleverly bred her to 'Sir Archie II of Arrandale' - which was a line-breeding based on 'Don Carlos' himself, the effect of which was also a triple on 'Ayrshire Ronald'. From this mating came 'Mollie of Hyver', who was exported to the United States, and ultimately became the property of Mrs. Kelf, of Staten Island. From 'Mollie' Mrs. Kelf bred the blue Persian male 'USA Db.Ch. Sapphire', the forebear of 'Ch. Lavender Supremacy' and through him, a host of American 'Lavender' cattery champions, including the famous blue 'Ch. Mayhew London'. A full sister to 'Supremacy' was 'Lavender Moth' and another famous older sire sibling was the Cream male 'Ch. Sunset Invincible'. Thus, were the foundation lines behind 'Don Carlos' passed down from the best of blood coming out of early English Blue Persian catteries to the leading blues coming out of the early American Persian catteries.
The second daughter of note, sired by 'Don Carlos', was 'Donna Ulsterina' who was owned by Mr. Hodgkinson, (of Sutherland Rd, West Ealing, London*). In 1909, she was bred to 'The Gondolier', a blue Persian male who was a direct third-generation descendant of Mrs. Slingsby's watershed blue male, 'Ch. Orange Blossom of Thorpe'.
If ever there was a case of 'The eyes have it!' then surely the story of 'Don Carlos' would fit that bill of fare. He became the first blue Persian whose notoriety for eyes of burnished copper inspired a new generation of breeders to seek a change to the breed standard, thereby accepting the challenge to permanently emulate this specific trait, as the new ideal.
Mr. House's invaluable commentary captures and highlights for us, that definitive moment in time, that critical turning point, when attitudes began to change; when the breeders of blues began to seriously consider how they could fulfil their new-found desire. How to more consistently produce specimens within their colour variety, with what they now perceived to be the correct 'glorious' and 'wondrously complimentary' eye colour befitting the natural beauty of their beloved Blues.
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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