About Russian Blue Cats
The Russian Blue is quite an old feline breed that descends from cats native to the current, and former, country of Russia. This is a lean, medium-sized cat with a short, dense, plush double-coat that is described as being seal-like in texture. The color should be a solid bluish-gray, with a distinctly silvery sheen that comes from the dilute expression of the black gene. The silver-to-transparent hair tips on darker slate-blue hairs are what give the coat of the Russian Blue such a shimmering appearance, which is especially apparent when observed in natural light. There should be no trace of white or tabby markings on the ideal Russian Blue. Top-quality coat color and texture are the single most important characteristics of the Russian Blue in show competition.
The nose and paw pads of this breed are also blue as adults. The eyes of Russian Blues are round to almond-shaped, slanted slightly upward at the outer corners and a beautiful, vivid emerald green. White patches or yellow in the eyes in adulthood are considered to be breed faults. The Russian Blue has a short muzzle set on a wedge-shaped head, with widely-set pointed ears and prominent whisker pads. The face of the Russian Blue has been likened to that of a cobra. Its body is long and graceful, as is its tail. The head of this breed is slightly more rounded than that of most other foreign shorthaired breeds, giving it a gentle, pleasing expression. It also appears to have a distinctive smile at most times. The Russian Blue is described as a cat that combines sturdiness with grace in appearance.
Russian Blues should not be confused with British Blues (which are not a distinct breed but rather are blue-coated British Shorthairs), nor with the Chartreux or Korat (which are two other distinct, naturally-occurring blue feline breeds).
Russian Blues normally make quiet, gentle and affectionate companions. They are strikingly handsome and unique among domestic cats in their combination of color, coat and conformation. These are docile, sensitive, kind animals that are particularly in-tune with their owners’ emotions. They develop strong bonds with their loved ones and are extremely affectionate and loyal. The Russian Blue is also known for getting along quite well with other pets and with children that live in their immediate household. They are typically tidy and clean. Russian Blues can be shy around strangers, unless they are brought up in a very well-socialized living environment. They are not known to be aggressive or especially reclusive. They do not like to be left alone for prolonged periods of time and prefer the company of either a person or another companion pet at all times. The Russian Blue makes an exceptionally devoted companion.
This breed is known for being bright and energetic. According to many breed fanciers, male Russian Blues usually are more active, outgoing and playful than are females, although many owners of female Russian Blues would no doubt challenge that generalization. However, this is not a breed that is known for needing a tremendous amount of exercise or stimulation. It tends to adjust its activity level to the emotional mood and needs of its household.
Russian Blues are known to be active, intelligent companion cats. They reportedly enjoy playing fetch, opening doors and even opening windows with their agile front legs. They also enjoy batting around any variety of toys or other objects, apparently for the sheer pleasure and amusement of it. Russian Blues frequently use their front paws to touch the faces of their owners, as a sign of affection and/or to bring them out of the blues. They also tend to clown around when a child is crying or distressed, in an attempt to distract it.
Unlike so many modern cat breeds, the Russian Blue is a native or natural breed believed to have originated on the outer fringes of the Arctic Circle in northern Russia. These striking blue cats are reputed to have been brought to England and to Northern Europe as trading goods by sailors on merchant ships that departed from or near the White Sea port of Arkhangelsk (or Archangel) sometime in the mid-1800s. The distinctive dense coats of these cats may have been prized for their fur value, resembling that of seals or beaver. The breed originally was called the “Archangel Blue” or the “Archangel Cat,” after the Russian port from which they came to the West. Legend has it that these cats may have descended from the Royal Cats of the Russian Czars, and that they were a favorite of Queen Victoria of England.
By the late 1800s, there were enough short-haired, purebred blue cats to build a suitable entry at early pedigreed cat shows. The first recorded showing of the Russian Blue was in 1875 at the Crystal Palace in England, where it was exhibited as the Archangel Cat in a class of other blue short-haired cats, including the Blue British Shorthair. The Archangel Cats were shown extensively in England during the latter half of the nineteenth century. However, they differed from the modern Russian Blue in that they almost always had startlingly orange, rather than vivid green, eyes. In 1912, Russian Blues began to be grouped separately in the European show ring and were entered in their own class, designated as the “Foreign Blue.”
Authorities report that from the beginning of the purebred show cat fancy, there were two general types of blue cats competing against one another. One was the blue-coated variety of the domestic British Shorthair. The other ultimately was called the Blue Foreign, or the Foreign Blue. The Russian Blue was among this latter designation. Other Foreign Blue cats that may be involved in the history of this breed – and/or other names that may have been attributed to the ancestors of today’s Russian Blues - include blue tabby cats from Norway, Maltese Blues and Spanish Blues.
The Russian Blue was developed and refined mainly in England and Scandinavia, although it was present in the United States as early as 1900, if not before. The breed almost suffered extinction after World War II. Due to declining numbers of Russian Blues, dedicated fanciers started cross-breeding them with Blue Point Siamese, in a genuine effort to preserve the breed. Although these efforts were certainly well-intentioned, the influx of Siamese blood caused the Russian Blue Shorthair to become more exotic and foreign-looking in type than its original ancestors.
Eventually, starting in around 1947, Russian Blue breeders in America and elsewhere made a concerted effort to recreate the traditional pre-war appearance of this unique breed. Fortunately, they were successful. The modern Russian Blue that is seen in the United States and elsewhere today has lost most of its Siamese attributes. This was accomplished by combining the bloodlines of both Scandinavian and English Russian Blues with American Russian Blues. Other crosses reportedly made by some breeders in an attempt to revitalize the breed include the Korat and the blue British Shorthair. In 1966, the show standard for the Russian Blue in some cat registries was changed to specifically state that a Siamese type is undesirable in this breed.
During the early 1970s, an English or possibly an Australian breeder reportedly felt strongly that the Russian Blue’s type pertained much more to its conformation and overall shape than it did to its color. She supposedly crossed a pedigreed Russian Blue male with a domestic white double-coated female that she purportedly found wandering near the docks of London. That breeding produced a so-called solid white Russian Blue, which the breeder called a Russian White. She apparently continued to breed and develop Russian short-haired cats in colors other than blue. By the late 1970s, the Russian White and Russian Black colors were accepted by cat fanciers in Australia as a variety of the Russian Shorthair. However, in North America, the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) does not recognize either the Black or White varieties of the Russian Blue. The International Cat Association (TICA) and the American Cat Fanciers' Association (ACFA) do both recognize the Russian Whites and Russian Blacks in provisional classes. There also is a thriving colony of colored Russian Shorthairs in the Netherlands (Holland).
Some pure lines of Russian Blues still exist in areas that were formerly part of the USSR. Some of these are slowly being introduced into Russian Blue breeding programs in other countries and regions. This still is an uncommon breed that even now is rarely seen in world-wide purebred conformation show rings.