KORATS IN UNITED KINGDOM
Korat breeding situation and how everything started
It's probable that the first documented Korat in the West was shown in at Crystal Palace, London in about 1896. A Mr Spearman exhibited an 'all-blue Siamese' that he had brought from Bangkok. Unfortunately it was disqualified as it showed no Siamese coat pattern! In 1906 Mr Carew-Cox of New York attested to the existence of a native breed of blue cats in the Korat province of Thailand. That Mr Spearman's cat was one of these is a strong possibility, but nothing more is known of cat or owner.
These two black and white photographs show the first two Korats to arrive in UK. The male (below left) is Samelko's Sahm and the female (below right) Brandywood Saeng Duan. The five kittens above are the first to be born here in 1972, in quarantine.
Over seventy years went by before more Korats arrived on these shores, imported by Miss Betty Munford. In March 1972 Brandywood Saeng Duan, Samelko's Sahm and Saang Jahn's Tee Rahk came to begin their six months in quarantine. The first litter of kittens was born to Saeng Duan a few weeks later on Easter Sunday.
Once independent of their mother the kittens did not have to stay in quarantine and made their show debut at the Kensington Kitten & Neuter Show that summer where they excited considerable interest. By 1974 there were at least twenty Korats here and the breed had made a promising start. A club had been formed, the Korat Group, and the Korat had gained GCCF breed recognition.
However, this was the beginning of a period in the wilderness that lasted several years. The first blaze of interest fizzled to a tiny flicker and seemed almost on the point of extinction when I joined the club in 1978.
I think there were two reason s for this. After breed recognition the aim was to achieve "Championship Status" so that the considerable show bench success had a goal and purpose. However, whenever this was applied for from GCCF the answer always seemed to be that enough hadn't been done to establish the breed, but it there was no definition of how we had fallen short, which was most frustrating.
Also many of those who had been involved with Korats fell by the wayside when there seemed no instant popularity, and there was no continuity of leadership. In 1978 membership had dwindled to only fourteen (it now stands at about 130).
There is, in fact, only one member remaining who has been breeding and showing since the very early day. Anne-Marie Locher (prefix Bikila) was a founder member of the Korat Group, who had a female (Martycat Lek Saeng) from Saeng Duan's second litter, and is still breeding and showing some very striking Korats at the present time.
Champion Charlwin Beau Brummel
In 1980 a new team took over, and, as all records had been destroyed in a fire, had to start from scratch. This we did keeping a careful tally of all show bench numbers and achievements, and constantly badgering GCCF to define exactly what was required to attain the exclusive Championship Status. This was achieved in 1984. The first British Champion, Santamora Khia Song was owned and bred by Mrs Riley, and I had the honour of exhibiting the first male champion, Aerostar Yin Dee, (bred by Mr & Mrs J. Mackie) who gained his title a week later.
The first Grand title went to Premier Campcat Aquamarine, bred by Mrs J Campos, owned by K. Game) and Cathy Nichols's gorgeous Rataekora Mooonspun Cobweb, bred by Mrs A. Pitt was the first Grand Champion. She also had the honour to appear on television with Desmond Morris (well-known zoologist and broadcaster) a short while later with her litter of blue eyed babies, a wonderful breed promotion. (I have a video of this).
It would be fair to say now that the breed does not enjoy the same popularity as some of the others. We have never been 'fashionable'. However, there has been a steady increase year by year of Korat owners, and most Korats enjoy the ideal life for a cat, that of a much-loved pet.
There are probably about ten breeders here who have bred regularly and consistently over the past few years. There are others who have the occasional litter. In 1995 (which is the last year for which I have statistics) 114 Korat kittens were GCCF registered, which puts us near the bottom of the breed list, but better to have quality than quantity.
It is rare to go to major championship show and not find the breed represented, the exception being Scotland, where there is no one breeding, at present. The quality of the exhibits has always been extremely good. There are numerous examples of Best In Show Winners, and at least two Korats are UK Grand Premiers, which is the highest title achievable here: UK GP Kirorat Seu Saht, (owned and bred by Dr K Willoughby) and UK GP Jenanca Meenah, (owned by Mrs S. Keith, bred by Jen Lacey). Go to the Supreme Show and there are always excellent Korats, gaining high honours.
The lilac variant in Korat Cats
Recently, KCA and the Korat BAC have caused some controversy because we have acknowledged that variants (non-blue cats) can be born to Korats. This was done once it became clear that these were the result of recessive colour genes inherited from the cats' eastern origins rather than any deliberate or accidental outcrossing. Under GCCF rules registration is not refused to any cat (if the breeder fails to register the owner may) so it was agreed that the variants must be our responsibility as they were progeny of our cats, and by doing that we were able to take control.
They have the provisional names of Thai Bluepoint and Thai Lilac, and are Reference Registered, described as "of Korat type." They cannot be shown in competition. One cat, of Thai parentage was identified as a chocolate carrier, and all his progeny now have their registration papers overstamped as possible carriers.
Lilac Lillee was the first "Thai Lilac" born in Britain. She was a great surprise and caused a lot of controversy. Her origins though are no longer a mystery as it has been established that her Indonesian born grandfather (from Thai parents) had a lilac brother.
The matter has been the subject of discussion here now for some time and most breeders have a basic understanding of the facts, and are comfortable with the idea that carrying recessive colour gene(s) is a natural inheritance and, fortunately, doesn't contribute in anyway to the type, health or temperament of the Korat. Our detailed registration policy enables people to avoid importing them into lines that are clear and, most importantly, ensures the progeny of any outcrossing to other breeds cannot be registered as Korat.
The question most often asked is why call these cats lilac as it's not really an accurate description of their colour. However, the description is of the genotype rather than phenotype, and is a GCCF generic description for all breeds of cat that have the particular genetic make-up, a combination of blue and chocolate dilute genes.
One of the most interesting recent happenings on the Korat scene here was the importing of three Korat cats directly from Thailand by Mrs Ianthe Cormack. Two females and a male arrived, all with four generation pedigrees and typical Korat type and temperament.
Very sadly Ianthe died suddenly when the breeding programme was only just underway, but her work goes on. Her cats and papers became the property of the club, all breeders who wanted to had a kitten or free mating so that the new blood lines would continue. It was a wonderful gift, very much valued. However, there was an added surprise, for when a close mating accidentally occurred lilac kittens were born, so at least one of these native cats is also a chocolate carrier. Test matings are under way to determine which, but that will be next year's news.
For further information about this subject read the 'Korat Registration Policy' in UK. Also read an 'Information update from the UK 'Korat Breed Advisory Committee'
Jenanca Cattery - UK