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Cornish Rex Breed Profile

History of the Cornish Rex:

The story of the Cornish Rex begins in Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. On 21st July 1950 a tortoiseshell cat by the name of Serena & owned by Mrs. Nina Ennismore gave birth to a litter of five kittens. One red & white coloured kitten in this litter had an unusual curly coat. The kitten was named Kallibunker (Kalli)& was to become the founder of the Cornish Rex breed

Nina Ennismore's veterinarian suggested she  contact geneticist A C Jude. He advised  she mate Kallibunker back to his mother. This mating produced three kittens. A straight coated female & two curly-coated males. Sadly, one of the males died at 7 months of age, but the second male named Poldhu (along with Kallibunker) went on to sire further litters. The early Cornish Rexes were outcrossed to domestic cats.

This is where the history of the breed temporarily splits:

Cornish Rex in the UK

Sadly in 1956 due to financial costs & a large population of 40 cats, Nina Ennismore had a number of her cats put to sleep, including Kallibunker & his mother Serena.

By the late 1950's Nina Ennismore had stopped breeding Cornish Rexes. Brian Sterling-Webb continued to work with the breed. By this time, there were only two male Cornish Rexes left in Britain. One of whom was Poldhu. He was a tortoiseshell blue-cream-and-white male. This is rare in males & when it does occur they are almost always sterile. A veterinarian took a tissue sample from Poldhu for research, unfortunately, he was accidentally castrated. Ironically, the tissue samples taken from Poldhu were lost. It is now believed that Poldhu was a chimera.

This left one remaining male Cornish Rex in Britain, Sham Pain Chas. Due to heavy outcrossing, the Cornish was losing it's slender type. The great-great-great grandson of Kallibunker, a blue boy by the name of Rio Vista Kismet & bred by Miss Jeanne Jeffrey of Calgary, was imported from Canada by Mrs. Alison Ashford. Kismet managed to enable breeders to bring back the Cornish Rex to it's original "slender" type.

Cornish Rex in the USA
 

In 1960 to celebrate 10 years of the Cornish Rex The Daily Mirror ran an article on the breed, with a photo of a winking kitten. The article said that the kitten (Du-Bu Lambtex) was the only curly coated kitten in Britain. A lady by the name of Miss Beryl Cox contacted the paper to say that she too had a curly coated cat named Kirlee. Believing that Kirlee also carried the Cornish Rex gene, Brian Sterling-Webb arranged for Kirlee to be sent to Cornwall to be a part of the breeding programme.
 

In 1956, Life magazine published an article on Cornish Rexes which generated much worldwide attention and the following year Frances Blancheri of California imported Lamorna Cove. She was pregnant by her father Poldhu at the time. She went on to have a litter of 4 kittens.

In 1960 to celebrate 10 years of the Cornish Rex The Daily Mirror ran an article on the breed, with a photo of a winking kitten. The article said that the kitten (Du-Bu Lambtex) was the only curly coated kitten in Britain. A lady by the name of Miss Beryl Cox contacted the paper to say that she too had a curly coated cat named Kirlee. Believing that Kirlee also carried the Cornish Rex gene, Brian Sterling-Webb arranged for Kirlee to be sent to Cornwall to be a part of the breeding programme.

When mated to several Cornish Rex females the offspring came out straight coated. It was concluded that Kirlee's mutation was different to that of the Cornish Rex & the two recessive genes were named: Gene 1 (Cornish Rex) & Gene 2 (Devon Rex).

I will finish with a quick timeline of the Cornish Rex history.

  • 1948: Serene born
  • 1950: 21st July, Kallibunker born
  • Early 1952, Mrs Ennismore talks to her veterinarian about Kallibunker, who advises her to contact A C Jude
  • July 1952: A C Jude publishes an article on the Rex.
  • 1952: 27th August, Poldhu (Kallibunker's son) is born.
  • 1954: 15th August, Lamorna Cove is born.
  • 1955: 5th June, Champagne Chas is born. He is the half brother of Lamorna Cove & is Cream & White.
  • 1956: Kallibunker & Serene are put to sleep.
  • 1956: Brian Sterling-Webb purchases Champagne Chas.
  • 1957: Lamorna Cove who is pregnant at the time, and a sibling are sent to the USA.
  • 1957: February-Our Cats notes that A C Jude's article which was published in Our Cats in 1952 has been published in the Journal of Genetics.
  • 1959: Brian Stirling-Webb founded the Rex Coated & Any Other Variety Club.
  • 1959: September. Kirlee (Devon Rex) is born, but is unknown at this time.
  • 1965: Mrs Alison Ashford imports Rio Vista Kismet from Canada to the UK.
  • 1965: Brian Sterling-Webb dies.
  • 1967: Rex Cat Club is founded.

Appearance of the Cornish Rex:

The Cornish Rex is a medium sized, cat with a short coat & slender build. The legs are long & the body curves upward from the ribs, for the so-called "tuck-up". The tail is long & tapering. Although it is a fine boned cat, it is quite muscular.

The coat is wavy (known as a marcel wave) in appearance with curly whiskers & eyebrows. The typical cat has three types of hair, guard hairs, awn hairs & down hairs (the undercoat). The Cornish Rex coat completely lacks the guard hairs, giving it an incredibly soft feel. The coat is wavy in appearance.

The head is wedge shaped, & is longer than it is wide, it has high cheekbones &  a roman nose. The ears are set high on the head, but should not be too close together. The eyes are oval.

Cornish Rex Temperament:

The Cornish Rex is a quiet, outgoing and active cat. They enjoy being a part of the family & don't like to be left out of day to day activities.

They have a high energy level & love to play well into adulthood. They are also very acrobatic & love to climb.  They are also known to enjoy playing fetch with their owners.

They are extremely intelligent cats & very affectionate. They get along with other pets & children.

Cornish Rex Colours:

The Cornish Rex comes all recognised colours.

Special Requirements:

The Cornish Rex has no special requirements. Due to it's short coat, it doesn't shed as much as other breeds.

Lifespan:

15 years.

Suitable for:

Active households. Cornish Rexes thrive on company. It is recommended if you are away for long periods of time that you get two cats for company. They get along with other family pets including dogs & are great with children. Because of their high activity levels, they are not recommended for people who want a quiet & docile cat.

Are Cornish Rexes hypoallergenic?

In truth, a rex cat is no different from any other cat and produces allergen like all other cats. They are not hypoallergenic by any means, as claimed by some. Then why do some people seem to have no allergic reaction to rex cats? There is no simple answer to this question at this time, and more research is required to get the answers needed. One possible hypothesis is that as rex cats have less hair to shed, they simply deposit less allergen-laced hair around the home. But, whatever the reasons some allergic people seem to tolerate them. From personal studies and observations by Margaret Lawrence in the UK, she found that around 10% of people allergic to cats tolerate rex cats. Please, before you race out and look for a rex cat, remember you should always test your allergies by visiting home or catteries that only own rex cats, and test continuously over several weeks or months. As you don't want the poor little kitten to be re-homed if you find out you are allergic to him or her. Don't let your new cat become another statistic at a shelter.

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