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Pamacs History

I was first introduced to the Selkirk Rex in 1989 when I met Jeri Newman at a show in Salt Lake City, UT. She was there to introduce and promote this wonderful new breed at a CFA show. Jeri was actively looking for experienced breeders who had access to one of the outcross breeds. At that time I was breeding Chartreux, but also managing a British shorthair Cattery. Jeri was very protective of these new cats but realized that she alone would not be able to breed and exhibit enough cats to bring them to the attention of CFA. After talking to Paul & Ginger Meeker of Castlkatz British Shorthairs they came to an agreement on two male Selkirks to use with some of their BSH queens. I was very interested in one little blue girl (loving Chartreux made blue my favorite color) as well as her chocolate sister.However that was not to be.  A few months later I purchased a sable shorthair male, a colorpoint shorthair female and a black & white longhair female and was on my way to being a Selkirk breeder.

Although in my heart I am more a breeder than an exhibitor, I understood the great importance of getting the cats out to the judges. I was very active in the late 60's‚ and early 70's‚ promoting the Bichon Frise dog in AKC. A little later on, I became friends with Helen Gamon, the lady who brought the first Chartreux cats from France to the United States.  I was intrigued with these charming smiling cats and bred and showed them until about 10 years ago.  At that time I had a serious fall, breaking my leg and shattering my knee.  It became necessary to place either the Chartreux or the Selkirks if I was to continue in cats at all.  For various reasons, I decided to keep the Selkirks and place the Chartreux breeders where they could be used properly. 

I am now retired from breeding but remain actively involved with the Selkirk Rex breed. I will be happy to assist anyone with any questions or problems you may have.  I would also be willing to look at your pedigrees and offer advice in your breeding program based on my experiences.  And, I can always assist you in finding the perfect cat or kitten to fit your needs.




History of the Selkirk Rex

Jeri Newman, the originator of the Selkirk Rex, described the origins of this breed in an article written by Wendy McGuire for The Wave Link, the Cornish Rex Society newsletter:

Miss DePesto of NoFace

"Before me sat a blue-cream and white kitten with green eyes. She came from a batch of ordinary housecats in Montana, and Peggy Vorrhees of the Bozeman Humane Society brought her back to me in Livingston, Montana because of her unusual coat. At an estimated age of ten months, her whiskers were curly, her ears were full of "brillo" hair, and her body looked like a "body wave". And so Miss DePesto of Noface came to live at my house.

"At 14 months of age, I bred her to my black Persian Male, Ch Photo Finish of Deekay, and anxiously awaited offspring. On July 4, 1988, Miss DePesto not only had six babies, three were definitely curly! The kittens were: One black and white curly shorthair male (Noface Oscar Kowalski); one black curly shorthair female (Noface Sheela); one tortoiseshell curly shorthair female; two black straighthair shorthair males; and one black straighthair longhair female.

NoFace Oscar Kowalski

"The next year, the black and white curly male was bred back to his mother, and on July 15, 1989, Pest had one curly shorthair flamepoint male (Noface Snowman), two curly shorthair torties and one black shorthair straighthair female."

On further inquiry, Jeri discovered that Miss DePesto's mother and five littermates were all normal coated. No other curly cats were found in the area, leading Jeri to believe that Miss DePesto was the locus of a new mutant gene.

Jeri has described Pest as having a Devon head on a Chartreux body -an angular head on a very large body with thin legs. She developed into a cat of medium size, with a muscular body, medium legs, good sized tail, broad head with ears set well apart and a long muzzle. Because Jeri felt Pest's look was not pleasing, she made the decision (and based on her breed resources and the result) that a more balanced look, similar to the British Shorthair, was to be the desired conformation of the breed. Thus the standard originally produced by Jeri to introduce the cat to CFA was meant to describe the "Brit" look she envisioned for the breed.

The name Selkirk Rex originated with Jeri. She did not want to name her new breed "American Rex" as the Cornish and Devon were named for their areas of origination. She instead decided to honor her stepfather by calling the breed Selkirk after his family name. When asked about the name by others, she claimed there was a range of mountains in Wyoming named Selkirk and that's where she got the name. The Selkirk mountains are in Western Canada, however, not Wyoming.

Rex was chosen because the cat was curly -indicating a change in coat type unlike the American Wirehair and closer to both the Cornish and Devon Rexes. Other Rexes with curly coats have been found: The Oregon Rex (since died out, specifics of the coat unknown) and the German Rex (determined to be on the same gene locus as the Cornish). Thus, the name Selkirk Rex, denoting a new, curly haired breed of cat.

Why was "REX" used to describe the coat? As with the Cornish and Devon Rex, the word came from the rabbit world. In the magazine "Rabbits ... Guide to Buying and Caring for Pet Rabbits", an article describing the origins of the name "Rex" was written by Rita L. Pascoe. A summary of the article has been written by Lorraine Shelton and is included here.

"The name Rex is Latin and refers to 'one holding the station in life of regent or king of a country.' A French rabbit fancier by the name of Desire' Callion was instrumental in promoting a newly discovered shorthaired variety of rabbit. He sold some of these mutation rabbits to King Albert of Belgium in the late 1890's. The King bred his rabbits and entered them for competition at rabbit shows on the continent of Europe. Being a judge is never easy, especially when the King brings some animals that do not fit the standard for the breed with regards to hair type!

"Rather than disqualify the King's rabbits, local show officials changed the entry labels to read 'Rex' on the King's entries. All rabbits with this mutation for short fur were subsequently named 'Rex' regardless of their color. When the first curly coated cats were discovered in Cornwall, England, they were named 'Rex' after these short-furred, soft-coated rabbits. Then when the Devon Rex was discovered, these were named 'Rex' after the curly coated Cornish Rex. At no time did the presence or absence of guard hairs or other such qualifying trait come into play. 'Rex' simply began to be known in the cat fancy as an animal with unusual fur.

"When the American Wirehair breed was established, they chose to borrow a term from a mutation found in humans and other animals called the Wirehair mutation, resulting in a stiff, bristly hair structure. The softness of the Selkirk coat is similar to that of the Cornish or Devon Rex cats, so the term Rex is more appropriate to our breed. The word Rex in our breed emphasizes the fact that it is the unusual coat that defines our cats."

NoFace Oscar Kowalski and his son, NoFace Snowman

Noface Oscar Kowalski, a large black and white male born in Pest's first litter, is the father of the line for the majority of Selkirks today. Pest was bred only five times, once to PhotoFinish, twice to Oscar, once to Mr. Rogers (a local stray cat, when Pest escaped outside) and once to a shaded golden Persian (Ch Razberrilane Purrpower of Big Sky).

Hair samples from Oscar and Snowman were sent to genetics experts, along with background information on the origin of the breed. Because this gene proved to be dominant, unlike either the Devon or Cornish Rexes, it was obviously different from either one.

Roy Robinson's report, as presented to the CFA Board when Jeri presented the breed for registration acceptance, states:

"I have examined the Selkirk hair samples. In both neck and tail samples the hairs are very fine, being shorter and thinner than normal. In the neck samples there is a complete absence of guard hairs, but some which are slightly thicker than down hairs which could be awn hairs, more or less reduced to the size and length of down hairs. On the other hand, in the tail samples there are many long thin hairs which could be either guard or awn hairs.

"The Selkirk Rex is clearly different from the coat of the Devon Rex since the latter typically has all three hair types even if these are short and crooked. There is some resemblance to the Cornish Rex in the fineness and absence of guard hairs, in spite of the different heredity."

The first CFA show to witness the introduction of the Selkirk Rex to CFA was Salt Lake City, Utah in January 1990. The two cats shown were Oscar and Snowman, Oscar's flamepoint son. Oscar and Pest have both since been altered and are living in retirement with Jeri in Montana.

At the February 1992 Board Meeting, CFA accepted the Selkirk Rex for registration. At the October, 1992 Board Meeting, the breed was put into the Shorthair class as a Miscellaneous breed.

Recently, the person who "owned" the mother of Miss DePesto got in touch with a member of the club who wrote the following:

"I recently spoke to Kitty Garrett Brown. Who is she? Well, I received a letter a bit ago from her that stated the following:

"'I have just learned, to my astonishment, that 'Curly-Q', a kitten born at my place in July of 1987, was the originator of the Selkirk Rex breed. I've talked to Jeri Newman and she confirms this. I'm writing because I'm eager for more information about the Selkirk Rex. Do you have a newsletter I could subscribe to?'

"In our conversation, she cleared up some historical details. Miss DePesto was not born in Sheridan, Wyoming, but rather Sheridan, Montana. This woman runs a shelter there out of her home called "For Pet's Sake". She placed Miss DePesto to someone at a very young age, but she "bounced back" because she cried too much. She was then placed again at nine weeks. The person she was placed with then gave the cat to Jeri.

"Miss DePesto's momcat is still alive, a dilute calico that is missing a foot where it was caught in a trap before she was rescued. Her hair is not completely normal, with a bit of a kink at the end. Her whiskers are normal."

Breeders are starting to pet out more of their curly kittens, keeping just the best for breeding. Males are easier to get as a pet than females, since most breeders would prefer to keep females for breeding rather than males. Outcrossing is still being done. Because the Selkirk Rex coat modifying gene is a dominant, we get straight hair kittens in the same litter with the more desirable curly kittens. These straight hair pets still have the same wonderful personality of their curly coated siblings, but currently are not being used in breeding programs and would make wonderful pets. They usually cost much less than a curly coated kitten.

Currently more breeders are needed in all areas of the country - preferably breeders who have had experience with one of the outcross breeds - Persian, Exotic or British. While any experienced breeder can work with the Selkirk, there are some special requirements that experienced exhibitors/breeders of the outcross breeds would have more experience with - such as grooming, health care and dealing with large breeds.

At the February, 1998 CFA Board Meeting in Houston, TX, the CFA Board voted to advance the Selkirk Rex to Provisional Status, effective May 1, 1998.

At the February, 2000 CFA Board Meeting in Houston, TX, the CFA Board voted to advance the Selkirk Rex to Championship Status, effective May 1, 2000.




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