THE SIBERIAN'S ARRIVAL IN THE WEST
Until the end of the XX century, it remained in its native, freezing land on the other side of the Ural mountains, justifying its existence by catching mice on the farms, keeping monks company in their isolated monasteries, usually becoming the cook's best friend.
There's no doubt that the extremely long, cold Siberian winters contributed to this cat searching man's company more than what it would have normally done in warmer zones. The extraordinary relationship the Siberian cat forms with its surroundings is one of its main characteristics.
The Siberian cat is a domestic cat. It has survived difficult conditions. In the former Soviet Union, a law forbade keeping pets because often there wasn't food enough for the people.
Up until about 20 years ago, no one from its native land would have thought that this farm and monastery companion would obtain a “Certificate of Origin” and set out to conquer the world.
During the years of the Cold War, the communist countries of eastern Europe maintained good political ties with the Soviet Union and there were many agreements for economic and technological collaboration.
JASPA CLASSIC TOUCH / Bobenheim / Germany
Before the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, the Siberian cat was practically unknown in Europe. At the end of the XIX century it was shown at a London cat show, but went unnoticed because the Persians were in fashion. There is also mention of a pair of Siberians from the city of Tobolsk in the Dresden zoo at the beginning of the XX century. The famous “Brehms Tierleben” encyclopaedia makes mention of the breed in its 1925 edition.
In 1987 a Russian emigrant travelled from St. Petersburg to Cologne accompanied by a pair of Siberian cats. These were probably the first ones to reach western Europe. They inevitably attracted a lot of attention. The owner could no longer take care of them and, finally, the Siberians were left in the care of a west - German breeder.
When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, the luck of the Siberian cat did an about-turn.
From the beginning of the 1990s you could travel unimpeded to the former communist countries. The first western Europeans to go deeper into Russia and Siberia were quick to spread the news about some marvellous cats they had found sitting in the doorway of the most humble houses.
Some of these pioneers brought one or several cats back with them, almost always side-stepping bureaucratic barriers.
CHEP VOM SCHNAUDERTAL / Leipzig/ Germany
Thanks to them, this new breed soon became known in western Europe. The first specimens arrived in the United States from St. Petersburg in 1990. Then everything happened quickly. In 1992 the World Cat Federation set the standard, recognized the breed which, since then, has enriched the semi-long hairs at cat shows.
At the beginning, the Russians were surprised that a simple cat could cause such a stir among foreigners. But they soon realized they had something very special which could be converted into a profitable business. State repression no longer existed, and the demand suddenly increased. As is to be expected in these cases, there were two sides to the coin.
Cat clubs were founded in Moscow and St. Petersburg. They began to organize Cat Shows and establish breeding programmes for which they began to select the very best specimens from all parts of Russia and Siberia. Very soon the first kittens were available to foreign enthusiasts.
This is a breed that had been formed through natural selection during centuries and in the most adverse conditions. Its origin has to be Russian, even though it is also bred under very strict criteria in other countries.
It's not permitted to cross the Siberian with other breeds.
The Siberian is little known and not very common throughout the world. There are very few good, pure specimens. A Russian expert calculates that there must be between 1500 and 2000 good quality cats in all of Russia, which is surprisingly few if we consider the enormous extent of the country and how difficult it is to find and select these animals for breeding.
Nevertheless, many cat lovers have recognized their incalculable value, and there are good breeding programmes in Russia, Germany, Chechoslovakia, Italy, the United States, Finland, Sweden, and also in Spain.
SANDOKHAN VON DER GROHNAU (Eur. Champion)
ANTOSCHKA NENAGLYADNAYA KRASOTA
Schwarzwaldtiger / Freiburg / Germany
Opinions are divided over the Siberian “colour point”, the spectacular NEVA MASQUERADE. The Fife qualifies it as a Forest cat in which the “points” are not allowed. Any cat that has a NEVA in its pedigree is excluded from a Fife breeding programme, which radically reduces available lines.
The World Cat Federation, however, recognizes the NEVA MASQUERADE because the “point” factor forms part of the original genetic pattern of the Siberian.
One of the difficulties in breeding Siberians is the scarce number of good lines. Pedigrees must be studied carefully to avoid consanguinity as far as possible, and sometimes you have to travel thousands of kilometres to find a good specimen.
As a Russian breeder has said, once the house is well built, we'll worry about painting it.
It is a fact that some Germans from eastern Germany, who had been working on projects related with the new oil industry in Siberia, brought some pet cats back with them. It's also possible that some soldiers in the Russian military occupation forces brought their pets with them.
Possibly this is how a few specimens had arrived at the beginning of the ‘80s to some eastern European countries by chance and out of fondness for the breed. However, it was out of the question to consider initiating any form of selection or systematic breeding programme. There were hardly animals available. Moreover, cat shows were unknown in former communist countries.
Nevertheless, there were now some Siberians in Europe even though they were still on the other side of the impenetrable Iron Curtain.