Strange as it may seem to those not in the 'cat fancy' this is a very contraversial subject for breeders.
For those of you uninterested in the 'politics' of outcrossing in a pedigree breed I occasionally have birman variant kittens available, these are pedigreed, registered GCCF/TICA kittens. First and second generation kittens look much like 'old fashioned' persians ( see group photo below), but have coats that are easier ot care for, and fantastic cuddly purry personalities. We have shown 3 as kittens and all have become TICA Regional Winners, another is being shown sucessfully as a GCCF HHP by her loving owner, Bessie has now gained her first GCCF MasterCat Certificate. Please enquire as soon as possible for these babies as we only usually have 1 litter of outcross kittens a year.
'Bubbles' (Johnnycake Heidi, below left) is our foundation queen in this outcross program she's a very entertaining seal tortie pt persian. Bubbles was chosen very carefully for this program, she is unrelated to other persian previously involved in the birman breed, and both her parents have DNA PKD negative certificates. May I take this opportunity to thank Doug and JoAnn D'Abate for letting Bubbles come to Purindoors for our outcross program. Bubbles is now in happy retirement with one of her daughters after 'doing her bit' for the breed.
The outcross program moves on through Bubbles' daughters Purindoors Peek-a-boo ( see queens page) here at Purindoors and Purindoors Powderpuff ( right) with Marcia Owen at Goldlay cats.
Do we need to outcross or not?
Some in the cat 'fancy' are in favour of outcrossing to reduce inbreeding, and predict dire consequences for breeds that are significantly inbred, others are equally against any outcrossing as it would'dilute' the gene pool and irriversibly change the look of a breed, in the case of birmans allegedly resulting in the loss of a 'proper' birman.
Tortie pt persians are GCCF allowable outcrosses according to the Birman breed advisory council ( made up of the 4 GCCF birman cat clubs in the UK). In both GCCF and TICA a cat is eligible to be shown if it is 4 or more generations away from the outcross cat.
In TICA although no specific breed is sanctioned as an outcross, their registration policy means that once any cat has 3 preceeding generations of a single specific breed it is classed as that breed and may be shown if it conforms to the breed standard. Thus under TICA 'rules' a more varied outcross program is possible although these birmans may never be eligible to be shown at GCCF shows if they are a colour/pattern not recognized by the GCCF. TICA additionally recognises birmans in silver/smoke pt and cinnamon pt.
Below are some arguments I have heard from both sides of the 'devide' of opinion on outcrossing.
Reasons not to outcross to other breeds include;
No need, the birman has no problems
It would change the look of the breed
They are suffcient birmans in the world to provide different blood lines, just import a different line.
Other breeds can also have problems, you could bring in a health fault the birman doesn't have.
Skilled breeders know their lines well and can remove inferior cats from breeding programs, making sure only the healthiet genes remain. Healthy cats produce healthy cats, why 'fix something that isn't broken?'
Reasons to outcross include;
inbreeding 'depression' can occur which is scientifically proven to
reference ;Griffiths, Anthony J. F.; Jeffrey H. Miller, David T. Suzuki, Richard C. Lewontin, William M. Gelbart (1999). An introduction to genetic analysis. New York: W. H. Freeman. pp. 726–727. ISBN 0-7167-3771-X
Its already been done many times in the breed, all the new varieties,(choc, red, cinnamon, tabby, silver/smoke (some of which are accepted by the GCCF) were introduced via outcrosses and these cats are now accepted as birmans. Even if the fantastical story of the 'sacred cat' has a grain of truth, it would mean that all modern birmans are descended from a single litter, so a great deal of outcrossing to other cats (both pedgree and non-pedigree) must have been carried out to produce the viable population we see today.
The second world war resulted in less than 5 birmans existing in the world, and outcrossing was vital to re-establish a viable breed.
All the birmans in the world are ( necessarily to be a pedigree breed!) related back to those first cats, and the majority of cats in other countries are decended from cats bred in the UK and France so importing back in would not provide a sufficient outcross to reduce inbreeding depression.
Some of these arguments are more or less convincing according to your point of view, and your personal experiences if you are a breeder/exhibitor or owner of our wonderful breed. I personally accept that the birman is significantly inbred. However how detrimental to the breed this is (in the light of the fact that ALL pedigreed animals are by definition members of a restricted gene pool so they have a specific breed 'look') is a matter of significant debate.
My reasons for performing an outcross is to introduce a new red line to the UK birman gene pool, we have some fantastic reds here, but due to the small number of cats used to introduce the colour in the first place, finding a red birman that is not closely (within 4 generations) related to any other in the UK is quite a difficult proposition. Thus I'm hoping to give something back to the breed I love by providing an outcross line for one of my favourite colours, to make sure there are still big, healthy red birmans around for my grand and great grandchildren to enjoy.
Feel free to email and sensibly discuss anything you read here. I'm very open minded to new evidence, as a trained scientist it doesn't matter whether evidence agrees or conflicts with my current conclusions all is valuable, and I reserve the right to alter my conclusions in the light of new evidence, as should all fair minded people.