Are you familiar with the curly-coated Cornish and Devon Rex cats? These cats come from two distinct rex cat breeds even though they look quite similar.
The cats have been appearing in cat shows in Europe since the 1950s. Soon after they also appeared in shows in North America. They both developed from a mutation.
The Cornish Rex originated in Cornwall, England, in 1950. It has a curly, plush coat, a moderately
foreign body type, and a “Roman” nose.
The Devon Rex originated, also from a mutation, in neighboring Devon. Its coat is short and wavy. The body-type is also a pronounced foreign-type body with a unique pixie-like head shape It’s nose is quite short, whisker-pads are prominent, and ears are huge.
Since these two mutations are unique, when the two types of rexes are bred, the kittens have straight coats. Therefore, breeders decided in the early 1960s to breed them selectively along different lines to make the two types more easily distinguishable.
Though similar mutations have also occurred elsewhere, none have been established as viable breeds except for the German Rex. This cat has since been proven to be genetically identical to the Cornish Rex.
Though breeders have tried producing a long-haired rex, they have been generally considered as unattractive, as their coats appear lank and sparse. Overall, they had a rather ragged appearance.
The first know rex cat was actually the German Rex, being a feral hospital cat in East Berlin in 1946. Then in 1951, the first Cornish Rex was born to a farm cat. This kitten received the grand name of Kallibunker.
The cat’s owner contacted a well-known breeder with an interest in genetics. They back-crossed the cats, producing more rex kittens. The mutation has proved to be recessive, and was named after the similar mutation in the rabbit.
Then, in 1957, two descendants of Kallibunker were sent to the United States so the rex breed could be started there.
Meanwhile, in 1960, a curly-coated feral cat was observed living next to a disused tin mine near Buckfastleigh, Devon. A nearby resident cared for a young tortie stray, who mated with this cat and produced a curly-coated kitten.
This kitten was adopted and named Kirlee. Because of the publicity given to the Cornish Rex, the owner of Kirlee was able to contact the breeder involved in the Cornish Rex program. Kirlee’s owner then allowed the cat to be bred in the Cornish Rex program.
To the breeder’s surprise, no curly kittens resulted from several matings. They then realized that
the two lines represented unrelated mutations. These would have to be established by separate breeding programs.
As several litters of cross-bred kittens had been born, test matings now had to be carried out to discover which rex genes each cat carried.
At this point it was decided to selectively breed towards two different body types. The unique head shape of the Devon was based on that of Kirlee.
In 1960, a German Rex came to the United States, and two more were sent soon after. Though they were said to resemble the Devon Rex in body build, their two separate litters born in the United States in 1970 were of curly kittens.
As these two litters came from German-Cornish crosses and resulted in curly kittens, it was proved that the mutations were the same.
In Britain, both the Cornish and the Devon Rex were recognized as separate breeds for championship competition in 1967. Then, in North America, the CFA officially recognized them as separate breeds in 1979.
Both the Cornish and the Devon Rexes are bred in a great range of colors. In Britain, the show standard states that a Cornish can be any color, and the Devon, any color except bicolors.
The American standard, on the other hand, is a bit more restrictive. They allow all colors except lavender, chocolate, and the Siamese pattern. However, the Siamese pattern is widely bred under its unofficial name, the Si-Rex.
Both breeds of rexes are intelligent, extroverted, and affectionate pets. Since they do not constantly shed hair, they are easy to groom. Normally, all you need to do is hand-groom the cat: firm
stroking the fur, neck to tail. You can use a comb to advantage once a week.
Because of the rex’s fine coat, lacking in guard hairs, it is not so well-protected against changes in temperature. They should not be allowed out in extreme weather.
It is also recommended to keep up the cat’s body heat by giving them a diet rich in fats. You can use shredded suet, adding a dessert spoonful each day to adult cats’ food, and a teaspoon a day to kittens.
The rex female is an ideal mother. Average litter size is three to six kittens. These kittens are very active from an early age. They also soon show the great inquisitiveness that is a characteristic of the breed.
Perhaps you want to add one of these unusual cats to your household. They make good pets, and may be a delightful addition to your family.
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