Selkirk Rex breed history

IN THE BEGINNING...........................................................By Jeri Newman

A brief report of the humble beginnings of the Selkirk Rex from the originator.

In 1987 I got a call from the animal shelter in Bozeman, Mt. They had a young female cat with strange hair; did I want to come look at her? Upon arriving, I found a blue-cream and white shorthair cat about 7 months old, with thick, gently curled hair on her neck, legs, tummy, and tail, with straight hair down her back. The woman at the shelter had picked up the cat on a recent trip to Sheridan because she knew of my interest in genetics. For several years I mistakenly told people the cat (named Miss DePesto) came from Sheridan, Wyoming. I later found out she was born at the home of Kitty Brown in Sheridan, Montana. There were 6 kittens in the litter, and Miss DePesto was the only one with “different” hair. Her mother was a tortie and white domestic longhair, with a wavy undercoat. 
So I took Miss DePesto home and began to ask myself questions. Was she a strange statement of the Cornish or Devon gene? Either of those possibilities would mean that any kittens born to her would all have straight hair, but all would carry the gene. Was there a loose wirehair running around in Sheridan? This was highly unlikely. Few people out here own pedigreed cats—an occasional Persian or Siamese.

There seemed to be a good chance that this was something new. In the “best case scenario”. Miss DePesto’s curly hair would produce the right numbers of curly, straight, and homozygous offspring to be a simple dominant gene. Then how would I go about improving the curl? What would be a good body and head type to complement the curl and produce a pleasing, structurally sound and healthy cat? I decided to keep the thick coat, substantial muscle and hopefully the intelligent, engaging personality of Miss DePesto (call name: Pest!) I wanted to add heavier boning, rounder head and eyes, a broader, shorter muzzle, and a little more length of hair in hopes of enhancing the soft curl. This seemed to make Persians, Exotics, British Shorthairs and American Shorthairs the logical outcrosses. American Shorthairs have since been removed from the CFA outcross list, as of December 31, 1997. After making these decisions, I bred Pest to my Persian male, Ch Photofinish of Deekay.
















                                                                    Miss DePesto of NoFace at the age of 3 years.



The anxiously awaited first litter was born on July 4, 1988. There were 3 curly and three straighthairs, perfect numbers for a simple dominant gene! One of these kittens grew up to be NoFace Oscar Kowalski, and I felt I was very much on the right track.






                                                                                         NoFace Oscar Kowalski

The next phase was breeding Oscar to Persians, Exotics, British Shorthairs and back to Pest. Breeding Oscar to Pest was done for three reasons: 1) to attempt to reveal any serious problems connected with the gene, 2) to attempt to produce reliable homozygous kittens if it were a simple dominant gene (it did), and 3) to attempt to eliminate the wirehair as a gene source, as it appears to be an incomplete dominant. According to the CFA Almanac article about the Wirehair (February 1993, Volume 9, Number 10), the Wirehair is an incomplete (50% penetrating) dominant. Breeding two heterozygous complete dominants together would produce 25% recessive (straighthair), 50% dominant heterozygous and 25% dominant homozygous (only reproducing dominant). This does not appear to be what happens when breeding Wirehair to Wirehair. Since the Wirehair's inception as an accepted breed and with continued Wirehair to Wirehair breeding, no homozygous cats have yet been produced.   











                                                                             Oscar to Pest: 3 Homozygous, 1 Straighthair

Oscar bred to Pest produced the litter pictured above. The kittens are NoFace Orange Roughy (homozygous), NoFace Gracie Slick (homozygous), NoFace Blue Moon (homozygous) and NoFace Eight Ball (straighthair). None of the three curly coated cats produced any straight hairs. 18 of Orange Roughy’s offspring were registered with CFA (all curly), 5 from Gracie and none from Blue Moon.                Breeding Oscar to Brits, Exotics and Persians early on produced the following cats as examples of characteristics available from the various breeds.

















Oscar bred to a British Shorthair produced Lil’BoPeep’s Chocolate Ripple of Oaktree. This is the coat in a natural state prior to finished grooming.


















                                                                Oscar bred to an Exotic produced Lil’BoPeep’s Lambert.


He is an example of overzealous grooming resulting in a reduction of curl in his coat. This was the cat that was presented to the Board in February 1992 when Jeri brought the breed up for registration status.   

Oscar bred to a Persian produced Lil’BoPeep’s Ditto Kowalski. As an adult, she became far more extreme than is desirable in the Selkirk’s.  

Because Pest was bred only five times, once to PhotoFinish, twice to Oscar, once to Mr Rogers (an accidental breeding to a domestic shorthair) and once to a shaded golden Persian { Ch. Razberrilane Purrpower of Big Sky} our beginning gene pool is extremely limited. Only 15 of Pest’s offspring were registered with CFA.Half of the first litter was curly, subsequent litters showed the curl to be inherited as a simple dominant over straighthair.


Who’s Who:

Jeri Newman: Originator of the Selkirk Rex. She is a longtime breeder of Persians, with an interest in genetics and unusual cats.
Lorraine Shelton: A Selkirk Rex and Persian breeder. She is one of the co-authors of the updated version of Roy Robinson’s book on genetics.
Laurie Satir was an American Wirehair and American Shorthair breeder until her untimely death.
Elaine Zimmerman is a Persian and American Wirehair breeder.
Donna Bass: A breeder of Selkirk Rex and Tonkinese. She originated the Selkirk Rex Breed Club and is currently the Selkirk Rex Breed Council Secretary.    

This article was used with the kind permission of Jeri Newman