Cissy Hermanns
+45 2982 8880

René B. Eriksen
+45 4010 3272

catci@catci.dk

 

Catci
Breeder of Norwegian Forest Cat

 

 

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In search of the History of the Norwegian Forest Cat

When searching for the history of the Forest Cat many likely and unlikely stories turn up. The oldest sources of information concerning the Forest Cat claim that the Norwegian vikings kept Forest Cats as mousers and pets. On their journeys around the world they took them along in their ships. This is supposed to be the reason for the many semi-feral longhaired cats to be found in Normandy, and may also have contributed to the spread of the same type of cat in the U.S.A.

 

Literary history

The Danish clergyman, Peter Clausson Friis, lived the greater part of his life in Norway. Apart from his calling his greatest interest was the flora and fauna surrounding him. He therefore began to describe the animals he met in the Norwegian countryside. In 1559 he had got to the lynx. He divided the lynx into three categories: The wolf lynx, the fox lynx, and the cat lynx. It has later been found that all Norwegian lynx are the same species. So maybe what Peter Clausson Friis called the cat lynx may in reality have been a Norwegian Forest cat? This is quite likely as there are many similarities between the Forest Cat and the Norwegian lynx. The most apparent of these is that they are both big, long-legged cats with large ruffs, and tufts at the tips of their ears. Moreover they both like water and the stories of swimming Forest cats who catch their own fish in lakes and rivers are innumerable. The Forest cat evidently utilizes the same methods as the Norwegian lynx when it goes fishing.

These similarities between the lynx and the Forest cat have often been the reason why people have shown great interest in the Forest cat.

In the Norwegian townships there were of course many cats, but in the oral tradition and in folk tales there is one kind which is mentioned repeatedly, and that is the large, longhaired cat. Because of its size and the lynx-like characteristics many people believed that it was a cross between a dog and a cat - or more commonly, a cross between a cat and a lynx.

In Asbjørnsen and Moe's collection of folk tales the Forest cat occurs several times. Here it is called "Huldrekat" ("huldre" = wood nymph). In the glossary a "huldrekat" is described as a Forest cat with a thick, bushy tail.

Folk tales and legends are not the only evidence of the large natural incidence of Forest cats. In 1912 the Norwegian author, Gabriel Scott, wrote a much read children's book entitled "Sølvfaks" (= "Silver-fax"). The central character of the story is a Forest cat named Sølvfaks.

The most likely explanation of the large incidence of Forest cats in Norway is that their ancestors probably were Southern European shorthaired cats which came to Norway as to other parts of Europe already in prehistoric times. Due to the natural selection imposed by the strange and hostile climatic conditions, only individuals with a particularly thick coat and other adaptations to a cold climate survived.

 

From household pet to pedigree breed

In the early thirties cat-breeding Norwegians began to take a closer look at the Forest cat. World War II brought all pedigree cat related activities to a temporary halt, and it was not until the early seventies that people realised that the Forest cat was beginning to disappear from the Norwegian countryside. At this time the development of the Norwegian wilds was in full swing, and as a result of this the conditions for shorthaired cats had dramatically improved in Norway. As is well-known, mating between shorthaired and longhaired cats lead to shorthaired offspring, and if the factors which favour the longhaired variety begin to disappear, it will quickly die out.

In December 1975 Norwegian cat breeders therefore started Norsk Skogkattring (= The Norwegian Forest Cat Breed Club) to attempt to preserve the breed, and already in 1976 the breed was officially recognised by FIFé.

There was now a great deal of work ahead, finding appropriate breeding stock, insuring that the gene pool became large enough to insure the breed against the risks involved in inbreeding. This work went on in Scandinavia until 1990 when it was decided to stop recognition of new animals straight from the countryside, the so-called novices.

Among the pioneers the one who is best remembered is undoubtedly Else Nylund, breed prefix "Pan"; also Randi and Arild Grotterød who have made a great contribution to the breed under the breed prefix "Torvmyra". The reason why these two breed prefixes are remembered in particular is that cats are still being bred under them, and it is today almost impossible to find a cat whose pedigree does not somewhere along the line have ancestors with the breed prefix "Pan" or "Torvmyra".

Other breeders, who for one reason or another have stopped breeding Forest cats, but whose influence can be clearly traced in the breed as it looks today, have used breed prefixes such as: "Colosseum", "av Baune" and "Pjewiks Forest".

 

The Norwegian Forest cat comes to Denmark

In Denmark the pioneers were: Vibeke Poulsen, breed prefix "Dovregubben", and Dortemarie Kaplers, breed prefix "Guldfakse". At the moment no Forest cats are bred under either of those prefixes. Vibeke Poulsen was the owner of Denmark's very first, and until now longest living Forest cat. The cat was named Norwegian Wood's April Dream, in daily life called "Sidser". Sidser was recognised as a Forest cat at a Danish cat show. She died at age 16.

The recognition of Sidser started things. Several cats were now imported within a short time span. The best known of these today are three males, who were almost of age. The oldest, born 1980, was International Champion Røde Peer (= Red Peter). After him came Grand International Champion and European Premier Torvmyra's Grand Soltario. The Benjamin of the three was European Champion Colosseum's Gustav Graah, Distinguished Merit, born May 1981. These three studs are obviously no longer active, but they have all contributed greatly to the breed's development in Denmark.

Written by Jette Eva Madsen “Felis Jubatus”
Translated to English by Birgit Hartoft “Alfheim”

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