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