About Peterbalds

My breeding experience starts in 1995 from Siamese and Oriental cats. Nowadays my interest is fully dedicated to the Peterbald cats. This is a young breed, as you may know these cats first appeared in Saint Petersburg in 1994. The author of the breed is our famous and belovingly called “Grandmother of the Contemporary Russian Felinology” Olga Mironova. As the legends say, once she was travelling together with her friend Mrs.T.Komarova, a breeder of Don Sphynx cats, who was carrying with her a Don Sphynx who was not quite well-built for a Don. He was not heavy enough for his breed, too thin-lined and gentle. And seeing him, a nice idea occurred to Mrs.Mironova: what if to “undress” a Siamese cat. So she has chosen her marvelous female GCH (TICA), WCH (WCF, SFF) Radma von Jagerhof, and from the other side a stud of the famous and fundamental Don bloodlines who didn’t fit the standard well, Afinogen Myth (or Mif). This couple gave to the world the two first litters of Peterbalds (30.01.94 – Muscat and Mandarin from Múrino and 11.02.95 – Nocturne and Nezhenka from Múrino).Nocturne happened to become the most prepotent in transferring the gene of baldness.

Here it’s worth saying that the baldness of Peterbalds derived from the spontaneous mutation found in Rostov-on-Don (a city in the South of the European Russia) in 1986 and it is different from the mutation of the Sphynx cat or the Canadian Sphynx as we got used to call this breed in Russia. The baldness of the Canadian is caused by the presence of a recessive allele in his genotype and it is normally manifested since the birth of the animal: the kitten is either totally bald (gene hrhr) or has a very tiny velour (gene hr+re, the bald gene + the Devon Rex gene) that never grows into a long covering coat. Unfortunately I am too bad in the Canadian genetics so I fear to misgive you the information on them, so let’s just mark the Canadian gene like h and remember that it is recessive. H is the gene of a normal coat. The gene of a Don or a Peterbald is dominant and it is marked like Hbl.. So we have got: Hbl>H>h. From one side it makes it easier for a breeder to use the dominant mutation, from the other side it is much more complicated because there is no strong theory on the Peterbalds genetics and we still don’t know a lot of details about the baldness, like for example weather it is strongly linked with some phenotype features (if you ask me – I don’t think so, but a lot of breeders do), weather a “variette” cat carries a polygene that later influences on the grade of baldness of her descendants or not, etc. etc. What we can say for now is that our “bald” gene is not a “naked” gene, like the Canadian one, so our cats get “dressed” and “undressed” for many times during their lives.

There are also homozygous Peterbalds, and these cats are born totally naked like the Canadians, but in difference with them they will never have a single hair on the body in all their life. But these cats have so many peculiarities and problems that it’s a long separate story, personally in my opinion, since we can have heterozygous bald cats, the homozygous ones are not for my breeding program.

Returning to the history of the breed it is necessary to mention that the pool of these cats was never too big. So, in the 1990-s some breeders were making experiments in both Dons and Peterbalds looking for the perfect balance in a naked cat. At that time you could have heard different names for those breeds, but as a result we have got some cats who achieved a phenotypical similarity to the ones described in the Mrs.Mironova’s program for Peterbalds, which is her absolute copyright, and formally a cat that doesn’t have Afinogen and Radma in his or her pedigree is not a Peterbald. But we have what we have, so there are Peterbalds and Phenotypical Peterbalds and no one denies their existence as it is an obvious fact (mine are the Peterbalds).

In the 1996 and 1997 the kids of Nocturne from Múrino PBD n and Aida Alishar ORI f called Dauphine Ramses II Jacoja PBD n; Dauphine Extra-Fine Jacoja PBD b; Dauphine Ecaille Jacoja PBD h were presented in Brussels, Vein and Westchester, NY and their appearance on public was enchanting. In 1996 SFF certified this breed (PBD) and in 1998 it was accepted by TICA (PD). In 2008 TICA even recognized the brush-coated Peterbalds for Championship competition, the naked ones were in it since 2006.

The Peterbalds were admitted in WCF in 2003 (PBD). There was a famous cat Igra Sveta Legenda Piramid bred in St. Petersburg by Ms.N.Komissarova which was presented in many shows in Europe by Mrs.A.Chystiakova in that time and influenced the European public opinion.

We have some very enthusiastic breeders in Russia and Estonia who are doing their best to promote the breed in FIFe, so all my knowledge is just what I read in their comments. In FIFe the Peterbalds (PEB) are a preliminary recognized breed since 2006 and here you may see the standard.

The first official presentation of the Peterbalds for FIFe took place in Timisoara, Romania, the 1-2 of May of 2004. The judges for the breed were the FIFe President Mr.Eric Reijers, Mrs.Eva Wieland Schilla, Mrs.Jitka Kitlerova. The breed was positively reviewed and the general opinion at that time was the preference for the most naked cats. If you are interested to see the winners of that époque you may see some photos here.

The second presentation happened in Vein, Austria, the 13-14 of November of 2004. The participating Peterbald was Nosferatul Svetlana Josefina, living in Romania in the Refined Demon Cattery. By the way, if you are curious about the matter, you may see the pedigree of this cat here as an example of a classic illustrated Peterbald pedigree of the early 2000-s.

The third presentation occurred in February 2005 in St Petersburg, and the fourth one – in Tallin, Estonia, the 13-14 of August of 2005. The best Peterbald was Melissa Alf bred in Samara, Russia by Mrs.N.Zemskova and living with Mrs.N.Korobova, Planeta Suslov Cattery. Here you can see some pictures.

The 25-26 of May of 2006 in Rome, Italy, the FIFe organization preliminary recognized the Peterbalds. But it is only the first step because FIFe still has a lot of mistrust to this breed, seems like the Dons have come up closer to the recognition although it is quite strange because the “bald” gene is the same for both breeds.

The actual problem with the FIFe is the registration of the cats, especially the F1’s because it is necessary to estimate the coat and it changes! The rules since 01.01.2008 for now are:

PEB+PEB= bald (flock, velour?) – PEB

brush-coated – PEBx*br

normal-coated (we call them “variettes”, “vars” or “straight-haired”) – XSH*(PEB) or XLH*(PEB)

Brush-coated and normal-coated cats are accepted for breeding only with the permission of a national FIFe Committee. What is really astonishing in this rule is where they are going to find so many specialists in such a rare and complicated breed to evaluate every breeding program and the necessity of every single brush or variette for it.

PEB+SIA/ORI=F1 bald (flock, velour?) – XSH*(PEB), then has to pass the definition of the breed and then can be registered like PEB

F1 brush-coated – XSHx*br (PEB), may not be reregistered

F1 normal-coated – XSH*(PEB) and XLH*(PEB), may not be reregistered

But the F1 "brushes" and the F1 "vars" may also be used for breeding according to a special permit.

Personally I feel more comfortable with my work being under the WCF rules.

As for participating in the cats shows, WCF accepts the “brushes” and even in some special cases the “variettes” to the expertise and rings, and in the situation of FIFe I don’t know exactly, it feels like the “brushes” are also admitted for the expertise.

There are no color limits for mating Peterbalds neither in WCF nor in FIFe.

Let me pay some more attention to the coats of Peterbalds. The fans have invented various terms and grades to describe a coat of a Peterbald, I even heard of 8 or 9 definitions, but I think we are not at the stage of measuring each millimeter of a hair now, so I offer you the most simple and helpful gradation.

We can have a totally naked cat and he may be either homozygous or heterozygous one. The first one will be called “naked-born” and it means that in all his life he will not have a single hair on the body, nor even a vibrissae, or might be one or two very short and curly whiskers. If he is heterozygous, he will probably be born with some hair on the body and will be “undressing” for some months, generally till the age of two years or so. For a female it will be also dependant on her hormonal matters and pregnancies. The females often “undress” faster after having babies. There is also some seasonal dependence but various breeders give contradictive information: some think that their cats “dress” when it gets colder, others – when the summer comes.

Both homozygous and heterozygous naked cats are called “gummy” or “rezína” in Russian, and sometimes this term causes misunderstanding, because some people call “gummy” only the homozygous cats, others – all the naked Peterbalds. So it is easier to say a “naked-born” or a “naked” cat.

Speaking about the “naked-born” ones, as I have mentioned already, they happen to be quite problematic. It may be dependant only on several bloodlines or may be general for all Peterbalds, we still don’t have this confirmed. There are few lucky breeders who have their “naked-born” studs or queens who live and mate successfully, but others are not like that. In general a “naked-born” male tends to have mating problems, a female has small litters and mammal difficulties, little milk or no wish to give it. A “naked-born” kitten is the weakest in the litter (well, it will be the same for a naked rat for example, so I suppose it is not a pathology but a natural rule) and needs a special care. The “naked-born” cats often have immune weaknesses, vasculitis, etc.

But some people consider them most esthetic as Peterbalds are expected to be naked. Their skin is tremendously tender and pleasant to touch, you can move your hand over it or take the skin and move it in your fingers, it will sense like a hot plasticine. There is an opinion of that a bald skin has an unpleasant odor or becomes dirty and sticky but these troubles are always the result of a wrong diet, digestion problems, etc. If the owner takes a correct and easy care (sometimes the probiotics are also required to “clean” the skin, not more then that) of his naked Peterbald, there will be no special troubles of this kind.

The next type of a Peterbald skin is called “dust”. The “dust” implies the presence of so small hairs on the skin that you can’t see them but you feel them when touching the cat, as the surface seems like too smooth, slippery, your hand glides over it. May be this type is the most perspective to be popularized among common cat fanciers.

Then comes the “flock” type. It means that the hairs are almost not visible but you can feel them when touch the skin, they must be 1-2 mms long, somewhere on the body they are more intensive, somewhere less.

There is also one more type called “velour”. I don’t commonly use this term because it is also quite ambiguous: some people understand it as a coat of 4-5 mms long hairs, especially soft ones. As for me I have never seen a difference of softness in this type of hairs (it is well seen only in “brushes”), so I would call such length of the hairs a “flock” as well.

Then comes the “brush” type that includes a lot of softer or tougher, longer or shorter variations, but in general such a cat is hairy. As a joke we call them “valenki”, it’s a Russian traditional winter footwear made of felted wool.

The last category is a normal-coated cat or a “variette”, or a “straight-haired” Peterbald. There was the time when these cats were registered as SIA var or ORI var and even were used for mating with these breeds. Now it is absolutely prohibited and the Peterbald breeders have a lot of questions about what genetic features of baldness do these animals carry.

And you have to keep in mind that every young Peterbald except the homozygous one is “dressing” and “undressing” all the time. If you know the particular bloodline you might try to predict the future coat of a kitten but in general it may be a lottery even with a junior.

Probably you have already seen that the first Peterbalds had a phenotype of a gentle Don cat with a modified form of the head, preferably with no stop or pinch breaking the profile line. In the 1990-s and even in the early 2000-s not only the Dons were used to breed Peterbalds but also European Shorthairs or even Russian Blue cats, for example to improve the eye-color. Actually the Peterbalds are open for mating only with the Siamese, the Orientals and I presume with the Balinese and the Javanese cats (no much sense because these ones also lack the type).

Now everyone agrees that the outlines of this cat have to be different: lighter, more extreme. A “petrodon” is a humiliating nick both for a Peterbald and for a Don Sphinx. But how is a Peterbald supposed to be? There are two big modern trends in seeing this breed: one part wants to see a naked or slightly coated Siamese or Oriental cat of the extreme type, and this position is shared by me. There is also another part of enthusiasts who think that a Peterbald can not or may not or should not repeat a Siamese, and in their work they are not going to this direction. Mostly they bet on baldness. To show you the vivid example of what I mean I can offer you this Polish cattery site.

Well, we, the Siamese type supporters also want a Peterbald to be “undressed” to a certain condition: to “gummy”, or “dust”, or “flock” – according to the personal preferences. But we clearly see that it can’t be a one-day or a one-year achievement. So we need to take more of perfect Siamese blood for modeling the Peterbald. We need to lighten the body, to “prolong” the tail, to “extremize” the ears, to prevent the eyes from “rounding” like in old type Dons or Thais and breaking by that the correct profile, to make the head strictly triangular, to hide the whiskers hills and more, and more, and more.

At the same time, mating our Peterbalds with the Siamese and the Orientals we obtain a better type but a denser coated cats. It is the constant struggle between the desire to have a great phenotype and the need to “undress” it. As the pool is not wide we all the time come across with the inbreeding that naturally shows up the return to the predecessors. Well, it is not the only factor that complicates the mixing of the Siamese and the Peterbald blood, you cannot just sit with the pedigrees and count. For example my actual 4 yr old stud who is retiring now, David Aurum Excelsior, and his sister Dana were not supposed to be such a success, taking into consideration the F1 factor and the test attempt of this mate as a full outcross. Even more surprising is the fact that both Dana and David happened to be extremely prepotential.

So, the one who is fighting for the Peterbald extreme phenotype now owns a full set of more or less hairy animals unpopular among judges and buyers?

To tell you the truth it is such a big headache to explain to a common cat-lover that a hairy Peterbald is not defective, that this cat very often has better perspectives in breeding and possesses more prominent phenotype characteristics then “the absolutely bald cat of the neighbor”. It means that the people often see the hairy Peterbalds like something pitiful, not serving for shows, ugly, unattractive, not worth of care. People do not want to pay for these cats, and like everything that a human gets in a low price, it has not much importance for him. Every time I sell a kitten on a price of a toy I pray to God for that the new owners care of him like if they had paid his real price.

As the breed has not become commercial like it seemed in the first years, a lot of breeders left it. But those who are still in are full of good expectations because the first results of the work with the best Siamese and Oriental lines are already visible. As for me, right now I have two very much “brushed” queens who are F1 and the daughters of Indigo Capri Jungle, and they are giving some quite “undressed” babies now, but it is not enough neither in the sense of baldness, nor in the sense of type. I still see a lot of things to correct even before the further “undressing”.

As far as I can see the most part of the European judges are expecting a Peterbald to be most “naked” possible. Almost all Russian Peterbalds that are being shown these days are “flocks” or “velours”. It seems that there is an emerging tendency among the Russian judges for that a better oriental-type Peterbalds win for the old-fashioned “bald” cats.

Text created by Julia Poimanova

March 2009