It should come as no surprise to readers that Turkish Angora cats are not known as Turkish Angora cats in their native Turkey. They are known as Ankara cats, or Ankara Kedisi. However, the history of this breed is one of the more fascinating, as it spans centuries where, at one point, it almost vanished. Almost.
Turkish Angoras have been mentioned in European records dating back to the 14th century, appearing mainly as a consequence of the Crusades. However, it was not until the 15th century when they were being bred in earnest, mainly to the point of extinction. The reason was that the Turkish Angora was being cross-bred with Persian cats to improve their coat.
In 1917, in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, a project was undertaken to preserve what was considered to be a national treasure: the pure white-coated Turkish Angora. The Ankara Zoo took on the task of carefully breeding and preserving Turkish Angora cats, and it was thanks to them that the breed managed to survive. The first Americans to see the breed, thought to be previously extinct, were soldiers who visited the zoo in 1962. It was not until 1963 when American breeders first imported the Turkish Angora, from pure white cats unrelated to those produced in the Ankara Zoo project.
One registry has made it clear that a real Turkish Angora would not be registered as such unless it is clearly shown that it is indeed Turkish. Fortunately for breeders and owners alike, the far more rigorous requirement that it should also be pure white as those in the Ankara Zoo had been dropped in 1978.
Turkish Angora cats are known mainly for their long coats, a fact which during their “extinction” has led them to be subsumed under the general Longhair breed category. They are also known for having one amber and one blue eye, although other combinations have been found. And since the 1978 ruling, Turkish Angora cats have appeared in a variety of colors other than white, but certain colors, such as cinnamon, indicate some outbreeding and could be a ground for disqualification in cat shows. They also have pointy ears and sharp noses. Like Dalmatian dogs, a fair number of Turkish Angora cats are deaf.
Turkish Angoras are known to be the most intelligent of cats, curious and playful, and are therefore in need of some distraction from toys, for instance. Female mothers of Turkish Angora kittens are very protective and caring, and all cats in this breed love to show off. They are agile and active creatures, as they are muscular in appearance. It is said that Turkish Angora cats are the original longhair cat.
However, the most prominent “angora” cats, which appear often on the laps of villains in James Bond movies, are not really Turkish Angora at all, but rather Persian. (At the time, it was very difficult to get Turkish Angora cats out of Turkey.) They are related to the Turkish Van, another longhaired cat, since both descended from the same line of domestic cat that entered Turkey many centuries ago from Africa, where most domestic cats originate.