New Birman Colors for CFA
These are the frequently asked questions about the proposed Birman colors for CFA:
What are the new colors in Birmans?
There are two new color gene groups available. The first one is the red group. When the red gene is introduced to a breeding population, it can produce red males and females, cream males and females, and tortie point females. Depending on what other (traditional) genes are involved, the torties can be seal torties, bluecream torties, chocolate torties, or lilac cream torties. The second new group are the lynxes. When the lynx gene is introduced it causes a tabby pattern to be overlaid over whatever color the Birman would have been without the lynx gene. Creating, for instance, a seal lynx point. One Birman can have both the red gene and the lynx gene, thus it is possible to have a seal tortie lynx point. With the introduction of these two new genes, the colors Birmans are available in jumps from 4 to 20!!
Where did the new colors come from?
Since both the red and lynx gene were not present in the Birman gene pool, breeders went to other breeds to get them. Any other breed that carries the red gene could be used. However, there are certain features of other breeds that make them more desirable. Common sense tells us that we should use a long hair breed that is also pointed. Experience has taught us that the Himalayan is the best breed to use to bring in the red gene. The reason for this is that it is easier to eliminate Himalayan characteristics than, say, Balinese characteristics.
But are they really Birmans??
In my qualified opinion? YES!! The reason I feel it is right to answer "yes" is that the results of my breeding program support it. Keep in mind that a cat can not be registered as a Birman until it is five generations away from the outcross to bring in the new color. In other words, by that time, the cat is 31/32nds Birman and only 1/32nd the other breed (such as Himalayan). By the time this point is reached, the kittens have the Birman walk and the Birman talk. By this I mean they huff, and they puff, and they chirp, and they squeak. And their fannies wiggle. And they have that wonderful Birman personality. Just like any other Birman. If you have ever owned a Birman, you know of what I speak. To me, these little Birman characteristics that are not found in any breed description of any organization mean as much as such things as size of ears and length of coat when it comes to identifying Birmans. Of course, these things can not stand on their own. The kittens must fit the physical Birman description as set out by the registering organizations, too. And they do.
Fortunately, I am only one of many who believe that these new color Birmans are truly Birmans. The fact is that all registering bodies in the world have recognized the red spectrum and lynx colors except for CFA. And we are working on that discrepancy!! Anyone buying a new color Birman from me will find that their new friend is registered in either TICA or ACFA (I work with both for my red spectrum Birmans).
I heard that the red gene is sex-linked. What does that mean?
In the simplist terms it means that in order to get red point or cream point females, both parents must contribute the red gene to the kitten's genetic make-up. This makes red and cream females much more "rare" than red and cream males because most breeders working in this new color do not have the luxury of keeping a red or cream point stud just for their red point program.
To get a little more technical, the reason this is true is because males have one X and one Y chromosome, while females have two X chromosomes. The gene that determines color is carried on the X chromosome. If one of a female kitten's X chromosomes carries the red gene and one carries a non-red gene (like seal), then the female kitten will be a tortie point. Only if both chromosomes carry the red gene will the kitten be a red or cream point. Since a male only has one X chromosome, if it carries the red gene he will be a red or cream point because that one red gene does not have to "compete" with a non-red color gene on his Y chromosome.
Point of interest, this also explains why tortieshell males are so rare. They are an abberation because they are males that carry two X chromosomes.
What if I am interested in having a new color Birman or just learning more?
Contact Elisa K. Weeks, Editor of Red Factor News, the newsletter for Red Factor Birman Fanciers Club. She can put you in touch with the red or lynx breeder club member closest to you. VWeeks@wi.net
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Last Modified: Sunday, February 28, 1999 3:16:21 PM