Very affectionate, very demanding, very vocal and very high energy, the Peterbald is often described as an Oriental or Siamese with something EXTRA. The breed, although outcrossed to the Siamese and the Oriental to maintain its looks, is unique in many ways, in particular its four coat types: chamois (appears hairless), velour (flock, feels like an unwashed peach or suede), light brush (sparse wiry hairs on the body) and heavy brush (a denser brush coat consisting of wiry or soft textured hair that feels like an old fuzzy tennis ball).
Their personalities are similar to the Oriental and Siamese but with a little bit of extra oemff. They are said to be extra demanding, affectionate and have bounds of energy. They form very close bonds with their humans and animal companions and are extremely intelligent, sensitive and playful. Despite their slender appearance, like their Oriental cousins, they are athletic, lithe and muscular and very agile which often gets them into precarious situations. The Peterbald are not as high strung as the Siamese and Oriental but may also be prone to stress, although their offspring are usually more robust and have stronger immune systems. They generally get on with everybody if they do not feel threatened.
Like the Oriental and Siamese, they are very curious and may get into situations where they are unable to defend themselves. For this reason their territory should be limited to the home and a secure outdoor area where they can exercise but not escape your property to challenge the neighbour’s dog to a duel or chase an interesting looking car up the road. Due to their unique coats, or lack thereof, they are born heat-seekers and they need to be kept indoors or have access to a shaded outdoor enclosure so that they do not burn. The heavy brush is less likely to have these limitations.
History & Origin
Any new breed of cat comes from one of two things: a cross of two existing breeds, or a spontaneous genetic mutation. Any cat with a unique and prominent distinction will have begun from a genetic mutation. Some examples of this would be the American Curl, the Munchkin, the Scottish fold, the distinctly curly coat of the Rex breeds, the Canadian Sphynx, and the Don Sphynx. And so begins the history of the Peterbald, not with a Peterbald, but with a woman and her cats that became known as the Don Sphynx.
The Peterbald’s existence is due to the kind nature of one Russian woman, Elena Kovaleva. In February 1986 Elena was going home to her daughter and their four other rescued cats. On a playground near her home, she noticed some boys throwing each other a bag. In the bag a kitten was crying. Elena took the bag from them, and, in it she found a tiny kitten. She estimated the kitten to be 3 – 4 months of age. She was a pretty, fluffy tortoiseshell girl. Elena took the kitten home.
She named her Varvara, although some histories record her name as Varya. As she grew, there was nothing extraordinary about her; just a fluffy kitten. However, strange things began to happen after about 4 months: the kitten began to slowly lose hair. Her hair loss began with her head, then her back. Elena took the young cat to her vet clinic. The vet, of course, thought Varvara was ill; demodicosis, dermatitis, ringworm? So they began an impressive treatment programme, which included many medications that were very difficult to get. Despite their best efforts, her condition did not improve. They finally decided to let her alone, after all, she appeared otherwise healthy and had a very good appetite. As she grew, she continued to appear healthy and continued to lose hair.
In 1989 Svetlana Volkova from Dnepropetrovsk (Ukraine) with “Alisa” Club cat show came to Rostov-on-Don (a rural Russian community). Elena and her friend, Irina Nemykina asked Inna, Elena’s daughter, to participate in the show with Varvara. Inna returned after just a few hours; the pair were not well received. They called Varvara “shabby” and harassed her until she left the show. Over the next year, Varvara continued to grow and also to “undress.” By the time the “Alisa” Cat Club had their next show, she only had fur behind her ears, a fluffy tail, and fur on her legs. This time, Elena decided to show Varvara herself. At the show, Elena explained that Varvara was a Sphynx, like the new hairless cats recently discovered in North America. Very few people at the show had even heard of a Sphynx, and none had seen one. They did not believe Elena’s cat could possibly be a healthy, hairless cat.
Yet another year past, and the cat show had come again. Elena and Irina took Varvara and some other cats to the show. As there were now three cats with the same thin(ning) hair, it was hard to say that Varvara was just one sickly cat; this is how they were being born! Although they were received much better at this third cat show, there was still no real interest in the cats.
The sire of the next three litters born to Varya and her offspring was a smoky blue tabby named Dima. This breeding process really confirmed their suspicion that this “hair losing” tendency would happen in every litter. The third litter out of Chita brought a female that was different than the rest: she was born completely hairless! Irina sent her to Leningrad to Irina Katzer, where she would live with her brother of a previous litter, Anton Mif.
It was here that Irina made a decision: she had read of a breed of horse, the Przewalski, where they had needed to line breed to save a nearly extinct line. She understood from the book that line breeding would lock in specific characteristics and features, so she chose to cross Chita with her son. The kittens came in February 1993, and once again, there was one born naked kitten, a male this time. She named him Viscount Mif. Another male of the same litter, Vityaz Mif, was the first to go to Moscow.
As you have read, at first, these women thought that they had a Sphynx. After the first matings, the primary difference was discovered: the gene that is responsible for the hairlessness or hair losing tendency of these cats is dominant, where the Sphynx’s gene is recessive. This is to say that, when you breed a Sphynx to a furry cat, the first generation of kittens will be furry. It is not until about the third generation of breeding back to hairless Sphynx that the kittens will again be hairless. With the Don Sphynx, the kittens will be hairless and hair losing in the very first generation. Therefore, the name was changed to the Don Hairless, and is often referred to today as the Donskoy or Donsky. So, now you know of the origins of the Donsky, but what of the Peterbald?
It was in 1993, in St. Petersburg, Russia, that a brown mackerel tabby Don Hairless male with a rather refined look, Afinguen Myth, was mated to a very classy tortie Oriental female, Radma Vom Jagerhof. Although their offspring were not very well received in Moscow, they were very popular in St. Petersburg, and soon became known as the Peterbald. Another male that played a big role in development of the Peterbald was a black male called Nocturine Iz Murino. He was born in February 1995, resulting from the same sire and dam as Radma. He was used widely for matings with purebred Oriental and Siamese females, and produced many high quality offspring. To increase the gene pool, the Peterbalds were also crossed with light-type Don Hairless cats, new lines of Oriental Shorthairs, and Siamese cats. This is why most colours are present in the Peterbald. Through the past several years, a few people have tried to cross a Peterbald and a Sphynx, and all resulting kittens were born with a full coat. It is partially because of this, and more because the Sphynx and the Peterbald have nothing to offer one another for looks or type as they are so different, that the Sphynx is not an allowable outcross for the Peterbald breed.
(Reference: http://www.smoothcats.com/pd/?menu=historyPD – Shamira Cattery – History of the Russian Peterbald)
South African Orientals
Peterbald have been bred by a few breeders in the past 20 years in South Africa, however the breed did not gain much traction in the country until imported into South Africa by Mariette Burger of LaMASKA Cattery in 2006 from Israel and in later years, from the USA. Together with Nicole Barratt of Kioko Cattery, they sought to update and refresh the local standard of points and gain championship status once again for the breed. They both continuously aim for improvement to breed world class type and temperaments of this amazing breed, whilst maintaining their robust immune systems. More Peterbald were imported by Barratt and Melissa Myburgh of Siori Cattery in December 2015 and January 2016 in order to diversify the gene pool once more with healthy, robust Russian blood.