Persian Cats

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long-haired cats that were exported from iran in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The Persian cat is a stocky domesticated feline with long, silky hair, a large, round face, small ears, and a bushy tail. It is called "Persian" because it was exported from Iran, or ancient Persia. The cat, known as buraq in Persian, was first described by European travelers, who observed that some Safavi dynasty princes and high government officials kept the cat as a house pet in seventeenth-century Isfahan, then the capital of Iran. Even though the cat has long been associated with Iran, its exact origins remain unclear. The Kurdistan region of southeastern Turkey, the central plateau area of Iran, and the Bukhara district in modern Uzbekistan all have been cited as probable places of origin. During the nineteenth century, however, the Isfahan region of Iran was the major source for the export of Persian cats to Europe and India. Wealthy Iranians kept themas well as more common short-haired catsas pets. Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar (r. 18481896) had a reputation for adoring and keeping cats, and his favorite Persian cat, Badri Khan, was assigned human attendants to care for him in royal fashion.

In Europe, the keeping of cats as house pets became common only during the eighteenth century, but by the nineteenth century Europeans who could afford to do so were purchasing cats imported from Iran and the Ottoman Empire. The Persian cat became especially popular beginning in 1871 when Britain's Queen Victoria bought a pair of imported Persian cats at London's first Oriental cat fair. Thereafter, the keeping of Persian cats as desirableand valuablehouse pets spread from England to Europe and North America. The domestic breeding of Persian cats in all the aforementioned places gradually eliminated the need to import them. Although the export of Persian cats from Iran continued during the first decade of the twentieth century, the practice ceased after 1912.


Floor, Willem. "A Note on Persian Cats." Iranian Studies 36, no. 1 (March 2003): 2742.

eric hooglund