Portrait of the Ragdoll Breed

 

 

History of the Ragdoll

 

Pandapaws Cosmos, Carema and Crunchie
Pandapaws Cosmos, Carema and Crunchie

 

It began in California in 1963 with Ann Baker, a 'Persian' cat breeder. She had been in the habit of borrowing a male cat called Blackie from a neighbour, Mrs Pennels. Blackie had the look of a Black Persian and was the son of an unregistered female called Josephine who was a White cat of semi-longhaired Angora appearance. Josephine had a rather uncertain temperament and had produced a number of litters very much like herself.

 

It was about this time that Josephine was hit by a car and lay in the street for a couple of days. Eventually she was taken to the local university (presumably the School of Veterinary Science) where she recovered, having lost an eye. Josephine was returned to Mrs Pennels and continued to have kittens, but their character had changed. Now they were relaxed and seemed impervious to pain. Ann Baker became more interested.

 

Mrs Pennels had another male son of Josephine, but by a different father tan Blackie's. This male was unusually patterned, looking something like the cat we know as a Birman with white socks on all feet. He also had a little white stripe on his nose and a white chin with the white extending down his belly, and a white tip to his tail. Ann managed to borrow this cat too and called him Raggedy Ann Daddy Warbucks. Ann had also acquired a Black daughter of Blackie and Josephine, Buckwheat and was now given another of Josephine's daughters, this time sired by Daddy Warbucks. This Bicoloured cat was called Raggedy Ann Fugianna. With Daddy Warbucks, Buckwheat and Fugianna, the seeds of a new breed were planted and Ann Baker was about to reap the harvest.

 

 

The Myth of the Ragdoll

 

Why call this interesting cat a 'Ragdoll'? Well, everyone is familiar with the floppy fabric doll with its bland, wide-eyed features and knitting wool plaits.

Denny & Laura Dayton with Phil & Loveable
Denny and Laura Dayton
with Phil and Loveable

 

There is not a sharp feature to the doll, it can be tossed aside and seems to bounce; it hangs limply under the arm and fits into the very shape of the body. After her accident Josephine's kittens appeared to do just this.

 

To begin with, Ann Baker saw this new trait as a kind of 'act of God', a 'phenomenon'; that the trauma of the collision with the cat had altered Josephine's genetic constitution and that this was passed on to her kittens and subsequent generations. However, scientifically this is nonsense.

 

Latterly, Ann Baker has insisted that Josephine had been the subject of 'gene alteration' when she was being nursed at the University. Although others have been charitable, I would be most suspicious of any claims that this kind of procedure was practiced in the mid 1960's on a stray cat.

 

In hindsight, it would have been very useful to have assessed Ann Baker's claims by the simple process of a full clinical examination of Josephine herself. Sadly, this was not to be. Mr Pennels, annoyed that Josephine had attacked his dog one day, while protecting her litter, had Josephine and her kittens destroyed.

 

 

The Ragdoll Franchise

 

While it may be that Ann Baker had no scientific credentials, the same can't be said of her business acumen. The name 'Ragdoll' was trademarked and anyone wishing to breed them could only do so on the basis of a franchise with registration through Ann Baker's own International Ragdoll Cat Association.

Ann Baker holding Fugianna
An early photo of Ann Baker with Fugianna

 

A highly complex breeding policy formulated by Ann Baker had to be rigidly adhered to, otherwise registration of the kittens would not be forthcoming and the kittens could not be called Ragdolls. Despite the strictures of the franchise, a number of interested breeders 'joined up', notably Laura and Denny Dayton in 1969.

 

Breeding from Raggedy Ann Buddy and Raggedy Ann Rosie, the Daytons were amazed when Ann Baker attempted to get more money from them when the time came for the kittens to be sold. Court actions ensued and as other franchisees found Ann Baker's demands too onerous, the Daytons acquired more Ragdoll cats. Finally the franchise was legally broken. However, the battles had taken their toll on Denny and Laura and so by 1980 they were ready to pass the flame to the next runner.

 

In 1981 two breeders, Pat Brownsell and the late Lulu Rowley, acquired Blossom Time Lass, Blossom Time Lad, Blossom Time Proper and Blossom Time Prim in Norfolk, England. The Ragdolls had arrived in Great Britain.

 

 

Genetics and Patterns

 

What makes the Ragdoll such an interesting proposition is its ability to breed true because of a series of genetic factors accidentally coming together in the original female Josephine and the two male cats she mated with to produce Blackie and Raggedy Ann Daddy Warbucks.

 

Josephine was a White cat with a semi-longhair coat. As one of her parents was a cat with a coloured coat

Ann Baker and Kyoto
Ann Baker with Kyoto

whatever it might have been - the White cat Josephine inherited from her other parent acted as a kind of overcoat masking colour underneath. On most White kittens there will be a flash of colour on the top of the head. This fades by the time they are about nine months old but it gives an indication of what the colour is under the 'overcoat'.

 

Genetically, Josephine was a Bicolour cat and in her mating with the male which produced Daddy Warbucks, what is now believed to be a newly identified gene for dominant mitting occurred. This makes the Mitted Ragdoll completely separate from the Birman to which it passes a passing resemblance. It could have been that the sire of Daddy Warbucks also showed the Siamese pattern of coat. It is certain that he carried the gene recessively - like Blackie the sire of Buckwheat did - and this gene, together with colour genes for Chocolate and dilute Blue, he passed on to Buckwheat. In this way, Buckwheat mated to Daddy Warbucks produced the Colourpoint Ragdoll Raggedy Ann Tiki.

 

And so the ingredients of the Ragdoll recipe were in place for, along with the Siamese pattern, Blue eye colour is also inherited. Blue and Chocolate colour genes present in both parents will produce Lilac kittens and, in addition, the semi-longhair coat is inherited as a recessive to short coat so that when two semi-longhairs are mated together, as happens with all recessive genes, true breeding is the result.

 

Three patterns have now been mentioned; Colourpoint, Mitted and Bicolour. Given appropriate matings the amount of white can be increased on both Mitted and Bicolour cats. This gives the High Mitted, the Mid High White Bicolour and the High White Bicolour. For show purposes the last three are not recognised, but are incredibly useful for breeding.

 

 

Character

 

The one major characteristic identified by Ann Baker as setting the Ragdoll apart from any other breed was its astonishingly equable character and gentility. I think you can dismiss the floppiness which gave them their name as pure hype, and the assertion that they have a low pain threshold is positively dangerous. Clinical tests have proved absolutely conclusively that the Ragdoll is no different in its physical responses and attributes to any other breed of cat.

 

What is certain, however, is that the way any kitten of any breed is reared contributes enormously to the socialisation of that kitten. Its human family is every bit as important as the mother cat in this respect. Frequent loving handling encourages trust; playing games with the kitten encourages him to regard you as something much more than the provider of food and litter trays.

 

Gentility, playfulness, an almost canine fidelity and a sort of absentminded sense of humour are some of the fascinating traits of this sweet-natured feline. They also happen to be alarmingly beautiful.

 

 

Extract of an article by Alan Edwards, International Judge and Past President of The British Ragdoll Cat Club.

 

 
 
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