The German Longhair

Author: Sarah Hartwell
 

The German Longhair has waited a long time for international recognition although a breed standard and scale of points has existed since 1929. All that was missing until a few years ago was a registered breed that corresponded to this standard. Following the 2nd World War, which interrupted cat breeding in Germany, the only native German longhaired cat breed was considered extinct.


Longhaired cats in Germany were generically called Angoras and bred for colour, not conformation. Biologist and zoologist Professor Dr Friedrich Schwangart (1874-1958) criticized them as generally not meeting the "Hochzuchtperser" ("high-bred Persian") standard seen in British Persians, hence he created separate standards for the Persian and the German Longhairs in 1929, describing the differences between the two types. From that point, breeders of "Angoras" had to decide whether to breed British-style Persians or more natural-looking German Longhairs. Schwangart hoped the German Longhair, with its silkier "wash and wear" hair would take its place as a more natural counterpart to the Persian that had been bred in Great Britain for decades. The German Longhair was first exhibited and acknowledged nationally at the Exhibition of the Federation for Cat Breeding and Protection in 1930 in Berlin. In the following years it was frequently seen at cat shows and in 1932, German Longhair "Fox of the Rhine Castle", owned by Dr Heine in Leipzig, became a Federal winner.

 


Fox of the Rhine Castle (1932)

With the standards laid down in 1929, the longhaired cat types fell into 2 categories in the "Classification, Pedigrees and Systems of House Cats" and these were not to be interbred in order to maintain their distinct types (in Britain, early Persians, Angoras and the native British Longhairs had been interbred to create a single Persian Longhair). There was more information in Schwangart's 1932 publication "Formation and Breeding of House Cats (Results and Problems)" which noted further longhair breeds being the German Longhair founded by Schwangart himself and, in the previous 2 years, the Burma breed that appeared in Paris (i.e. the Khmer/Birman). By the day's standards, both Persians and German Longhairs had a compact conformation, short sturdy legs, a broad head with relatively short, broad muzzle and moderately small ears (akin to the European Wildcat). Both had rather short, beautifully carried tails, level back and long fur (with age differences, seasonal coat and pregnancy to be taken into consideration). And in both cases a "half-Angora" type with svelte body or narrow, pointed face were undesirable.

 

 

 

 

However, the Persian was described as thicker-set with a rounded head and a prominent forehead that fell abruptly to a broad, short muzzle giving an "angry" expression (i.e. a shorter face). The Persian's fur was denser and woollier with a well-developed ruff and the cats were bred with cobbiness and size in mind. In contrast to the Persian, the German Longhair had a more moderate head: a less prominent, tapered forehead that curved gently up from a longer nose with a more gentle slope. The conformation was less compact, the movement more fluid and the tail longer than the Persian. In essence, German Longhair did not permit the short face and prominent forehead of the Persian and in profile the face resembled the Tabby Shorthair. The German Longhair was found in the same colours and patterns as the Persian: single/self colours (black, blue, cream, red and white), bicolours, tortoisehsells (with or without white), "masks" (colourpoints), smokes, Chinchilla (tipped), peach (goldens?), silvers and both "tiger" (mackerel) and "marble" (classic) tabbies.
In "The Formation and Breeding of House Cats (Results and Problems)" (1932) Schwangart suggested the head and face of the German Longhair showed the influence of the large Nordic form of F silvestris (European Wildcat) resulting in a native Longhair that was distinct from the Persian or Angora. The tiger pattern completed the image of a German Longhair that might trace its ancestry, in part, to a wild cat. It was already known that domestic cats and wildcats could interbreed and some still believed that local races of domestic cat had arisen independently from local wildcat species. In a last work "Overview and Description of Domestic Cat Breeds" (1954) Schwangart described the German Longhair in detail, noting the existence of intermediate forms between Persian and German Longhair which were found in some of the colours, and the need to eliminate the intermediates in order to restore the 2 breeds as distinct form each other. It's clear that the Persian had been bred together, perhaps due to the difficulties of maintaining breeds during wartime, perhaps to improve the traits of one or other breed or perhaps through ignorance that they had originally been separate breeds.

 

He elaborated on the breed standard, though by then he may have felt it a losing battle due to the increasing popularity of the Persian. In the solid-colour German Longhairs, amber/yellow was the preferred eye-colour, except in solid white cats where amber, blue or odd-eyes were permitted. Deafness was a disqualifying fault in white cats which were to be tested using a whistle out of the cat's sight. He also mentioned the potential for degenerative problems, such as deafness, related to "albinism" (blue-eyed white was mistaken for albinism) so some indication that the cat wasn't albino, such as a dark membrane, was desirable. The bicolour and tricolour cats were to be more colour than white. The "masked" (silver shaded) cats were allowed to be less symmetrically marked than bi- or tri-colours. This group included the "black and yellow" tortoiseshell and the "Spanish" (tortoiseshell and white). The tortoiseshells ideally were to have large patches of colour, but Schwangart admitted that this was rare. In parti-colour cats, the eye colour was to reflect the predominating fur colour. The eye colours of the Chinchilla (black-tipped), peach colours (goldens?), smokes and silvery ones related to their coat colour (i.e. paralleling shorthairs and Persians).

The Second World War interrupted the breeding programme and the German Longhair stagnated for several years before apparently dying out. Dagmar Thies reported in 1979 that Mrs R Aschemeier had managed to locate German Longhairs from original bloodlines and had bred them at Blasheimer mill since 1968. These cats were considered very typy representatives of the breed and their descendents were useful in re-establishing the breed. By 2005 there were a growing number of breeders interested in preserving or recreating the German Longhair. They found foundation cats among free-ranging farm cats that were close to Schwangart's German Longhair standard. The foundation cats 5 of the remaining German Longhairs descended from Mrs Aschemeier's cats from 1968 (and thus preserving some of the genetic make-up of the original breed).


GLH, circa 1930

 

Aprovisional German Longhair standard was registered with the World Cat Federation in 2008 and based on the 1929 and 1954 standards. It is the only longhaired cat developed on German ground and is the longhaired "sister" of the European Shorthair breed which it resembles in general conformation. it does not have the wide muzzle of the Maine Coon or the straight nose line of the Norwegian Forest Cat. The modern standard calls for a medium-size cat with a long, rectangular, robust and supple figure. It differs from the European Shorthair/Celtic Shorthair in having a deeper chest and medium-length bushy tail that tapers to a round tip. The sturdy legs are short to medium-long with large firm paws. The head is rounded, but is longer than it is broad with medium-long and sloping nose with slight stop (a pronounced stop is a fault). Strong chin and cheeks, the latter suggesting the Nordic race of European Wildcat (F silvestris silvestris). Ears are small to medium size, upright and broad at the base with a rounded point. Eyes are round to oval, large and slightly diagonally set; the colour relates to the fur colour/pattern (or to predominant colour in parti-colour cats).

The coat is medium long at the shoulders and shorter on the head. It is longer on the flanks, back and belly and is particularly long at the ruff, hind legs (britches) and tail. However the fur is easy-maintenance, shining and not as woolly as the Persian. All colours are accepted except chocolate, cinnamon and their dilutes lilac and fawn (in both solids and in patterned cats). The colours/patterns otherwise include self/solid, bicolour, tortoiseshell, tortie-and-white, colourpoint, tipped, cream, red, smokes, silvers and both mackerel and classic tabbies. The personality is human-oriented.

At the end of April 2012, it was formally recognized as the "Deutsch Langhaar" (German Longhair) by the World Cat Federation (WCF) at the general assembly with a revised standard that still is nevertheless still based on Schwangart's description. The recognition comes into effect in July 2012.

 

 


Prototype of a GLH (2011)

 

 

Autor: Dr. Silke Sandberg