The history of the beautiful Siamese cat is still a bit of a mystery. There is some evidence that the breed existed in Siam (now Thailand) between 1350 and 1767. In Thailand itself these cats are called wichein-maat which means Moon Diamond. I have also seen this word translated as Diamond Gold. They are one of several native breeds and are talked about in Thai manuscripts called: "Tamra Maew" (A book of cat Poems). They are thought to have been written in the 1700's. These are transcribed in the book "Siamese Cats: Legends and Reality" by Martin Clutterbuck.
The First Siamese Cats In England
The British Consul- General in Bangkok, Edward Blencowe Gould, brought a pair of Cats from Siam to England in 1884. I would like to mention here that several sources site Gould's brother Owen as the British Consul of Bangkok. However in 1884 Owen was only twenty seven years old and isn't recorded as being in Bangkok at this time. These cats were given as a gift to Edward and he then gave them to his sister Lilian Jane Veley. When the Siamese cats first came to Britain they were known as the Royal Cats of Siam which would seem to suggest they had been kept by Siamese royalty. However research carried out later on Siamese cat history dosn't show any evidence that the Siamese cat was once part of a royal breeding program in that country.
Lilian Jane Veley went on to co-found the Siamese Cat Club in 1901 that is still in existence today. The cats Pho and Mia meaning father and mother produced three Siamese kittens: Duen Ngai, Kalohom and Khromata in 1885. The same year the kittens along with their parents where exhibited at The Crystal Palace Show in London.
Because of their unusual appearance and distinctive behaviour this first family of Siamese cats made a massive impact. Such an exotic breed of cat had never been seen before and the British people where fascinated and excited by them. I'm very sad to say that after the show was over all three of the kittens died. Knowbody knows the reason for their deaths as it's not documented
In the year 1886 another pair (with kittens) were imported into the UK by a Mrs Vyvyan and her sister. These cats were very different from the Persian and British Shorthair that people where used to. The Siamese cats' bodies were longer and less thickset. Their heads were not as round, rather more wedge shaped and they had larger ears. The pointed coat pattern was also unfamiliar. All these differences made a strong impression and the Siamese cat soon became much admired.
One early viewer however didn't agree and described it as as:
"An unnatural nightmare of a cat." Well you can't please them all.
The first Siamese UK Champion was a cat called Wankee in 1898, born in Hong Kong.
The First Siamese Cats In America
In the United States it is probable that the first Siamese cat arrived when Rutheford B Hayes was President (1877-1881). It came as a gift from the American Consul in Bangock for the President's wife, Lucy Webb Hayes. When the cat arrived in Washington she was named Siam and was soon admired by everyone.
Developments In Breeding
The traditional Siamese cats imported into Britain where medium sized, had muscular lengthy bodies and their wedge shaped heads were less excessive. They could be large or slender but not in the extreme. Siamese cats in Thailand still have these characteristics.
In the decades of the 1950's and 60's the Siamese cat was becoming very popular. It was around this time that the majority of show judges and breeders started to develop a preference for the more slender type of cat. Generations of selected breeding resulted in narrow headed, long fine boned cats. This breeding continued and eventually produced extreme very long cats with thin tales that constricted into a point, very slim long legs, fine wedged shaped heads and large broad set ears.
The leading cat organisations decided to revise their official breed standards in favour of the more recent slim style of cat. Those in the minority who decided to stick to breeding the traditional style of Siamese cat soon found that they could no longer win at shows.
Modern Siamese cat
Sadly by the 1980's the traditional style of Siamese cat had gone from cat shows completely. Thankfully some breeders, particularly in the UK continued to breed and register them so that today we have two types of Siamese that share in popularity.
A word of warning
Be aware when selecting your Siamese cat because the renewed popularity of the older traditional style Siamese cat has led to some uninformed buyers being sold pointed mixed breeds that have very few or absolutely no Siamese ancestors.