Birman cat breed: such a special legend is attached to its origin

László Enikő, 2022. March 27 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

The Birman is more beautiful than its charming appearance. But its origins are also very special, as there is an interesting legend surrounding its creation.

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The Birman is not to be confused with the Burmese cat. The first thing a cat lover notices when they see this cat is its unique beauty. However, it is his nature that really captures the imagination of fans of the breed. He is a friendly and fun companion who loves to perform in front of an audience. Nevertheless, it is not too much and not demanding. She is a well-balanced, loving member of the family who also loves children.


The exact origins of the breed are obscure, but there are many different legends associated with it. These were probably invented by early breeders to make their kittens look more special and valuable. One of the common legend that it originated with monks of the Lao-Cun temple in Burma. They originally kept white kittens with yellow eyes, about a hundred of them. The head priest of the Birman monastery, Mun Ha, has dedicated his entire life to the service of the blue-eyed goddess, Kiang Sze. The high priest’s most devoted pet was Sin, who often meditated with Moon Ha. One dark night, however, the monastery was raided and pillaged by haramites. By the time the monks gathered to pray, the spiritual leader of the community had already died at the statue of the goddess. Then his cat, Sin, stood there, his fur turning golden and his eyes as blue as his goddess’s. And his paws remained white to symbolise purity. Then all the cats in the monastery were decked out in the holy colours. The harami were completely stunned and confused, and the monks managed to fight them off.

A more likely version, however, is the Birman arrived in Europe in the 1920s, thanks to the French Auguste Pavie and the British Gordon Russell. They were given a pair as a gift. Others believe that a servant stole a couple from the church. He then sold them to an American millionaire, For Cornelius Vanderbilt. On the way, however, the male died and only the pregnant female arrived at her owner. The breed was first recognised in France in 1925, and exhibited in 1926. Its popularity grew rapidly, but after the Second World War only two survived in Europe. After these many years Siamese and Persians interbred their offspring to revive the race. It was officially recognised in the United Kingdom in 1966 and in the United States in 1967. It is a popular variety these days, but fortunately not so much so that it is greatly affected by propagation.

Breed standard

A birman is a medium sized cat with a proportionate build. The head is broad, powerful and tapering. His forehead is slightly convex, his cheeks full, somewhat rounded. Nose is medium large. The eyes are large, slightly oval, deep blue. The ears are small, round-tipped and set apart from each other. Legs strong, relatively short, paws arched, fingers closed, medium in size. The paws are always white, as if the animal were wearing gloves or socks. The tail is of medium length, proportionate to the body and covered with dense fur. Its mid-length coat is silky and soft to the touch, forming a collar on the neck in colder climates. The Birman has a Siamese pattern, its true colour only visible at the points. Its original colours are seal and blue, but it can also be purple, red, cream, tortoiseshell, chocolate or even tabby. Birman cats are born white, as is typical of point cats, and later develop their final colour. Their body weight is about 4-7 kg. Their expected lifetime is 15 years.


Fans of the breed naturally admire the appearance of the Birman, but they believe his personality is even more beautiful. Many describe it as a great blend of Siamese and Persian. The Birman is a sweet, playful, intelligent but calm soul who is very devoted to his family. He is energetic and lively, but when he wants some privacy, he retreats to a quiet place. He is gentle but also playful, and loves to play with small children. He likes to be watched and his antics are accompanied by an enthusiastic audience. Balanced personality, not too much, not demanding but guaranteed to brighten up the daily life of its owners.

Ideal environment

The Birman adapts well to sharing with other cats or even other species, but also excels as an only cat. He also likes children, he is a good playmate for them, because like them he likes to have fun, to fool around. They are also friendly towards strangers and accept new people easily. Very affectionate and people-oriented, loves company. However, he sometimes needs his privacy too, so it’s important to give him a quiet, peaceful place to retreat to.


Despite its strikingly beautiful and semi-long coat, it is relatively easy to maintain. It’s difficult to tangle, but it’s worth brushing it regularly with a stiff bristle brush. During the shedding period, a metal-toothed brush is also handy. Unless it is an exhibit, this kind of care is sufficient for the Birman. Of course, you should also always keep his eyes and ears clean.

Common health problems

Some diseases may occur in the Birman. An example is hypotrichosis, which causes kittens to be born without hair. Formation of dermoid, which is a benign growth of tissue on the cornea. The problem can be surgically corrected. FSE may occur, which is feline spongiform encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms include weakness of the hind limbs and uncoordinated movement.

Kittens may have tremors and shaking. This condition usually starts when kittens are 10 days old and lasts until they are about 12 weeks old. The cause is unknown and healing is spontaneous. Abnormally high levels of urea and/or or creatinine concentration in the blood, which may indicate renal dysfunction. In Birman, heart disease may sometimes occur, an for abyssinian and for ragdoll likewise appears more often FIP, a contagious feline peritonitis.

(Literature used: János Szinák – István Veress: Cat Guide, Jean-Luc Renck: The Complete Cat Breed Book, Laura Aceti – Viola Autieri: Our best friend, the cat)

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