Dating back many centuries, the sacred Birman has a long and colourful history. Today this attractive cat is admired all over the world for her plush, silky coat, striking blue eyes and friendly character.
Legend has it that the Birman’s ancestors were temple cats in Burma and also explains the breed’s unique pointed colour pattern. The silky coat, which comes in a range of pointed colours, is strikingly finished with a golden cast, known as the ‘golden mist’. Birmans also have brilliant blue eyes and their paws are white.
This unusual colouring had its origins centuries ago in the Temple of Lao-Tsun, built by the Khmer people of Asia. They worshipped a golden goddess with sapphire blue eyes, Tsun-Kyan-Kse. A priest called Mun-Ha and his pure white cat, Sinh, often knelt beside each other at the feet of the goddess in meditation. On one such occasion, raiders attacked the temple and killed Mun-Ha. As he died, Sinh stepped onto his master’s body with all fours and faced the goddess. Within seconds Sinh’s white coat turned golden, his yellow eyes became the same deep blue as those of the goddess, his legs turned brown, but where his four feet touched his master’s body, they remained pure white. At sunrise the next morning all the temple’s white cats were golden with sapphire blue eyes and white paws.
During the late 1800s two Westerners came into contact with the temple cats and took two back with them to Europe. After further breeding, the ‘Sacre de Birmanie’ breed was officially recognised in France in 1925. The name was later changed to Birman and today the breed is recognised all over the world.
Text: Johann Theron
Photography: Lin Currie, Eric Isselee and Tristan tan