The Chartreux


by Debra Rexelle
From Cat Fanciers' Almanac, June 1999


Michou de Fernine, male.
Best Chartreux of France, 1967.

The first recorded breedings of the Chartreux began around 1928 by the Leger sisters, on the island of Belle-Ile-sur-Mer, an island off the northwest tip of France. The sisters (de Guerveur Cattery) started with a local colony of cats with distinct Chartreux type. The cats were known locally as the "Hospital Cats" as they were found residing around the island's church-run hospital in the town of Palais. Mlle. Leger wrote in 1935, that from first generation breedings they obtained remarkable results and that all the kittens were blue and typey.

In the summer of 1970, Helen and John Gamon (Gamonal Cattery) of La Jolla, CA, traveled to France in hope of finding some Chartreux cats. The only knowledge Helen had of the breed at that time came from a short article in Fernand Mery's book, The Life, History and Magic of the Cat (1966).


Taquin de St. Pierre, male.
First Chartreux imported to the US, 1970.

Mery wrote of the breed's history, both in fact and legend, and compared the Chartreux to other blue shorthair breeds of cats. He also wrote of Colette's attraction to the breed. In his description of the Chartreux, he states, "The Chartreux is a cat of rural France. It has a stockier body line than the British Blue. It stands solidly on comparatively short, well-muscled legs. Its head is round but set on a thick-set neck and having really full cheeks. It has a very powerful jaw, temptingly reminiscent of that of the European wild cat. Its ears are of medium size and set high on the rounded skull. Its fur is woollier than that of any breed described so far."

This description inspired Mrs. Gamon to search for the Chartreux breed, but it wasn't until three weeks after they arrived in France that any were to be found. Tornade de St. Pierre was the first one they saw. They bought her and a younger male, Taquin de St. Pierre, from the cattery of Madame Bastide. Both cats were sired by Michou de Fernine, who was Best Chartreux of France in 1967. These cats are probably found in the pedigrees of most Chartreux today.

CH Blaukatzen's Beaufort, male. Br/Ow: Jerry Auerbach.

After Helen Gamon imported the first Chartreux into the United States, she wrote, "It came as a great surprise to learn there were no other Chartreux registered in the U.S. or Canada and I was unable to locate any owners of the breed here. I sent back to France and Belgium for other kittens, a little female from the latter being daughter of the Best Chartreux of Belgium in 1970." This female was known as Thilda of Saint Marcoult. Not long after this, Genevieve Scudder of San Diego, Ca (Arista Cattery), imported Ixion de Guerveur in 1974. In pictures these foundation cats look the same as the champion Chartreux of the 1930s as well as today's grand champions.


GC Columbleu's Justin Thyme, male.
Br/Ow: Sherrie F. Zabriskie.

Meanwhile, in Europe in 1970, FIFe combined the Chartreux with the British Blue and adopted the British standard for both, which would have led to the elimination of the Chartreux as we know it. Several French breeders protested vehemently, and M. Jean Simonnet presented research papers in 1972 and 1974 providing documented historical proof that the Chartreux were a distinct breed of cat.

In 1977, FIFe separated the two breeds with a separate standard for each. This decision came just in time, as there were only a few genuine Chartreux left. The Chartreux standard created at that time was the basis for the Chartreux standards for CFA and all North American cat associations. Other independent cat registries in France and Europe may still allow hybrid crosses as Chartreux, so one must be careful when importing Chartreux to look for the proper pedigrees.

GP Aneise Nellie of Ajolie, spay.
Br: Jessie Strike-McClelland.
Ow: Dru Milligan and Jolie Stratton.

In October 1979, CFA accepted the Chartreux for registration as a natural breed. Provisional status was obtained in 1986, and one year later in 1987, the breed, having fulfilled all of the requirements for advancement, obtained championship status in CFA. I remember the February 1987 board meeting quite well to this day.

There was a fine celebration by enthusiastic Chartreux breeders and owners at Pike's Market in Seattle, WA, and we were joined by the Ocicat breeders, who had also advanced to Championship status that day. This was another journey forward for the Chartreux, a breed that has traveled so far over hundreds of years.


GC Luxueux Gabriel, male.
Br/Ow: Dawn Varney, MD.

During the first year of championship status (1987-88), late in the season (March), the first Chartreux granded: GC Sheenahs' Chantal of Katoklix, bred by Shirley Rosenberg of Syracuse, NY and owned by Marcus and Gena Click of Concord, NC.

Chantal was followed in April by the second grand champion, GC Velure Ballade, bred and owned by Catherine Kisrow of Nashville, TN. These cats went on to become Best and Second Best of Breed that year.

Now, 11 show seasons later, there are 204 grand champions and grand premiers in the Chartreux breed: 75 male grand champions, 65 female grand champions, and an even 32 male and 32 female grand premiers.


CHARTREUX NATIONAL BREED AWARD WINNERS

1987-88
Best of Breed GC Sheenah's Chantal of Katoklix
2nd Best of Breed GC Velure Ballade
1988-89
Best of Breed GC Frenchcon's Claude of Jacquelnjil
2nd Best of Breed GC Velure Dauphine
1989-90
Best of Breed GC, GP, NW Katoklix Devin
2nd Best of Breed GC, GP, RW Belleisle's Cashmere Critter, DM
1990-91
Best of Breed GC, GP, NW Katoklix Devin
2nd Best of Breed GC, RW Frenchcon's Elmer F
1991-92
Best of Breed GC, RW Frenchcon's Elmer F
2nd Best of Breed GC, GP, RW Belleisle's Cashmere Critter, DM
1992-93
Best of Breed GC, RW Backcountry Giselle of Sinaye
2nd Best of Breed GC, RW Ashmanor Delorean
1993-94
Best of Breed GC Lutece Hymne a la Joie
2nd Best of Breed GC Ashmanor Encore
1994-95
Best of Breed GC, RW Backcountry Ivie Bleu of Clervaux
2nd Best of Breed GC Katmanbleu Isis of Minetbleu
1995-96
Best of Breed GC, RW Lutece Janis Joplin of Sinaye
2nd Best of Breed GC, RW Janvier Jaclyn
1996-97
Best of Breed GC, RW Janvier Larissa
2nd Best of Breed GC, RW Aneise Lucien of Bellereve
1997-98
Best of Breed GC, RW Lutece Melisande
2nd Best of Breed GC Columbleu's Millenium Thyme
3rd Best of Breed GC Tiarableu's Monique
GC, RW Lutece Janis Joplin of Sinaye, female.
Gulf Shore Region's 7th Best Cat 1996.
Br: Emily Orca Starbuck.
Ow: Denise and Jerry Williams.
GC, RW Clervaux Notre Amitie of Belleisle, female.
Gulf Shore Region's 15th Best Kitten 1998.
Br: C. Fuge, P. Rice, C. Bizzell, and K. Black, lessee.
Ow: Penny Rice and Christine Fuge.

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