The Birman, or Sacred Cat of Burma, is said to be an ancient breed. As the wonderful and enthralling legend has it, many years ago they lived in the temple of Lao-Tsun in Burma. The priest of the temple Lao-Tsun worshipped the goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse. She was represented as a golden statue with sapphire blue eyes.
Of the 100 white cats living in the temple, the head priest, Mun-Ha, had a favourite one named Sinh. One night, raiders attacked the temple and severely wounded Mun-Ha while he knelt praying before the statue of the goddess. As Mun-Ha lay dying, Sinh jumped on his master’s body and faced the goddess. It is believed that the soul of Mun-Ha entered into the cat and caused a miraculous transformation to occur. The white of Sinh’s body became golden, like the old priest’s beard. His face, legs and tail shaded to a dark brown hue, like the fresh brown earth. His eyes became blue, like those of the goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse. But the feet, where they touched the priest, remained white, a sign of the purity of Mun-Ha’s soul. Sinh’s transformation inspired the other priests to fight off the attackers.
Seven days later, Sinh died, taking his master’s soul to heaven. The next morning when the priests met to choose a successor, to their surprise, the other cats in the temple had undergone the same transformation. As the priests watched, the cats quietly formed a circle around a young priest named Lioa. They believed that this was a divine sign, and so Lioa became the new head priest. From this point on the priests jealously guarded their cats, believing them to be the guardians of their souls.
In the early 1900’s the temple was again raided. Two French officers who helped to save the temple were given a pair of the temple cats. Unfortunately, on the voyage back to France the male cat died but the female arrived pregnant. Careful breeding increased the number of Birmans, but during the World Wars they were reduced drastically. Again, dedicated breeders worked hard to develop and increase the breed, and by the 1960’s the Birman cat was well established. Also during the 60’s Birman cats were sent to Great Britain and North America. Soon they became popular in many countries around the world.
Birmans are now available in a variety of colours and patterns, not just the original solid brown. Their silky fur is of medium length with a distinctive neck ruff, particularly on the males. Their coloured points are restricted to the ears, face, legs and tail. The paws must be pure white. This most unique feature requires even, white gloves on their front and rear paws, with laces that go half way up the back hocks. Their eyes are round in shape, and as deep blue as possible. The body of a Birman is long and strongly built. The head is round with ears shaped as wide as they are tall. Their nose is described as having a Roman profile which is defined by a “bump” along the bridge. The legs are heavy and medium in length with large round paws. The Birman temperament has remained charming and dignified. They enjoy company and do not like to be left alone. Adult cats remain kittens at heart and will play well into old age.