Learn About The Ragdoll cat’s History
The beginning of the Ragdoll breed is controversial and shrouded in myths as the breed itself. The recorded history is full of contradictions, some parts of it even proven to be impossible. There are some elements that are known for certain; the Ragdoll was founded in Riverside California in the 1960’s by Ann Baker.
Ann Baker was a breeder of mostly black Persian cats. Her neighbor Mrs. Pennels had a white cat named Josephine. Like many outdoor cats at the time, they often produced kittens. Josephine was hit by a car, and lived. During this time Josephine had to stay indoors and she became somewhat tamer. When she had her next litter, the kittens were born in the house where Ann Baker first noticed them.
Josephine’s previous kittens had been half wild like Josephine herself. After the road accident they were quite the opposite. They were very relaxed and social. It wasn’t quite clear at the time why they were so different. One myth of Ann’s was the road accident changed Josephine’s genes. Ann also claimed Josephine was “fixed” at the university after the accident and she had new genes inserted in her. Another theory suggests that Josephine had a mutation in her reproductive cells. Regardless, Ann saw something so special about the kittens that she eventually decided to use them for creating a new breed.
The First Ragdoll Cats
The first Josephine’s kitten Ann acquired was Buckwheat, a black female that looked somewhat like a Burmese. Ann was later given another daughter of Josephine, a bicolor she called Raggedy Ann Fugianna. The father of Fugianna was mitted named Daddy Warbucks. All these cats were Josephine’s offspring, but they probably all had different sires. Ann was very impressed by the looks of Daddy Warbucks, who had the appearance of a Birman with a nose blaze and a white tip on the tail. It was this cat that Ann called the “Father of the true Ragdoll look”. She borrowed him often for her Ragdoll breeding program. These three cats are the foundation stock of Ragdolls, for Ann never had a chance to get any more Josephine’s kittens. When Josephine had her next litter, the owner’s husband had Josephine and her kittens destroyed.
Ann promoted the breed with ads and fliers. Ragdolls started to have the attention of the media. When the breeding program was well established, Ann Baker did something unheard of in the world of cat fancy; she trademarked the Ragdoll name. Other Ragdoll breeders had to make a contract and pay royalty fees for every kitten they sold. Ann also started a registry called the International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA), which was not connected to the big cat associations. Ms Baker had very strict breeding policies, which other breeders had to follow in order to get the kittens registered as “real” Ragdolls. She also started to make very amusing claims. For example, she said that Ragdolls had human or raccoon genes, they were immune to pain and fear, and they were the last link between humans and space aliens! The relationships between Ann and other Ragdoll breeders got tense and many gave up and quit. Finally, a group of breeders got tired of the arrangement and decided to split from IRCA.
The Ragdoll Society, which was later changed to the Ragdoll Fancier’s Club and then to the present Ragdoll Fanciers´ Club International (RFCI), was established in 1971 to promote the breed in the biggest cat associations so that Ragdolls could be shown more widely. In 1967 Ragdolls were first recognized in the USA and in 1981 Ragdolls were first exported to overseas. Due to its curious name and the strange myths associated with them, Ragdolls were often represented in the mainstream media and more and more people got interested in the breed. The fame has had its drawbacks though; many cat associations refused to accept the breed for a long time because it was considered inhumane to breed a cat that didn’t feel fear or couldn’t protect itself! Fortunately these misunderstandings have mostly been corrected by now and the Ragdoll has become perhaps the largest-growing cat breed in the history of the cat fancy!
Today the Ragdoll is still a relatively rare breed, but the number of Ragdolls and breeders is growing very rapidly. Ann Baker died in 1997, feeling bitter and betrayed for the rest of her life. The Ragdoll trademark expired in 2005. RFCI is also still functional and USA Ragdolls is a current member. Ragdolls are accepted by all cat associations. Thank you for reading, usaragdolls.com
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