Other early breeds include the Siamese and Birman, which were mentioned in writings by Buddhist monks in the 14th century. These are considered to be “natural breeds,” however, since they arose due to isolation of certain distinctive-looking local cat populations.
“Most of the domestic fancy breeds described nowadays were created by human intervention only in the 19th century,” Ottoni said. “The first exhibition of fancy breed cats took place in 1871 in London.”
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He and his colleagues think that before then, cats were valued more for their behavioral traits rather than for their aesthetics. Nevertheless, the beauty and often graceful movements of cats seemed to be noticed by early artists and political leaders. Ancient Egyptians even adorned representations of felines with earrings, and connected them to the goddess Bastet. This gave felines an even greater regal appearance in statues and other objects.
In the future, the researchers hope to compare wildcat genomes with those of house cats to better characterize the domestication process. As it stands, however, our attempts to control and transform these prevalent mammals appears not to have profoundly altered their original appearance, physiology, and behavior, especially when compared to other domesticated animals, such as dogs. It could even be that the still-wild ways of cats are some of their greatest assets, helping to draw humans to them over the millennia.
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