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Turkish Van Cats

Often referred to as Swimming Cats, the Turkish Van originates from Eastern Turkey, and is associated with the area around Lake Van from which it gets its name.

The first Turkish Vans to appear in Britain were those brought in by Laura Lushington and Sonya Halliday in the late 1950’s, who were given a male and a female to take home with them. They soon realised that the cats bred true, and sought recognition of the Turkish cat breed through the GCCF. Later they were to give up their Van prefix in order that the breed could be more precisely described as the Turkish Van cat.

In cat breeding and showing the word “van” is now used to describe the unique markings that the Turkish Van exhibits.  Other breeds now describe cats marked in this fashion as van-patterned, although they have yet to reproduce the clarity and consistency that we see in our Van cats.  In fact it is very difficult to produce a perfectly marked Van cat since it is a function of the random white spotting gene, and this randomness leads to many variations on van-patterning. We also see small “thumbprints” of colour sometimes, and legend has it that, as the cats left Noah’s Ark and made their way down Mount Ararat into Van, they were touched by Allah as he blessed them, and they carry this “Mark of Allah” as a coloured thumbprint even still. 

Turkish Vankedisi Cats

In Turkey the white cats are considered to be the true Van Kedi (Van cat), however for the last half century it has been the auburn & white cats that we have come to know as the Turkish Van, and of course more recently the other colours as well. History has a lot to answer for, since during that time the word "van" has become a style of coat patterning, meaning as having two coloured "butterfly" head markings and a coloured tail, and for this reason there can be no "white" Turkish Van in the GCCF, since they don't have any markings!
So this brings us to the Turkish Vankedisi, a cat identical to the Turkish Van in every way except for its colour.  The Turkish Vankedisi is a pure white Turkish cat originating from eastern Turkey, around the region of Van. 'Vankedisi' is the Turkish phrase for cat from Van, and betrays the close relationship that it has with the Turkish Van cat. In fact the Turkish Vankedisi is simply a completely white Turkish Van, and with some registration bodies (e.g. TICA) they are classified as such, and compete in cat shows against their coloured counterparts.  Ironically perhaps, it is the Vankedisi that the Turkish people hold in such reverence!

Turkish Angora Cats

Like the Turkish Van, the Turkish Angora (Ankara Kedi) has been observed in the Middle-East for centuries, being a natural cat named after the capital of Turkey, Ankara (formerly Angora).
Unlike Turkish Vans, Turkish Angoras can be found in a number of different colours and coat patterns, although to the Turkish people only the white cat is the true Ankara Kedi, the odd-eyed specimens being particularly prized.
The Turkish Angora cat originates from the area around Ankara (Angora) from where it derives its name. Cats from this region were said to be the first longhairs in Europe, brought back by the Vikings as early as the 10th century, and forming the foundation for our modern-day longhairs. Today’s Angora owes its existence to organisations like Ankara Zoo, from where cats were imported into the USA in the late sixties, and thence to Europe.
Turkish Angoras undoubtedly share some common ancestry with Turkish Vans, the two breeds having become polarised by events which have seen the cats become almost extinct in their native Turkey, only to be reborn in America and Western Europe. Today the two breeds are clearly distinct, but there are still many similarities to the extent that in some extreme cases they have been mistaken.