The European Burmese is an athletic, muscular, elegant cat of foreign type, according to the CFF breed standard, although the ACFA and CFA standards call for a cat of moderate type, with gently rounded contours. The European Burmese falls between svelte and cobby in body style. Any resemblance to either is regarded as a fault. The hard, muscular body is of medium length and size, and is heavier than it appears. Adult males weigh 10 to 14 pounds; adult females weigh 7 to 10 pounds. The chest is strong and rounded in profile, and the back is straight from shoulder to rump. The legs are rather slender with the hind legs slightly longer than the front, but both are in proportion to the body. The feet are small and oval. The tail is medium length and not thick at the base; it tapers slightly to a rounded tip.
The head is in proportion to the body and is carried on a medium-length neck. The top of the head is slightly rounded between the ears, which are set well apart. Viewed from the front, the head forms a short wedge, with wide cheekbones tapering to a short, blunt muzzle with a visible nose break. The jaw is wide at the base, and the lower jaw is strong, as is the chin. The ears are broad at the base, medium in size, set well apart, and have slightly rounded tips and a slight forward tilt. The eyes are large, alert, and set well apart. The top line of the eye is slightly curved with an oriental slant toward the nose, and the lower line is rounded. Eye color is lustrous and bright yellow to amber; deeper color is preferred.
The coat is short, fine, close-lying, and very glossy with a satin-like texture. The fur is almost without undercoat. One of the main differences between the American Contemporary Burmese and the European Burmese, besides head and body type, is that a wider range of colors are accepted, including brown, blue, chocolate, lilac, red, and cream. One additional pattern is accepted: tortoiseshell, in brown, blue, chocolate, and lilac, combined with patches of red or cream in various shades. Patches of color are distributed over the whole body and the extremities—the patch distribution is less important than the other color details. In all colors, the cat’s underside is slightly paler than the back. Though not a pointed pattern breed, the points might show some contrast, left over from the Siamese heritage. No outcrosses are allowed.
The names of the colors and pattern combinations can vary according to the cat association. In CFF, for example, lilac tortie is not accepted, but champagne tortie and platinum tortie are. Since TICA accepts the Contemporary Burmese in the additional colors of red and cream and the pattern of tortoiseshell, the European Burmese has had difficulty gaining acceptance in that association. Currently, TICA only recognizes the breed in the non-championship experimental category.
The European Burmese shares much of its early history with the Burmese, since originally both came from the same foundation stock. The breed comes from the bloodlines of Wong Mau, the foundation cat of the North American Burmese. Their histories diverge in 1949, when two of Wong Mau’s descendants were imported to Britain by Siamese breeder Lilian France. The male was named Casa Gatos da Foong, and the female Chindwin’s Minou Twm. Minou was already pregnant by an unrelated male, but lost her kittens while she was confined during the six month quarantine required for animals entering the United Kingdom. (Cats and other companion animals entering the United Kingdom and other European countries must be quarantined for six months at owner expense to prevent bringing rabies into the country, unless they qualify for a "pet passport" under the Pet Travel Scheme system, which was not available in the 1940s.)
France imported another female Burmese from the United States, Laos Cheli Wat, who had already proved herself healthy and fertile. Later, France imported another male, Casa Gatos Darkee. From these foundation cats the European Burmese was developed. The breed quickly gained popularity, and other fanciers began breeding programs.
Since the gene pool was limited in Europe, Siamese were included in Burmese breeding programs. Additional colors were added intentionally and accidentally; in 1964, a female blue Burmese in heat escaped and mated with a red tabby domestic shorthair. The litter included a tortoiseshell who was included in the breeding program. A brown female Burmese and a red point Siamese were deliberately mated, and a tortie and white barn cat carrying the recessive Siamese gene was mated to a male brown Burmese carrying the recessive blue gene. Many breeders contributed to developing the additional colors for the breed.
Despite having a long European history, the European Burmese is a recent addition to the North American cat fancy. While the first European Burmese came to the United States from Europe around 1979, the breed wasn’t accepted as a separate breed in North America for another 15 years. Most associations didn’t accept colors beyond the original Burmese colors of sable, champagne, blue, and platinum, so breeders wrote a new standard describing the additional colors and pattern of red, cream, and tortoiseshell, and the moderate body style and head conformation of the European. CFA accepted the breed for registration in 1994, first in the non-championship miscellaneous class (except in international division shows, where they were eligible for championship). In 2000, CFA granted provisional status, and in 2002, CFA advanced the European Burmese to championship. Other associations followed. In 2014, TICA advanced the breed from Experimental Registry status to Registration Only, the second step needed toward the coveted championship status. Currently, the breed is accepted for championship by six of the eight North American cat associations. ACFA, CFA, and UFO call the breed the European Burmese, while CCA and CFF call the breed Foreign Burmese. Regardless of the different names, they are the same breed.
The European Burmese is popular with fanciers who prefer its moderate type to the compact conformation and foreshortened face of the North American Contemporary Burmese. The breed is still rare in North America; according to CFA’s 2014 registration totals, the European Burmese ranked 34th out of the 41 breeds accepted for championship.