Otherwise indistinguishable from the Persian, with the same body type and long, silky coat, Himalayans are distinguished by their pointed pattern (the pattern of the Siamese) and their deep vivid blue eyes. Because of their long fur, the pointed pattern appears softer than that of the Siamese.
The Himalayan is a medium to large breed with short, thick legs and a muscular, heavy-boned, cobby body. The head is massive and round with great breadth of skull, set on a short, thick neck. The eyes are large and round, set far apart, giving the cat a sweet expression. The nose is short, snub, and broad with a break centered between the eyes. When viewed in profile, the prominence of the eyes is apparent, and the forehead, nose, and chin appear to be in vertical alignment. The ears are small and rounded at the tip, set far apart and low on the head. The tail is thick and short but in proportion to the body. It is carried without a curve and at an angle lower than the back. Adult males weigh 9 to 14 pounds; adult females weigh 7 to 11 pounds. The Himmie is solid, but not fat, with an overall appearance of soft roundness. Type is more important than size.
Two distinct head types exist: Extreme and Dollface. Although the Extreme is the type accepted in the show ring, the Dollface has many fans. Fanciers of this type claim the Dollface is the original look before selective breeding changed the appearance of the breed. The Dollface Himalayan’s head is also rounded but the nose is placed lower on the face and has a moderate break. The upcurving mouth helps give the desired sweet expression that fanciers prize. Dollface breeders claim the Dollface lacks many of the health problems found in the Extreme Persian.
The Himalayan’s coat is long, flowing, and very thick, which softens the cat’s lines and accentuates the appearance of roundness. The points, consisting of the ears, legs, feet, tail, and face mask, show the cat’s basic color. Body color ranges from white to beige; a clear, uniform color is preferred, but subtle shading and darker shaded areas on the coats of older cats are allowed. Still, there must be a definite contrast between body color and point color. Point colors include chocolate, seal, lilac, blue, red, cream tortie, blue-cream, chocolate-tortie, lilac-cream, seal lynx, blue lynx, red lynx, cream lynx, tortie lynx, blue-cream lynx, chocolate lynx, lilac lynx, chocolate-tortie lynx, and lilac-cream lynx.
The only allowable outcross is the Persian, except in TICA, where the Exotic Shorthair is also permitted since it’s part of the Persian breed group. The Siamese is no longer used in breeding programs.
The Himalayan, a gorgeous cat with the color and pattern of the Siamese but the body and coat of the Persian, was deliberately created in 1950 by American breeder Marguerita Goforth. Soon after Goforth's success, British breeders also achieved the same goal. By crossbreeding Persians and Siamese and then crossing the resulting offspring, these breeders succeeded in producing the desired appearance. These innovative breeders weren’t the first to try this crossbreeding, but they were the first to attempt to establish this new variety as a distinct breed. In 1955 the British Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) recognized the Himalayan under the name Colorpoint Longhair. The American associations CFA and ACFA recognized the breed in 1957 under the name Himalayan, named for the color pattern found in other animals such as the Himalayan rabbit. By 1961, all major North American cat associations that existed at that time recognized the Himalayan.
For many years, the Persian and Himalayan were considered two separate breeds, and the hybrid offspring of the two were not viewed as members of either breed. Since breeders crossed their Himalayans with Persians to maintain body and head type, this created status problems for those kittens. It was frustrating for breeders to produce cats that couldn’t be registered as Himalayans, or as anything else. Breeders argued that the body type was the same for both breeds and only the colors and pattern remained of the Siamese ancestry. In 1984, CFA united the Himalayan and the Persian breeds, and in that association the Himalayan became a color division of the Persian rather than a separate breed. As varieties of the same breed, the offspring could be registered and shown in whatever color and pattern division they belonged.
The decision was controversial, however, and not everyone was happy with the new policy. Some of the Persian breeders didn’t like the idea of hybrids being introduced into their pure Persian bloodlines. Some Himalayan breeders were equally concerned about the breed they had worked so hard to refine. In fact, a group of fanciers so strongly disagreed with the new policy that they split from CFA and formed their own organization, the National Cat Fanciers’ Association (NCFA).
Today, whether the Himalayan is considered a breed in its own right depends upon the association. In TICA, the Himalayan is included in the Persian Breed Group, which includes the Persian, Himalayan, and Exotic Shorthair. They share a standard but each breed is mentioned and the differences noted. In CFA, the Himalayan is a color division of the Persian breed. However, in the AACE, ACA, ACFA, CCA, CFF, and UFO, the Himalayan is considered a separate breed and has its own breed standard.
However, because Himalayans are regularly crossed with Persians, most of these associations have special rules that allow Himalayan-Persian hybrids to be registered and shown. In TICA, for example, Persian, Himalayan and Exotic hybrids or variants may be shown as the breed they resemble. That means if a cross between a Persian and a Himalayan results in offspring that look like Himalayans, they can be registered and shown as Himalayans. If an Exotic-to-Exotic mating produces, say, a longhaired tabby, it can be registered and shown as a Persian. In ACFA and CCF, non-pointed Himalayans are included in the Himalayan standard, allowing them to be shown. This makes it much easier for breeders and avoids the problem of ending up with kittens that can’t be registered or shown. In CCA, pointed Himalayans and non-pointed Himalayans are considered two separate breeds, but non-pointed Himalayans are not recognized for championship. However, they can be used in Himmie breeding programs. In UFO, non-pointed Himalayans are known as the Himalayan Reflection.