The ideal Ragdoll is a semi-longhaired, well-balanced pointed cat with vivid blue eyes. The Ragdoll is medium to large, with a long, broad, heavily boned body and an impression of graceful, flowing movement and subdued power. The body is large and long, broad and solid, firm and muscular, with heavy boning. It’s rectangular in shape, with a full chest and equal width across the shoulders and hindquarters. While not fat, a moderate stomach pad on the lower abdomen is acceptable. The legs are heavily boned, medium length with the back legs slightly longer than the front. The tail is long, with a full plume.
Ragdolls are moderate in all ways, with no extreme features. Mature males weigh 12 to 20 pounds; mature females weigh 8 to 15 pounds. Females may be substantially smaller in size. Altered males are more likely to reach 20 pounds than whole males. No outcrosses are allowed.
The head is proportionately large with a broad, modified wedge that is equilateral in shape, where all sides are of equal length as measured from the outside of the base of the ear to the end of the gently rounded muzzle, with the appearance of a flat plane between the ears. The cheeks are in line with the wedge. The chin is well developed and the neck is heavy and strong. The profile is slightly curving, ending in a straight, medium-length nose. The chin is well-developed, strong, and in line with nose and upper lip.
The ears are medium in size, wide set, and moderately flared, continuing the line of the wedge. They’re wide at the base, have rounded tips, and tilt forward. The large eyes are vivid blue ovals, wide set, and moderately slanted, complementing the wedge.
The naturally non-matting, moderately long coat is characterized by abundant guard hairs and minimal woolly undercoat. It flows with the body. The fur is short on the face, longer on the ruff, and shorter on the shoulder blades, lengthening toward the tail. The fur on the front legs is short to medium; the fur on the hind legs is medium to medium-long with full, feathery britches. The tail has a full plume.
All Ragdolls are pointed, but the points are partially overlaid with white in some patterns. The Ragdoll comes in six colors: seal, blue, chocolate, lilac, red, and cream. Accepted patterns are colorpoint, bicolor, van, and mitted. Colorpoint Ragdolls have dense and clearly defined masks, ears, legs, feet, and tails; the points might be solid, lynx, tortie, and tortie-lynx. Bicolors have a white inverted "V" on the mask, and the chin, chest, and underside are white; the upper body might show white spotting. Legs and feet are preferably all white. Mitted Ragdolls have well-defined points on legs (except the feet), ears, masks, and tails. The front feet have evenly matched white mittens on both feet up to and around the wrist joint. The back legs are white up to and around the hocks. In van pattern, point color is restricted to the ears, tail, and mask. The body, legs, and feet are white with minor spotting allowed. Ragdolls can take three years, sometimes more, to reach their full color potential.
The Ragdoll, a large blue-eyed breed dressed in long, silky fur and sporting the colorpoint pattern, is well-loved by an ever-growing group of fanciers addicted to the breed’s charms. Despite a bewildering past, the breed’s sweet nature, non-matting fur, and lovely colors and patterns have helped the Ragdoll overcome myth and mystery to claw its way up to become one of the most popular longhairs, topped only by the Persian and the Maine Coon. The Ragdoll’s history is as confusing as it is controversial. Instead of facts, we have colorful narratives, speculation, hypotheses, and flat-out fiction.
The Ragdoll was developed in the 1960s by the late Ann Baker of Riverside, California, a former Persian breeder. In fact, who, where, and when are just about the only details involving the breed’s origins that are not subject to debate. Now that Baker has passed on, it’s likely the true story will never be told.
According to Baker, in the early 1960s the Ragdoll’s foundation cat, a longhaired white Angora look-alike named Josephine, was taken to a laboratory after being hit by a car, where she was genetically altered as part of a secret government experiment. All subsequent offspring possessed the same characteristics: non-matting fur, docile nature, large size, and the tendency to go limp in your arms like a child’s rag doll—thus the breed's name. However, this couldn’t be confirmed, Baker claimed, since the government suppressed all the evidence.
While most well-balanced people scoff at this conspiracy theory, and genetics experts say that this kind of genetic engineering wasn’t even possible in the 1960s, this story and other Twilight Zone tales uttered by Baker have plagued Ragdoll breeders for years and cat associations found it hard to take the breed seriously. According to the Ragdoll Connection Network, a group committed to promoting the breed, Baker’s claims became even more strange and hard to believe as time went on. For example, they say she claimed Ragdolls were crossbred with skunks to improve the cats’ tails and also represented a link between humans and extraterrestrials.
It’s more likely that Josephine simply possessed a pleasing combination of recessive genetic traits. When bred to males who added aesthetic traits of their own, Josephine produced eye-catching offspring. These attention-getting progeny, however they were produced, became the foundation of the Ragdoll breed. In particular, three of Josephine’s progeny were noteworthy—Buckwheat, Fugianna, and Daddy War Bucks—and evidently all subsequent Ragdoll generations can be traced back to them. Apparently, none of these cats nor their parents were purebreds, although that can’t be proven since Baker didn’t document the trysts and in fact didn’t even own Josephine, who was a semi-feral cat who lived on the property of Mr. and Mrs. Pennels, Baker’s neighbors.
Josephine and a Birman look-alike owned by the Pennels produced Daddy War Bucks, who also resembled a Birman. Baker referred to him as the father of the Ragdoll look. Josephine mated with Daddy War Bucks and produced Fugianna. Buckwheat was the daughter of Josephine and an unknown male, possibly Daddy War Bucks. Baker acquired all three offspring from the Pennels. At this point, according to some sources, Josephine was euthanized by Mr. Pennels, along with many of her offspring who were living on the Pennels’ property.
Baker bred Buckwheat to Daddy War Bucks and produced two solid colored cats and two colorpoint cats. These two colorpoints, Kyoto (a seal-mitted colorpoint) and Tiki (a seal colorpoint), were registered as Ragdolls with the National Cat Fanciers' Association (NCFA) on December 30, 1966.
Over the next few years Baker increased her breeding stock and band of breeders. In 1971, Baker founded her own registry called the International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA), and, in an attempt to protect her proprietary interests and keep control of the breed, she trademarked the Ragdoll name. The trademark was valid until 2005.
She sold Ragdoll franchises, which meant IRCA breeders had to pay licensing fees, breed according to Baker’s carefully controlled guidelines, and get her approval for all Ragdoll matings in order to use the Ragdoll name. In addition, breeders had to pay a 10% royalty for each kitten they sold. IRCA Ragdolls could only be registered with IRCA, and were not allowed to be shown or registered with the mainstream cat associations.
Many breeders were not pleased with this arrangement, and also wanted to distance themselves from the questionable claims being made about their beloved breed. These breeders split from Baker and IRCA and in 1975 formed the Ragdoll Society, later changing it to the Ragdoll Fanciers’ Club International (RFCI). Founded by Denny and Laura Dayton, the first breeders to buy Ragdolls from Baker, this group was dedicated to developing the breed and achieving recognition with the mainstream cat associations. The Daytons and the other breakaway breeders felt the Ragdoll’s trademark didn’t apply to them because they had purchased their cats before the breed name was trademarked. Baker didn’t agree, and years of bitter litigation followed.
Later, other breed groups affiliated with the mainstream cat associations formed to promote the Ragdoll, such as the CFA-affiliated Ragdolls of America Group (RAG) in 1993. It took many years to overcome the past controversy, but the RFCI and RAG breeders and other breeders not affiliated with IRCA finally advanced the Ragdoll to championship status in every major North American cat association—even CFA, which belatedly granted championship in 2000. The Ragdoll has earned its place in the spotlight, just as it has earned its place in the laps and hearts of fanciers everywhere. Misinformation still creates occasional confusion, but Ragdoll fanciers are striving to move past all that, and look toward a bright future with one of the cat fancy’s rising stars. Today, the Ragdoll is the third most popular longhair and the fourth most popular breed overall, according to CFA’s 2014 registration totals.