The Nebelung is a long-bodied, muscular, medium-sized cat of semi-foreign type. The overall body structure is long and graceful with medium boning. The breed should appear neither rangy and leggy nor cobby and short-legged. The legs are long with medium boning, ending with medium-sized, well-rounded oval paws with generous tufting between the toes. The breed appears to stand and walk on the balls of its feet. The tail is long and in balance with the body’s length, although ideally the tail is at least equal to the body length from rump to shoulder blades. Males weigh 8 to 11 pounds, and females weigh 6 to 9 pounds. Proportion and general balance are desired over size.
The head is a modified wedge in good proportion to the body, more pointed than rounded, although the longer hair may give the cat a rounded look. The muzzle is medium in length with puffy whisker pads, which may give a pouty look to the females. In profile, there is no stop, break, or nose bump. The ears are large, pointed, and set to continue the modified wedge shape of the head.
The eyes are medium size, very slightly oval and widely spaced. Eye color is vivid green at maturity, which can be 2 years of age or older. The more richness and depth of color the better, although a yellow-green mixture is allowed.
An ideal Nebelung is a rhapsody in blue: The breed’s most striking feature is its medium-long, silky, bright blue fur that’s solid to the roots. Only one color, blue (better known as gray outside the cat fancy), and one pattern, solid, is accepted. The blue is contrasted by silver-tipped guard hairs, so the coat catches the light, giving it a luminous, almost ghost-like quality.
The soft double coat is suitable for all weather and is resistant to water. The outer coat is fine and silky, semi-long over the body and slightly shorter at the shoulders. The hind legs have pantaloons. The hair on the tail is longer. Males often display a neck ruff, and females to a lesser extent. Feathering behind the ears in a lighter shade of blue is desirable. Allowance is made for seasonal changes in coat length and density. The coat may take up to two years to fully develop. The only allowable outcross is the Russian Blue.
The beginning of the Nebelung breed was influenced by a chance meeting of recessive genes—and a love of opera. In the early 1980s, a shorthaired black female cat named Terri produced a litter of three: two shorthaired black females and one longhaired black male. The father was thought to have been a longhaired black cat of the Angora type. One of the shorthaired black females was given to the son of computer programmer Cora Cobb of Denver, Colorado, who named the kitten Elsa. In 1984, Elsa produced a litter of her own. The father, a neighborhood tom, was a shorthaired cat resembling a Russian Blue. Apparently, however, both Elsa and her blue-haired boyfriend possessed the recessive gene for long hair, because the litter of six included five black or blue shorthairs, and one beautiful blue longhaired male. Quite taken with the little blue fuzz ball, Cora Cobb adopted the kitten and named him Siegfried after the hero in her favorite Richard Wagner Ring operas, The Ring of the Nibelung.
As Siegfried grew, Cobb became very attached to her blue longhaired cat and began thinking that he was really something special. At maturity he was big and beautiful, with long legs, a long tail, glorious medium-long hair, and a sweet, loving personality that won Cobb’s heart. She felt he was that one-in-a-million cat with whom she could develop a lasting bond. For his part, Siegfried showered Cobb with feline love and the two became inseparable.
To Cobb’s surprise, Elsa’s next litter of seven, fathered by Elsa’s steady date, the shorthaired blue tom, included a longhaired blue female that looked like Siegfried, except that her fur was silkier, lighter, and longer. Cobb named Siegfried’s female counterpart Brunhilde, after the heroine in Wagner’s Ring opera. Now Cobb had a matched set of beautiful longhaired solid-blue cats that looked like longhaired Russian Blues. And because Cobb was already so enthralled by Siegfried’s personality and appearance, it occurred to her that perhaps she could create a new breed by breeding brother to sister. If all of the cats would be as beautiful and loveable as Siegfried, everyone would want one!
When Cobb moved to El Paso, Texas, in 1985, she took Siegfried and Brunhilde with her. Brunhilde was not opposed to accepting her brother as her mate, and in 1986, to Cobb’s delight, they produced a litter of three blue longhairs. All inherited Siegfried’s Russian Blue body type and Brunhilde’s longer, glossy fur. Because at the time Cobb was new to breeding cats, she didn’t know that longhaired blue kittens were the only possible outcome of Siegfried and Brunhilde’s tryst. Both long hair and blue coloration are governed by recessive genes and, therefore, to express those traits in their physical appearance each parent had to possess two copies of each gene for both traits. Both parents passed on these recessive genes to their children.
When the kittens were a few months old, Cobb decided to find out how to start a new cat breed. She called TICA and was referred to their genetics committee chairperson, the now late Dr. Solveig Pflueger. Pflueger was very encouraging and suggested Cobb describe the breed as a longhaired Russian Blue. She also told Cobb to write a breed standard, get other fanciers involved in the breeding program, and get other cats to add to the gene pool—Pflueger suggested Russian Blues that possessed the recessive gene for long hair, if they could be found. Such cats would improve the conformation of the breed and broaden the gene pool so it wouldn’t become inbred and unhealthy. Since the breed started by breeding brother to sister, that was a real concern.
Having never seen a breed standard before, Cobb sent for a copy of TICA’s breed standards and, on the advice of Dr. Pflueger, wrote a provisional standard that, except for the coat length and the general opening description, was almost the same as the Russian Blue’s.
The breed needed a name, too, and again Cobb thought of the Wagner operas. At first she thought to call the breed Nibelung, but then remembered that the Nibelung were greedy, ill-natured dwarves—not the sort of image she wanted for her breed—so she changed one letter and named the breed Nebelung – “creature of the mist” in loosely translated German. For her cattery name, she chose Nebelheim, which translates to "home of the mist." In 1987, with the help of Dr. Pflueger, Cobb applied and was granted NBC status in TICA.
Cobb had to recruit breeders, too. First she asked for the help of Patty Pendergrass, who had requested a kitten. Cobb asked if she’d take two females from Siegfried and Brunhilde’s second litter, Schatzi and Liebchen, and breed at least one of them to a Russian Blue male that Cobb would find some way of providing. Pendergrass agreed and became the Nebelung’s second breeder.
Cobb knew she needed to get the Nebelung into the spotlight. She entered Schatzi in the non-champion New Breed and Color (NBC) category at the TICA-sponsored City Kitty Cat Club show in Dallas, Texas. Showing her cats in the NBC class meant the breed would gain exposure and, hopefully, recognition from judges, exhibitors, and the cat-loving public. At that show, Cobb met a breeder of top-quality Russian Blues who agreed to let Schatzi mate with her supreme grand champion male, but only on the condition that Cobb not reveal her name. Not many other Russian Blue breeders welcomed Cobb’s upstart blue longhairs.
Schatzi, perhaps impressed with her Russian Blue suitor’s credentials, was agreeable to the match, and in 1988, she produced a litter of five shorthaired Nebelungs that all carried the recessive gene for long hair.
However, Cobb needed a full-time Russian Blue male to provide stud service and increase the gene pool. Cobb called Dianna Zinn, a breeder in Ocean Grove, Mississippi, who happened to have a male Russian Blue with longer-than-usual hair. Cobb purchased the cat, named Universal Concord, and soon found that nearly half the kittens he fathered were longhairs, a boon to the breed. Zinn also became part of Cobb’s small, but dedicated group of breeders. It took time and a great deal of hard work, but the efforts paid off and the Nebelung family tree began to branch and sprout more furry blue leaves. Other breeders joined the cause and helped increase both the gene pool and the Nebelung’s cat show exposure, vital to the breed’s acceptance in the cat associations.
Cobb found out that Nebelungs were being bred and shown in Russia. Because the Russian Blue originated there, and because Russian longhairs were shown in the first modern-day cat show held in 1871 at London’s Crystal Palace, this confirmed Cobb’s belief that the Nebelung is a re-creation of a natural Russian breed. Long hair would be a useful adaptation in an area of the world where temperatures were frigid part of the year. Several Nebelungs have since been imported from Russia to incorporate into the North American bloodlines, and these cats have done very well in shows.
In 1990, the Nebelung was accepted by CFF in the NBC class, and shortly afterward was granted championship. In 1997, the Nebelung was accepted for championship in TICA. Being accepted by TICA, the second-largest cat association in North America, was a huge step forward. Before the Nebelung was accepted for championship, the TICA board voted to have the designation "Russian Blue/Longhair" removed from the Nebelung registration certificates. This means the Nebelung is recognized as a separate breed, and if the Russian Blue standard changes in the future, Nebelung breeders will not be required to change their standard accordingly. In 2011, ACFA, the third-largest North American cat association, accepted the breed for championship. While the breed is still rare and numbers are small, fanciers think this lovely longhair is the cat’s meow.