The Thai, sometimes called the Old Style Siamese, is a medium to large cat with a moderate body and head type. The body is long, substantial, and solid, neither tubular nor compact, and is neither cobby nor svelte in type, nor in any way extreme. The torso is moderately long, lithe, and graceful like a small panther. The body is well toned, and the musculature is firm but lithe, and not meaty or dense. The cat presents a well-balanced appearance with all elements in proportion.
The shape of the Thai’s head is the most important feature. The head can be described as rounded and broad compared to the Extreme Siamese, although it still has that distinctive Oriental look. The ears are alert, not overly large, medium in length, almost as wide at the base as they are tall, and rounded at the tip. They are set as much to the side as on the top of the head. The eyes are medium to slightly large with a very full almond shape, but not oriental, and set slightly more than an eye width apart. A line from the inner corner through the outer corner of the eye meets the outer base of the ear. The eyes are always blue; deep blue shades are preferred. Brilliance and luminosity are more important than depth of color.
Thai males weigh 11 to 15 pounds; females weigh 8 to 12 pounds. Show cats cannot be flabby, bony, or fat.
The Thai's coat is silky with very little undercoat. It doesn't have the “painted on” appearance of the Extreme Siamese, but the coat is definitely close-lying. The length is short to very short.
The defining feature of the breed is its pattern. In CFF and UFO the Thai comes in one pattern, colorpoint, also called point restricted, and four coat colors: seal, chocolate, blue, and lilac.
However, TICA also allows red point, cream point, blue-cream point, lilac-cream point, and colors in lynx point, tortie lynx point, and parti-color point. White markings are not permitted.
The points of the body—ears, face mask, feet, and tail—are darker than the rest of the body due to a temperature-controlled enzyme that creates greater depth of color at the parts of the body farthest away from the heart. These areas are a few degrees cooler, and so the color is concentrated in those areas. There is a clear contrast between the light body color and the darker points, and all the color points must be the same shade. Body color generally darkens with age. In TICA, the only allowable outcross is the Siamese, used when genetic diversity is needed. No outcrosses are allowed in CFF and UFO.
No one knows for sure exactly when the pointed pattern cat of Siam originated. Known in its native land as the Wichienmaat, the Siamese was described and depicted in The Cat-Book Poems, indicating the breed has existed in Siam (now Thailand) for around seven centuries, and possibly for much longer. According to these historical accounts, these living works of art were treasured for hundreds of generations and were the companions of royalty and religious leaders.
The Cat-Book Poems was written in the city of Ayutthaya in Siam sometime between 1350, when the city was founded, and 1767, when the city was burned by Burmese invaders (the people, not the cat breed). The illustrations in the manuscript clearly show cats with pale coats and dark points on the ears, tails, faces, and feet.
Exactly when the document was written is unknown because the original work, painstakingly handwritten and decorated with illustrations and gold leaf, was made of palm leaf or bark. When the document became too fragile, a fresh copy was made and the new scribe would sometimes bring his own interpretation to the copy. This makes it difficult to date. But whether it was written more than 650 years ago or only about 250, it’s still very old—likely the oldest manuscript about cats in existence. A copy of The Cat-Book Poems is kept secured and preserved in Bangkok’s National Library.
Because the Siamese was so valued in its native land, the cats were rarely given to outsiders, so the rest of the world didn’t become acquainted with the breed until the 1800s. Siamese cats were exhibited in 1871 in the first modern-style cat show at London’s Crystal Palace. At the event, one journalist described the breed as "an unnatural, nightmare kind of cat."
Others fell in love with the exotic breed’s unique color pattern, personality, and graceful body style. In spite of early naysayers and the difficulty of importing the cats, the Siamese rocketed to popularity in Europe. The first Siamese standard, written in 1892 in Great Britain, described the Siamese as "a striking-looking cat of medium size, if weighty, not showing bulk, as this would detract from the admired svelte appearance... often distinguished by a kink in the tail." At that time, the admired lithe appearance was not nearly as svelte as the Extreme type of Siamese today. Kinked tails and crossed eyes were common then as well, although both are now considered faults in show cats.
The Siamese was brought to the United States around 1890 and quickly became established with the developing and enthusiastic American cat fancy. Although the cat fancy endured ups and downs during the troubled years of the Great Depression and World War II, the Siamese maintained its popularity and today is one of the most popular shorthaired breeds.
In the early 1900s, breeders set out to improve the original breed, and over decades of selective breeding, the Siamese became more and more extreme. By the 1950s, some Siamese cats in the show ring had longer heads, bluer eyes, finer boning, and slimmer bodies than the Siamese common at the turn of the century. Many people liked the changes in the Siamese, while others preferred the older, more moderate look of the breed. In this decade, the two types began to diverge, with one group becoming more extreme in style and the other remaining moderate. However, by the 1980s, moderate-type Siamese were no longer considered show cats, except in the household pet category; mainstream breeders were breeding for a much more extreme cat, and being rewarded for their efforts by show judges.
In the 1980s, the first breed clubs dedicated to the Old Style Siamese appeared in Europe, such as the Old Style Siamese Club. These clubs worked together to preserve and advance the Old Style’s moderate head and body type. In 1999, the Prestwick-Beresford Old Style Siamese Breed Preservation Society (PREOSSIA) formed in North America, and discovered many fans of the Old Style existed on this side of the Atlantic as well. In 1990, the World Cat Federation in Europe changed the breed’s name to Thai to differentiate the Old Style from the Extreme Siamese, and granted the Thai championship status. In 2001, breeders began importing pointed cats from Thailand to establish a healthy gene pool for the Thai breed and to preserve the genes of Southeast Asia's native cats while they are still distinct from extreme Western cats, which had acquired certain hereditary genetic diseases and conditions due to the inbreeding done to develop the extreme body style and head type. In 2007, TICA granted Preliminary New Breed status to the Thai, and in 2009 promoted the Thai to Advanced New Breed, making it possible for breeders in North America and Europe to work together and show under a single breed standard. In 2010, TICA granted championship status to the Thai. The breed is also accepted for championship by CFF and UFO under the name of Old Style Siamese.