The history of the Birman must always begin with the legend of how
the breed received its distinctive coloring and gloved paws.
In a temple on Mount Lugh lived the Kittah Mun-Ha. His life was
dedicated to the adoration, contemplation, and holy service of Tsun Kyan-Kse, the
Goddess with the sapphire eyes. Always near him as he lived in meditation was Sinh,
an all-white cat whose eyes were yellow from the reflection of the Goddess with the
heavenly eyes. Sinh's ears, nose, tail, and extremities of his legs were dark like
the color of the earth.
One night raiders attacked the temple and Mun-Ha was mortally
wounded. At the moment of the Mun-Ha's death, Sinh placed his feet on his master,
and faced the goddess. A miraculous transformation took place; Sinh's white fur
took on a golden glow, reflecting the golden goddess. His eyes became as blue as
hers. His face, ears, legs and tail remained the brown of the earth, but his four
paws, touching his beloved master, became pure white - a symbol of purity. The
other priests watched the transformation in awe and were inspired to fend off the
Seven days later, Sinh died, taking the soul of Mun-Ha to paradise.
On that day the priests consulted before the statue to decide on Mun-Ha's
successor, when all the cats of the temple ran up. All were dressed in gold with
white gloves and had eyes changed from yellow to sapphire. In complete silence they
surrounded the youngest of the Kittahs making the goddess' decision known. The
legend states that each Sacred Cat carries the soul of a priest on its final
journey to paradise.
The modern history of the Birman is far less romantic. There are
two stories behind the revelation of the Birman in the western world. The first is
that a mated pair of Birman's were purchased by a wealthy tourist named Mr.
Vanderbilt from a disgruntled temple servant. Mr. Vanderbilt then proceeded to send
the cats off to a friend in France. The other story is that the mated pair was sent
to a couple of Englishmen residing in France by grateful priests whom they had
helped to defend their temple. Regardless of how the cats were sent to France, it
is known that the male name Madalpour died enroute and only the female, Sita,
survived. Thankfully she was pregnant and the first western litter of Birmans was
The breed was popular, but by the end of WWII it is believed that
only one breeding pair was still alive. This forced breeders to outbreed in order
for the Birman to survive, which it did with great success. The Birman received
Championship status in England in 1966 and in America with the CFA in 1967.