Named for its location of origin, the first Cornish Rex was
discovered in a litter of barn cats in Cornwall, England in about 1950. A Mrs.
Ennismore became attached to a kitten in a litter of domestic shorthairs, he was
thinner, his coat curlier and so she chose to adopt him and took him to her local
veterinarian to be neutered. Thankfully for the breed, the vet recognized that the
little kitten, named Kallibunker, was something special and advised Mrs. Ennismore
to consult a geneticist. It was decided that the cause of Kallibunkers' strange
coat was the result of a spontaneous genetic mutation and the geneticist
recommended that Kallibunker be bred back to his mother to see if the look could be
replicated. Two of the three resulting kittens were born with the tight, curly coat
and lanky body of their father. Further testing the state of the gene, Kallibunker
was then bred to Burmese, Siamese, and other domestic shorthairs and it was
discovered that the gene was recessive.
Mrs. Ennismore was a breeder of Rex rabbits and noted the
similarity in coat, choosing to name the new cat breed Rex. Within a few years,
Kallibunker and his new breed had caught the eye of the world when LIFE magazine
published an article about them. American breeders were captivated and began their
own breeding programs that included outcrosses to a number of other breeds and
almost led to a loss of type. This outcrossing, however, was an unsuspected
blessing as the breed was almost completely exterminated in the UK. Mrs. Ennismore
found herself in an increasingly difficult financial situation and was forced to
destroy the majority of her cats. This reduced the number of breeding males in the
UK to two. A medical accident caused the castration of one of these males, leaving
the UK with one Cornish Rex male.
The continuation of the Cornish Rex fell to breeders in America and
they continued outcrosses which brought in a wide variety of colors and patterns.
The Cornish Rex was accepted into the CFA in 1964. Outcrossing is no longer allowed
as the gene pool is considered large enough to sustain the breed.