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History of Russian Blue Cats – Taking a Look at Their Past

russian blue cat siiting on rock
Image Credit: Review News, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Brooke Billingsley

The Russian Blue is a gorgeous cat with a silvery blue coat, emerald green eyes, and a winning personality. These beloved cats get along with most people, including gentle children, and other animals, including dogs, making them excellent cats for families and multi-pet homes.

Their name indicates they are from Russia, which is correct…as far as we know! Interestingly, the Russian Blue’s true origins are a little bit of a mystery because, as far as we can tell, it was a naturally occurring cat breed. Let’s talk about the history of the elegant Russian Blue cat.

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Where Did Russian Blue Cats Originate?

It’s generally believed that the Russian Blue originated on Arkhangelsk Island, also known as Archangel Island. This island is located off the coast of Northern Russia, and most reports indicate that cats were first spotted around the port of the island. Because of this, you may also see Russian Blues referred to as Archangel Blues or Archangel Cats.

The cats were first recorded outside of Russia in the 1800s when they began arriving in Europe via ships from Archangel Island and other parts of Russia. Most historical references put the Russian Blue entering Great Britain and Northern Europe around 1860.

Russian Blue Cat
Image Credit: Nailia Schwarz, Shutterstock

When Were Russian Blue Cats Recognized as a Breed?

Russian Blues have been competing in cat shows for almost as long as cat shows have been happening. Historical documents show they were first recorded at a cat show in England in 1872, where they were referred to as Archangel Cats.

However, a report in 1895 indicated that the first competitors under the Russian Blue name and its aliases may have actually been British-bred grey tabbies, so it’s unclear exactly when the cats from Archangel Island began competing in European cat shows. In 1912, though, the Russian Blue was given its own breed class to compete under. Prior to 1912, it was grouped in a class with other blue cat breeds.

Early Breeding Programs

Although the breed originated in Russia, breeders in England and Scandinavia took a liking to the breed and became primarily responsible for the full development of the breed. These cats were extremely popular, especially among European royalty. This is due to the breed’s wonderful personality and natural air of dignity and elegance.

The Russian czars are believed to have been particularly fond of these cats, with some people believing that Russian Blues are descendants of the royal cats belonging to the czars over the years. This is more rumor than fact, though, and there are no historical documents pointing to this theory.

blue russian cat running in nature
Image Credit: ddisq, Shutterstock

Modern Breeding Programs

Like many other breeds, Russian Blue numbers suffered following World War II. To revive the breed, breeders determined to save the breed began crossing the remaining Russian Blue cats with Siamese cats. As time went on, American breeders took a particular interest in the Russian Blue, crossing both the Scandinavian and British Russian Blue lines with each other to produce what we know as the modern Russian Blue cat. Thanks to careful breeding practices, most Russian Blue cats today do not have any detectable Siamese bloodlines.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all blue cats are Russian Blues. Blue is a naturally occurring color mutation in cats, so it’s possible for a cat to be a blue domestic shorthair mixed breed cat with no Russian Blue in its lineage. The belief that all or most blue cats must be Russian Blues has led to a significant amount of confusion around the true breed identity of many cats. Obviously, it’s not hurting anyone if you believe your blue housecat is a Russian Blue, but unscrupulous breeders have been known to sell blue cats inappropriately identified as Russian Blues.

The Russian Blue’s Impact on Other Breeds

Once the Russian Blue had been bred back to stable numbers, it was able to assist in the development and betterment of other breeds. For example, the Havana Brown is a descendent breed of the Russian Blue. It has also been used in the breeding program for the development of the Nebelung, as well as being the basis for the Nebelung’s original breed standard. Currently, they are being used to help improve the overall health and robustness of the Oriental Shorthair.

Russian Blue
Image Credit: VS_star, Pixabay

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In Conclusion

The Russian Blue is a lovely cat with a wonderful personality that makes it suitable for a variety of home environments. It’s hardy and intelligent, and its appearance is striking, making it no wonder the breed quickly became a favorite among royalty and cat fanciers alike.

The breed was saved from extinction after World War II, thanks to the efforts of dedicated breeders who worked to not only save the breed, but maintain its robust nature. Thanks to their efforts, the Russian Blue is an overall healthy cat that has been used to develop and better other breeds.

Featured Image Credit: Review News, Shutterstock

About the Author

Brooke Billingsley
Brooke Billingsley
Brooke spent nine years as a veterinary assistant before becoming a human nurse in 2013. Brooke loves all animals and currently shares a home with three dogs, two cats, five fish, and two snails. She has a soft spot for special needs animals and has a three-legged senior dog and an internet-famous cat with acromegaly and cerebellar hypoplasia.  Brooke stays active with yoga and obtained her 200-hour yoga teacher certification in 2020, she also loves spending her free time researching and writing.

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