Of all the pedigree breeds of cat the Persian, along with the Siamese, is the most recognizable of cats. With their long, luxuriant coat and wide-open faces, ownership was long regarded as a status symbol.
It is thought likely that the original Persian cats arrived from the Arabian Gulf in the 17th century with traders and were taken up by wealthy ladies as highly decorative lap cats.
The Persian is a long haired cat characterized by its round face and shortened muzzle. Its name refers to Persia, the former name of Iran, where similar cats are found. Recognized by the cat fancy since the late 19th century, it was developed first by the English, and then mainly by American breeders after the Second World War. In Britain, it is called the Longhair or Persian Longhair.
The selective breeding carried out by breeders has allowed the development of a wide variety of coat colors, but has also led to the creation of increasingly flat-faced Persians. Favored by fanciers, this head structure can bring with it a number of health problems. As is the case with the Siamese breed, there have been efforts by some breeders to preserve the older type of cat with a more pronounced muzzle, which is more popular with the general public.
The placid and unpretentious nature of the Persian confers a propensity for apartment living. It has been the most popular breed in the United States for many years.
The first documented ancestors of the Persian were imported from Khorasan, Persia into Italy in 1620 by Pietro della Valle, and from Angora (now Ankara), Turkey into France by Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc at around the same time. The Khorasan cats were grey coated while those from Angora were white. From France, they soon reached Britain. Longhaired cats were also imported to Europe from Afghanistan, Burma, China and Russia. Interbreeding of the various types were common especially between Angoras and Persians.