The Chartreux (pronounced "shar-true") is a shorthaired, solid blue cat with a Mona Lisa smile, a gentle, sweet personality, and gloriously plush fur. Known as the smiling cat of France, the Chartreux has had his ups and downs over the many centuries of his existence. True to his nature, the Chartreux has come through it all with a smile.
The Chartreux may be one of The Cat Fanciers' Association's oldest new breeds. Chartreux history is steeped in legend, even though the breed was only advanced to championship status in 1987. There exists a lovely old legend that the Chartreux lived with, and were named for, the Carthusian monks of France, and perhaps even shared a tipple or two of their famous Chartreuse liqueur! Recent research, however, indicates that because of the woolly character of their fur, they were given the same name as a well known Spanish wool of the early 18th century. Since this method of naming is common in animal husbandry, it is very likely the truth. Nevertheless, the presence of this natural breed of cat was noted in documents as early as the 16th century, and was acknowledged for its unique coat texture and color. Whatever the reason, the Chartreux adopted France with all their native vitality and intelligence, and the country adopted the breed.
The Chartreux is a study in contrasts. Often described as a "potato on toothpicks," the Chartreux has a robust body, broad shoulders and a deep chest, all complemented by medium short, finely boned legs. The Chartreux is well muscled, which would enable the cat to meet its obligation as the fine mouser it is reputed to be in French literature. Unlike any other cat, the Chartreux's blue fur is medium in length and woolly, with the proper coat breaking at the neck, chest, and flanks. A dense undercoat gives it resistance and a feeling of sheep's wool.
|Similar and related to European Shorthair. Described as "potato body on matchstick legs". Short blue coat with heavy undercoat, some "wooliness" permitted. Apparently derived from slatey-blue European Blue Shorthairs by monks, producing a silvery-blue cat. In the UK it is not distinguished from the British Blue despitedifferent build and coat type.|
As the legend goes, the Chartreux, (pronounced shär-TRUE) breed developed at Le Grand Chartreux monastery in the French Alps just outside Paris. The Carthusian order of monks at the monastery, in their spare time between praying, liqueur-making, and weapon-forging, bred Chartreux cats with the same skill and dedication with which they created their world-famous yellow and green Chartreuse liqueurs.
The monastery was founded in 1084 by St. Bruno, but the cats, if the story is true, didn't arrive there until the end of the Crusades in the thirteenth century, when Crusading knights limped home from their fight with the Turks and retired to monastic life. They brought with them plundered goods that included blue cats picked up along the African coast. The monks selectively bred these cats to have quiet voices so the cats would not disturb their meditations. Although this story cannot be verified with the monastery's order today, fanciers love to relate the romantic tale. The truth is that no one really knows for sure where the Chartreux came from but it has been around a long time.
The verifiable history of the Chartreux began in the sixteenth century, according to the literature of the period. The Histoire Naturelle, written in the 1700s by biologist Comte de Buffon, lists four cat breeds that were common to Europe by that time: domestic, Angora, Spanish, and Chartreux.
The modern history of the breed began in the 1920s when two sisters by the name of Leger discovered a colony of blue cats on the small Brittany island of Belle-Ile, off the coast of France. These free-roaming cats lived around a hospital in the city of Le Palais, and the cats matched the description of the Chartreux breed. (The hospital was run, coincidentally, by a religious order.) The Leger sisters decided to work with the breed and in 1931 were the first to exhibit Chartreux cats in France.
World War II decimated the breed and, to keep the bloodlines going, the remaining Chartreux cats were bred with blue British Shorthairs, Russian Blues, and Persians. In European cat shows today, the Chartreux is shown in the same breed category as the British Shorthair, and hybridization is allowed. Since in the United States cats are separated by breed rather than color, as is the policy in the United Kingdom, the current stock in North America is purer than much of the European stock.
The Chartreux made its journey to the United States in 1970, when the late Helen Gamon of La Jolla, California, brought back a male Chartreux from the cattery of Madame Bastide in France, a breeder who had pure Chartreux lines. This cat (by the grand name of Taquin de St. Pierre of Gamonal) became the foundation male of the North American Chartreux. Gamon aided in establishing and promoting the Chartreux in the United States and in getting the breed accepted in the associations. The breed achieved CFA Championship status in 1987.
Known for their hunt-ing prowess, Chartreux cats may have been taken in by those monks long ago to rid the monastery of vermin. Today, however, Chartreux cats are popular because they make terrific companions. They are amiable, loyal, and vocally quiet, and when you sit down next to your Chartreux you invariably end up with a lap full of cat.
Known as quiet, sweet cats, Chartreux cats also have a playful, comical side that they keep well into adulthood. They seem to have a well-developed sense of humor, and enjoy a good game of fetch or a playful romp with their friends and family. They are very intelligent cats; they quickly learn their names and will come when you call-if they're in the mood, of course.
The Chartreux is known for its smile. The rounded head with its softly contoured forehead tapers to a narrowed muzzle. This gives the Chartreux an image of smiling. The nose is straight with a slight stop at eye level. The Chartreux's eyes are one of its most endearing features. They are rounded, but not as round as the Persian's. The outer corners curve slightly upward. Color ranges from gold to copper, the latter being most preferred by breeders. The ears should be medium in height and width, set high and erect on the head. Most importantly, the Chartreux should enjoy or at least tolerate being handled for exhibition.
Chartreux quickly become attached to one family and frequently follow their masters from room to room. Known for their dog-like behavior, these cats can be taught to fetch a ball, and most will respond to their names. By tradition, all kittens born in a given year are named beginning with a specific letter of the alphabet for that particular year. Breeders use only 20 letters, omitting K, Q, W, X, Y and Z.
The Chartreux is a quiet breed, chirping rather than meowing at things it finds interesting. This intelligent cat is fascinated by television and likes to participate in telephone conversations by chewing on the cord.
The Chartreux is sometimes unflatteringly called a "potato on toothpicks" because of the way his robust, cobby body seems to balance on comparatively short, fine-boned legs. Nevertheless, the Chartreux is as agile and elegant as any feline. The body is medium-long, husky and robust, with broad shoulders, a deep chest, powerful muscles and strong boning. Males are larger and have a more massive musculature than the females; the males have been described as "walking fortresses." Females are smaller but still plenty of pounce per ounce.
The Chartreux's head is rounded and broad with powerful jaws and full cheeks. The muzzle is comparatively small and tapered, and that mysterious smile is part of the breed's standard - frowning Chartreux cats are frowned upon in show quality cats. Medium sized ears are set high on the head and have a very erect posture. The eyes are rounded, open and expressive, which adds to the sweet, smiling expression. Eye color is copper to gold with brilliant orange preferred.
One of this breed's defining characteristics is his plush, wooly coat. Solid blue is the only accepted color and pattern, better known as gray to the lay cat person. Any shade from ash to slate is acceptable. The coat is medium-short and has a woolly texture and a resilient undercoat. The coat is dense and soft to the touch and water repellent, perfect for surviving the cold, wet climate of the French Alps.
Chartreux kittens are precocious. Physical maturity can be three years in coming, with a scraggly stage between kitten and adulthood that puts one in mind of a gawky, adolescent youngster. Then, almost overnight, they put it all together, with stunning results. Environment and attention have everything to do with this breed's adult manners and behavior. Brushing the double coat is a no-no. Instead, running your fingers through the fur on a daily basis will suffice and will also contribute to your cat's social demeanor at the same time.
Chartreux kittens are generally available by reservation only inasmuch as the breed is zealously protected by its breeders and demand for these endearing cats outstrips availability. During World War II, some French breeders tried to save the breed from extinction by outcrossing to Persians and British Shorthairs. However, the original Chartreux cats that were imported to the United States came from the French countryside, and only those cats were used in breeding programs to produce and preserve the natural status of the present pedigreed Chartreux. This lovely breed was brought to the United States through the efforts of John and Helen Gamon who were committed to finding and acquiring the beautiful cats. Today, many American-bred Chartreux are being returned to French breeders, thus reducing even further their availability in the United States.
Although the Char-treux is sometimes unflatteringly called a "potato on toothpicks" because of its stocky body and slender legs, the Chartreux is extremely agile. The body type is sometimes called primitive because it is neither cobby nor classic, but is instead husky and robust.
The Chartreux is generally a healthy and hardy breed, but some lines are known to possess the recessive gene for medial patellar luxation. The condition is genetic in origin, but the exact mode of inheritance is not yet known.
|General||The Chartreux is a sturdy, shorthaired French breed coveted since antiquity for its hunting prowess and its dense, water repellent fur. Its husky, robust type is sometimes termed primitive, neither cobby nor classic. Though amply built, Chartreux are extremely supple and agile cats; refined, never coarse nor clumsy. Males are much larger than females and slower to mature. Coat texture, coat color and eye color are affected by sex, age and natural factors which should not penalize. The qualities of strength, intelligence and amenability, which have enabled the Chartreux to survive the centuries unaided, should be evident in all exhibition animals and preserved through careful selection.|
|Body/Tail||Robust physique: medium-long with broad shoulders and deep chest. Strong boning; muscle mass is solid and dense. Females are medium; males are large. Tail of moderate length; heavy at base; tapering to oval tip. Lively and flexible.|
|Head/Neck||Rounded and broad but not a sphere. Powerful jaw; full cheeks, with mature males having larger jowls. High, softly contoured forehead; nose straight and of medium length/width; with a slight stop at eye level. Muzzle comparatively small, narrow and tapered with slight pads. Sweet, smiling expression. Neck short and heavy set.|
|Ears||Medium in height and width; set high on the head; very erect posture. |
|Eyes||Rounded and open; alert and expressive. Color range is copper to gold; a clear, deep, brilliant orange is preferred.|
|Legs/Feet||Legs comparatively short and fine-boned; straight and sturdy. Feet are round and medium in size (may appear almost dainty compared to body mass). |
|Coat||Medium-short and slightly woolly in texture (should break like a sheepskin at neck and flanks). Resilient undercoat; longer, protective topcoat. NOTE: degree of woolliness depends on age, sex and habitat, mature males exhibiting the heaviest coats. Silkier, thinner coat permitted on females and cats under two years.|
|Color||Any shade of blue-gray from ash to slate; tips lightly brushed with silver. Emphasis on color clarity and uniformity rather than shade. Preferred tone is a bright, unblemished blue with an overall iridescent sheen. Nose leather is slate gray; lips blue; paw pads are rose-taupe. Allowance made for ghost barring in kittens and for tail rings in juveniles under two years of age. |
|Penalize||Severe nose break, snubbed or upturned nose, broad, heavy muzzle, palpable tail defect, eyes too close together giving angry look. |
|Disqualify||White locket, visible tail kink, green eyes; any signs of lameness in the hindquarters. |