The Nebelung Cat

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Nebelung History by Cora Cobb

One could say that Siegfried and Brunhilde, the first Nebelungs, were the inspiration for the breed, because it would not have been started without them. When Siegfried was born in August 1984, I never dreamed I would found a new breed of cat.

Siegfried’s mother was Elsa, a black Domestic Shorthair belonging to my son, Karl and his father was a cat which looked like a Russian Blue. Although I knew that Elsa’s father was a longhair (resembling a black Angora), I was surprised to find that, out of a litter of six black and blue shorthairs, one was a blue longhair. He was big and outstandingly beautiful, with the long legs, long tail and distinctive features of the Russian Blue combined with medium long hair. I decided he must become my cat and named him Siegfried.

Five months later, another litter was born to Elsa and her blue boyfriend. This time there were seven kittens, including two longhair females, one blue and one black. The little blue female was so beautiful and unusual, her silky hair longer and lighter than Siegfried’s, that I thought they could be the start of an entirely new cat breed.

When I accepted a computer contract in El Paso, Texas, I brought Sieg6ied and Brunhilde with me from Denver, Colorado. They were great companions for me in a strange city, loving and intelligent, but rather shy with strangers. The only problem was that Karl and I had allowed Siegfried to go outside when he was very young. After a few months cooped up in my efficiency apartment, he became so insistent that I had to let him out at night. After a few fights, he became the absolute leader of the apartment complex. Once he stayed away for nearly a week, during which time I frantically searched for him, even in the city animal shelter, but he returned with a bitten foot and never strayed far again.

In May 1986, Siegfried and Brunhilde’s first litter was born. They were gorgeous kittens, with their father’s Russian Blue body type and their mother’s long glossy hair. The three kittens proved lively and healthy and a lot of fun. Brunhilde took excellent care of them. When they were a couple of months old, I decided to see how to start a new breed of cat.
After copying a list of cat registry associations from Cats magazine, I made a call to the first name. That was the last time I made use of the list because the first association I called was TICA. The lady who answered the phone did not seem surprised when I said that I wanted to start a new breed. She referred me to Dr. Solveig Pflueger, the TICA genetics specialist.

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From the start, Solveig encouraged me with the breed. She said it would be best to describe it as a longhair Russian Blue. She told me about a breed standard, which I would be expected to write. Also, I had to get others interested in breeding the cats. Also, I had to get other cats into the Nebelung breeding program, preferably Russian Blues with a longhair recessive.

Soon I had a provisional standard worked up, based on the Russian Blue, except for coat.. I was now ready to find other potential breeders. Patty Pendergrass, the wife of a coworker, Guy Motley, had requested a kitten. I asked if they would be willing to take two females, Schatzi and Liebchen, from the second litter and breed at least one of them to a Russian Blue male, which cat or stud service I would somehow provide. Patty said they would do that, so now I had others interested in breeding the cats.

To bring other cats into the breed, I had to make the Nebelungs better known. The best way I knew would be to enter a cat in a show. (At that time a cat of any new breed, recognized or not, could be shown in the NBC category.) I entered little Schatzi for Saturday at the City Kitty cat club show in Dallas, Texas.
I took Schatzi to a local groomer, who applied a shampoo which gave her lovely blue fur a pale brownish tinge. Another drawback for showing was that Schatzi lacked a true Russian Blue type face.

Nonetheless, this show achieved what I had wanted. I made contact with a breeder of top quality Russian Blues. Provided that I did not disclose her name, she would let me mate Schatzi to her supreme grand champion. Five beautiful shorthair kittens resulted from this mating. Their longhair descendants show the best qualities of their forbears.

Schatzi and Liebchen needed a full time Russian Blue mate, hopefully with a longhair recessive. Once again I looked in Cats magazine, this time for Russian Blue breeders. Coincidentally, Dianna Zinn of Ocean Grove, Mississippi, had a young male cat with longer-than-usual hair whom she as glad to sell to me. This was the start of a lasting friendship based on working together with the breed. The male cat, Universal Concord, soon set to work fathering kittens, of whom nearly half were longhairs.

Other early breeders included Karena Carlson of CK cattery, whose beautiful foundation male, Silver Paradox, later made a hit at the Paris cat show of 1989 and John Hruza, who took two of Siegfried and Brunhilde’s kittens, Zophie and Loki.
By accident, Zophie and Loki got together when she was in heat and produced Pralo and Tsumi, both of whom have descendants in the breeding pool. John also adopted Antony of Romani, a foundation cat with medium long hair, whose first fourth generation descendants were born in 1997.
Kim di Nubilo of Sacramento, California, started breeding Nebelungs, but an FIP epidemic wiped out her entire cattery, a great personal tragedy and a tragedy for the breed.

Through the early years I received much help from the late Jim Becknell and Sue Becknell (now Sue Bower) who had founded the El Paso Compadres Cat Club. The shows which Compadres put on allowed me to exhibit Nebelungs at far less cost than the usual $1000 up it took to attend other shows, none of which were within easy driving distance of isolated El Paso.

A tragedy for me was the deaths of Siegfried and Brunhilde in the late 1980’s. She died of unknown causes and he was hit by a car in the parking lot of the apartment complex where I lived. I still miss them very much. From that time on, none of my cats has been allowed to roam outside.

In the early years of the breed, there was much opposition from Russian Blue breeders and others. I had been warned that non-mutation breeds (mutation breeds being those which have folded ears, curly coats or other non-standard traits) which did not make use of pedigree stock from the beginning had little chance of attaining championship in TICA. Whether true or not, this drawback did not seem to be a problem for me or the other Nebelung breeders.

Showing in NBC is great fun. You don’t get championship points"but you get a lot of ribbons, owing to the small number of entries in that category. There is always much interest in new breeds from spectators at shows. (I did get tired of hearing, "That cat looks just like my Fluffy." Such comments, however, reinforced the idea that the Nebelungs were a natural breed.)

An unexpected advantage of starting a new breed was traveling to different places for cat shows. Such trips included one to Paris in November 1989. Karena and John went with me. We showed some cats and brought others for sale. Parisians loved the Nebelungs and bought all the for-sale cats. Karena could not afford to take much time from her job, but John and I had plenty of vacation time, so while Karena returned with the cats, John and I toured eastern and central Europe. We were in Berlin the night the wall came down. We took pictures of the crowds surrounding the Stasi offices in Dresden and were warned about Czech secret police in Prague. Both of us rejoiced at the coming of freedom to the Soviet satellites.

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In early 1992 my contract in El Paso ended and I returned to Denver with Pralo, Yuri, Pralo’s son and Isolde, one of Karena’s cats, descended from Silver Paradox and the Supreme Grand Champion Russian Blue.

Denver is almost as isolated as El Paso and it had no TICA club, Some people had tried to start one, but it didn’t last even long enough to put on a cat show. Without a TICA club to put on shows, the Nebelung breed would get far less exposure. John and I decided to remedy this situation. We wrote to TICA and obtained a list of TICA members in the area, then contacted them and held a start-up meeting. Long pent-up enthusiasm burst forth. The club was on its way. High on Cats held its first show in February 1993 and now, under the capable leadership of Janelle Cilessian, puts on some of the best shows in TICA.

Shortly after I returned to Denver, John and I imported one of Dianna’s cats, Shimmering Dawn, in part ownership with Dianna, to be mated with Pralo. One of these kittens, Dulcinea went to Kalamazoo, Michigan, with Louise Saffron, who introduced the Nebelungs to the Midwest. Another female from this breeding, Silver Streak, won more points in NBC than any other Nebelung.

We did not know it then, but the beginning of the opening up of eastern Europe that we witnessed in 1989 led to a startling new development for the Nebelungs. Theoretically the breed had begun in Russia, along with the shorthaired Russian Blues, but that was all we knew. Then, in early 1994, I was contacted by a Dutch Breeder, Letty van den Brock, who said she had a male Nebelung named Timofeus, which had been bred in Russia. Sold as a shorthair, Timofeus turned out to be a longhair. She sent me pictures of him and another Russian-origin Nebelung. Although contacts with Letty have been few and her Nebelung breeding minimal, the idea of modern-day Nebelungs originating in Russia was unexpected and welcome, since it went a long way in confirming that long hair Russians were as natural as the short hair variety.

After eight years showing in NBC, John, Dianna and I decided to apply for championship status for the Nebelung breed. We sent in a proposal for championship status and attended the annual meeting in Bellevue, Washington in September 1995. The breed was turned down with no reason given except that they had not been shown very much. Since the necessary number of cats (ten) had been shown in more than the necessary number of regions (three) during the past year, this point was not really valid, but we decided all we could do was to try again. Meanwhile, we enlisted an enthusiastic new breeder, Vicki Brewer, who purchased Romani Princess Lea, an entrant at the show. Vicki decided to breed and show Russian Blues along with Nebelungs. Her show career has been very successful.

At the November 1995  Cats show in Denver, Sue Bower mentioned that she had just seen a Russian Nebelung at a TICA show in Moscow. She said the cat was beautiful, with light colored hair and emera1d green eyes. She recommended that I get in touch with the cat’s owners and work toward a cooperative breeding program.

Hoping to meet with these breeders, John and I attended a cat show in St. Petersburg, Russia, in May 1996. Olga Shidlovksaya, the president of the club giving the show, gave us invaluable help with transportation and lodging (we stayed at the homes of friends of hers) and followed up on the last day of our stay with a spectacular boat tour of the canals of the city. Meanwhile, Silver Streak, the cat we brought, ended up Best of the Best NBC over 36 other contenders and was chosen Best Cat of the Show by the head of the Russian cat club with which Olga’s club was affiliated. The only negative aspect of the trip was that the Moscow Nebelung breeders didn’t attend the show.

Despite this small setback, we decided to try again for championship status. John and I attended the TICA semiannual meeting held near Chicago in February 1997, bringing with us Sigrdrifa, a five month old female who had won Best of the Best NBC at a show held the month before. Although John and I had prepared handouts for the TICA Board and rehearsed speeches, it was little Sigrdrifa who really clinched the decision for us. She let herself be held and touched by nearly 20 people without even a chirp of protest. After she was put back into her carrier, the Board voted unanimously to award championship to the breed, starting in May 1997.

Meanwhile, I read messages on the TICA Internet list from Gloria Stevens, who had judged at a show in Moscow and had stayed with Alex and Natasha Stolyarova, the breeders of the Russian Nebelungs. She gave me the Stolyarovas’ address and phone number. After several (horrendously expensive) phone calls and a transfer of funds made possible through the good offices of Olga, together with Joe Edwards, who was judging a show in St. Petersburg (and perhaps others unknown to me), I was able to purchase Winter Day Georgin (now "of Nebelheim"’). I call him "George" for short.

When I picked him up at the Denver International Airport cargo area, he had waited several hours to go through customs and had been put into a larger cage while he waited. I expected that he would be fearful and shy, but he let me put him back into his own cage with no fuss at all.

I had to take him back to work with me and keep him there for several hours. During that time, several people came into my office, but he stayed in my lap and purred. He seemed happy with me. I certainly felt overjoyed to have such a big, beautiful and loving cat!

Natasha Stolyarova had bred George and other Nebelungs from her Russian Blue World Cat Federation champion cats, Mischa Winter Day and Milena Joker. Mischa is a native Russian cat, antecedents unknown, and Milena came from Czechoslovakia. Because I had anticipated a lack of generations in native Russian pedigrees, I had, as mentioned in the last newsletter, stipulated that native Russian Nebelungs be counted as stud book cats. They and their descendants could thus get championship titles.

I showed George in the kitten class at a show in Portland, Oregon later that month. He took three finals. He was shown in Seattle, Washington and El Paso, Texas without any finals, but did win his Championship at the Denver show, as reported in the lead article.

John and I took Silver Streak to the Omaha, Nebraska show in March of this year, hoping to get her championed. We were thrilled when she received her final from Patti Andrews, since she was nearly five years old (but still gorgeous).

Several kittens finaled during the 1997-98 show year and received compliments from the judges. Vicki showed more Nebelungs and received more points than any other Nebelung breeder.

Founding a new breed takes much more of everything: time, money and emotional ups and downs, than working with an established breed. Yet I believe it brings much more satisfaction as well. Certainly I am glad to see a descendant of  Siegfried and Brunhilde with "Champion" in front of her name, and I am sure that Dianna and Natasha feel the same about cats of their breeding also being so distinguished. Hopefully more Nebelung breeders will soon know that feeling and that there will be  Grands and Supremes as well.

Yet titles and honors aren’t the reason for the Nebelung breed’s existence. The reason is, I believe, to bring a special kind of cat into the world: gorgeous, reserved with strangers but loving to it its owners. The letters and calls I have received from Nebelung owners saying how glad they are to have their cat and how much they love it are worth more to me than ribbons or trophies, because they come from the heart.

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OLD BREED, NEW BEGINNING

Combining long silky hair with the elegant Russian Blue body type, the Nebelung breed recreates the Russian longhair. These gorgeous cats were exhibited in the first British cat shows over one hundred years ago, Today the breed is a championship breed in the International Cat Association (TICA).

Siegfried (born 1984) and Brunhilde (born 1985) were the first registered Nebelungs. They produced their first litter in 1986. Shortly after the kittens were born, application was made to The International Cat Association (TICA) for new breed status (NBC) for the Nebelung (German for "Creature of the Mist"). The breed standard was based on the Russian Blue, with the exception of coat length. In 1987 TICA’s Board of Directors accepted the Nebelung as longhaired Russian Blues. The Nebelung standard is the same as the Russian Blue, except for coat. The breed was accepted as a new breed in the Cat Fanciers’ Federation (CFF) in 1990 and in the championship category of the Traditional Cat Association (TCA).

Since the breed’s start, other foundation cats have been enrolled, as well as cats of pure Russian Blue ancestry with semi-long hair, including from Russia itself.

WHAT ARE NEBELUNGS LIKE?

A show quality Nebelung will have a long body, long legs, long tail, broad shoulders and a head with flat planes. The hair is blue and tipped with silver. Hair is semilong on the body and long on the plumy tail. The eyes are green. The overall effect is that of a romanticized 1900 cat picture.

A Nebelung is highly intelligent and is loving to its owners and family members, but may be shy with strangers, especially young children. A kitten may take time to adjust to a new home; if allowed to make its own advances, it should become a devoted companion. Many Nebelungs are lap sitters, loving to be petted. Often they follow their owners from room to room. If allowed, they enjoy sleeping on their owner’s bed.

HOW DO I GET A NEBELUNG CAT OR KITTEN?

Nebelungs are still quite rare. At present there are breeders in Washington State, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, France and Russia. Nebelungs are being shown throughout the U. S. and occasiona11y in Europe. Information about the breed will be found at the TICA web site (http://www.tica.org). and FBRL at http://www.fanciers.com/breedlist.

Prices vary, but they are approximately $300 up for pet quality and $500 up for breeder and show quality. If you can find a Nebelung locally, the price could be lower. Shorthair Nebelungs, resembling Russian Blues, usually go for much less. Stud service is available. Although the breed is small, there are at least three unrelated Nebelung lines, as well as a championship quality Russian Blue male who throws semi longhair kittens. New breeders are welcome, provided they have shown they know how to take care of cats and kittens.

Nebelung breeders require a contract to be signed. It requires the new owner to provide indoor facilities for the cat and to keep his or her shots current. Health is guaranteed. In most cases, the contract will include a spay/neuter agreement. The contract is to ensure the welfare of the cat, which comes first with Nebelung breeders.

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Author:

Cora Cobb, Nebelheim Cattery
Denver, Colorado, USA

e-mail: Nebelheim@earthlink.net

Homepage: www.Nebelungs.org