With a thick coat of woolly looking curls, the Selkirk is sometimes nicknamed the cat in sheep’s clothing. Like his curlycoated cousins the Cornish and Devon Rexes, the Selkirk is the result of a natural genetic mutation, but he has a very different look, thanks to his dense coat and heavyset body.
The Selkirk originated in Montana, where the first known cat of this type was born in 1987, one of a litter of six kittens found in an animal shelter. The others had the typical straight coat of a domestic shorthaired cat, but the curlycoated female was so unusual that she was brought to the attention of a local Persian breeder, Jeri Newman, who adopted her. Newman named her Miss DePesto and, out of curiosity, bred her when she was grown to a black Persian. Of the six kittens Miss DePesto produced, three had curly coats, indicating that the gene for the characteristic was dominant. That was not the case with the Cornish or Devon Rexes, which owe their wavy coats to a recessive gene. She also carried genes for long hair and a pointed coat, and both traits made an appearance in her descendants.
Newman called the new breed Selkirk, after her stepfather, making it unique among cat breeds in being named for a person. She added Rex to indicate that the coat was curly.
To maintain genetic diversity and to give the cats a more pleasing appearance, she and other breeders outcrossed them not only to Persians but also to Exotics, American Shorthairs and British Shorthairs. The cats were recognized by The International Cat Association and the American Cat Fanciers Association in the 1990s and by the Cat Fanciers Association in 2000, although the CFA began registering the cats in 1992.