The Story
of the German Rex


 

 

The first rex cat of the world is "Munk".

Kater Munk



 

This is "Munk" of the year 1930 in Koenigsberg/East Prussia. He had one blue curled brother. His mother was a Angora and  the father was a Russian Blue.  The German rex breeders Woellner from Germany (cattery "von Zeitz") had contact with the owner of Munk, Mrs. Schneider from Koenigsberg. These received information and a picture of "Munk". The only picture is now property by Ilona Jaenicke (cattery "Batu's").


The oldest Rex cat of the world is the German Rex. (The first breed is the Cornish rex.) 
There are still only a few cats of this breed all over the world, so we (I and some other breeders) have to do it like the founder of the German Rex breed, Ms. Dr Rose Scheuer-Karpin, after the second world war in Berlin.  We have to build up a larger stock with this few cats, so we must breed with hybrids, too. When we visited Ms. Scheuer-Karpin in October 2000 and 2001, she gave us valuable and very interesting Rex-archives. We thank her for her excellent work with "Laemmchen" and her posterity. 




The Story of Laemmchen and her Offspring
published 1985 in Cat Fanciers' Yearbook
These pictures are file photos. Not copy! Property of Mrs. Dr. R. Scheuer-Karpin and the German Rex group! 
© Copyright 


Lämmchen


Laemmchen 

The story begins in August 1951, when I found, among the numerous feral cats in the grounds of the former Hufeland Krankenhaus at Berlin-Buch, one female black and rather tame cat whose fur struck me as being unusual. She used to take a stroll in warm weather between the benches where recovering patients were enjoying the sun and the gardens; and she condescended to be stroked by them, no doubt getting a morsel here and there. Her coat was rather short and wavy, as if she had had a perm; and it felt like fine, silken velvet. The nursing staff of the department where she, apparently, had made her home in the basement, and at the time was nursing a litter, used to feed her. But they had not noticed the special quality of her coat. One nurse seemed to remember that another nurse who had retired in 1947 or so, had been looking after this or a black cat, and had left her behind when she herself left the hospital.

By November of that year her latest litter had dispersed and probably joined the rest of the feral felines on the vast hospital grounds. So Laemmchen - as I called her because of her fur, her slightly curved  profile, and her resemblance to a lamb when a stroking hand bent down the ears to the sides of her head - came to live with me in my hospital apartment. She settled in at once and did not show any desire to leave. My apartment was on the first floor of a small building, with the windows of the kitchen and the bath set in a slanting roof; so I put a cat ladder out from the kitchen windows, propped against the drainpipe; and she used to take a walk around the roof whenever she wanted some fresh air. A male kitten that was found astray joined the household. She brought it up as if it had been her own. Blackie, as I called him, became her mate. Being a full tomcat, he often went out for a night; but, in April, 1952, Laemmchen gave birth to four black kittens with a normal coat.

Laemmchen's ancestry was not known. Her wavy coat could have been the result of a mutation, either in herself or in one of her ancestors. A mutation could have been expected to turn up in her offspring; but the inheritance pattern is recessive, i.e., it will not show in the phenotype, although the animal with a coat of normal appearance will carry the gene for the mutation. The normal, however, is usally dominant; and, therefore, it is necessary for the genes of both parents to carry the new quality to produce a specimen showing that quality-in our case the wavy coat. Thus the kittens from Blackie, although they appeared normal, could all be carriers of the wavy coat. Homes were found for all four kittens,in the hopes that a male could later be mated with Laemmchen.

In the meantime, Laemmchen produced each spring and autumn a litter of four black kittens with Blackie. Soon the market became saturated with black kittens, and they had to be given away to places far out of reach: to Dresden, to Weimar and to West Berlin. They were all taken by their new owners as pets. The Berlin Cat Club did not show any interest in my account of Laemmchen, and nobody was keen to cooperate in a breeding program. 

In 1953 my London friend, a scientist who had seen my Laemmchen, wrote to me that reports had appeared in the British press about the discovery of a cat with a wavy coat, which had been given the name Rex by the author of the original article a Mr. A.C. Jude. My friend got in touch with Mr. Jude, who showed a keen interest in my own discovery and asked for samples of its hair as well as photographs. Both were supplied.

Mr. Jude was preparing a paper to be published with A.G. Searle in the Journal of Geneics, where a detailed study of the respective parameters may be found, as regards the hair types of two Rex cats.
But while the English Rex had in the meantime been successfully mated with his own offspring, my Laemmchen proved to be a highly principled lady cat, who adamantly refused any advances made to her by one of her sons whom I borrowed for that purpose. This is the reason why Searle and Jude could not say in their article (1956) whether the German Rex was a hereditary mutation.

The proof was not possible until Blackie disappeared. He may have been killed, but not by accident. There were many cat haters about in those days. This happened in 1956, and Laemmchen was left by herself trought the autumn and winter, until she began to show signs of being in heat in January, 1957. Her son Friedolin, born in 1955, was brought to her, but she refused to have anything to do with him. Another meeting had to be arranged in February; and Laemmchen and Friedolin had to be confined in my bathroom for a whole week until she finally succumbed to Friedolin's ardor. On the second day of April, 1957, Laemmchen produced a litter with one normal-coated and three wavy-coated kittens, all black. One of the latter died after 48 hours. Both remaining Rex kittens were male. One of these found a good home in the neighborhood and was named Sputnik-it was the year of the first satellite in Russia. Sputnik was free to go as he pleased and must have fathered numerouskittens who all carried the Rex gene. Some of these could have survived. The other pure Rex went to England; it had to be put in quarantine according to this country's laws before being given to Mr. Jude. Unfortunately the poor kitten died after approximately six weeks while being kept there, possibly due to some intercurrent illness or careless nursing. It was more than four months old when my friend had taken it with her to London; and it was in perfect health. 

Laemmchen had a rather persistent admirer who used to serenade her, with no success, as long as Blackie was alive. He was a marmalade-coloured farm cat from a nearby co-operative. From him she had a litter in August, 1957, three kittens with the expected normal coat. One of the kittens was a male, and I kept him to become Laemmchen's second Blackie. The two females went to good homes.


 


Blackie the Second


Blackie the Second grew into a beautiful and very domesticated tomcat whose world was my apartment. Laemmchen, too, preferred to stay home as she grew older and had her cat company on hand. Blackie the Second was less than a year old when he succeeded to father a litter with Laemmchen. Of the four kittens she bore him on 11th of August 1958, two had wavy coats and two were dominant normal-all black with a tiny white patch between the hind legs and under the chin. Both Rexes were female. One became the much loved member of the family of a member of Berlin Radio, the other went to a family in a neighbouring suburb. She was named Curlie. Both did well and grew to be lovely pets, as did the other kittens with the normal coat in their respective homes. None of these had been neutered. 
On March 25th, 1959, Laemmchen gave birth to one male Rex cat and one normal-coated female. Rex, as he was called, went to Neu-Brandenburg, a town in North-East Germany. The girl Regina found a home in Berlin. The next litter, in Juli 1959, was the result of a chance meeting with the marmalade farm cat. All kittens were given away as before.
The authors of the above-mentioned paper about the Rex gene in the domestic cat had been quoting in their references Professor Nachtsheim, one of the leading European geneticists. As it became increasingly difficult to find people interested in my kittens, I wrote to him and later also to Professor Letard in Paris. Unfortunately, Professor Nachtsheim could not take any kittens either, although he asked for photographs, which I sent him.

 March 10th, 1960. Two Rex kittens were born, one male and one female, sired by Blackie, as had became the rule by now. Professor Letard in Paris wished to have both; but even before all the required formalities for sending the kittens abroad had been fulfilled; another litter was born, on July 3rd. It consisted of three kittens with a normal coat and one male rex. The two kittens that went to Paris by air had been forgotten by the stewardess who was to look after them abd had remained on the plane when it returned to Warsaw. When this unfortunate event came to light the Polish airline sent them to Zurich, from whence the poor creatures went to Paris and arrived in a most deplorable state. The female succumbed to the infection and dehydration acquired from this ordeal of a three-day journey with no cleaning and no drink-in spite of Professor Letard's expert medical attention. He succeeded though to pull trough the male kitten and named him, in view of his travels, Marco Polo. Marco, for short, became very attached to the professor; he was friendly and cheerful and most responsive.

He was also the first German Rex to be shownin public; the occasion was
the October, 1960, exhibition of the Paris Cat Club, under the direction of Professor Letard. He was a great success and the press brought reports about Marco that were read, literally, all over the world.

Soon after this show letters were arriving with questions and requests regarding my cats. Simultaneously, Professor Letard began a systematic breeding program, and by mating Marco with "blonde et bleue" (dilute, blue) lady cats of normal coat character, followed by inbreeding with Marco on the one hand and coloured cats on the other, he achieved Rex cats of various colors. I had the opportunity to see one of his pure white Rexes in Paris a few years later.
Apart from Professor Letard, great interest was shown in my German Rex by Mrs. O'Shea.



At the time I had only heterozygous, i.e., normal-coated kittens left, and they were given away as pets; but unexpectedly, an emissary turned up from the States. It was Mr. Muckenhoupt, who was a cat lover and breeder. He came from a tour around the world and dropped in to see Laemmchen, acknowledged the wavy coat, and tookt two heterozygous kittens with him. One was by Laemmchen, the other by Curlie, whose owner nurse Gertraude Knuth was employed in my hospital department. Gertraude had begun to breed from Curlie with my advice. Curlie's kitten had been sired by a non-related domestic cat and, therefore, might have been a suitable prospective partner for Laemmchen's and Blackie's female kitten; but to my disgrace it turned out to be a female, too!

But Laemmchen was busy in the late autumn and produced another pure Rex male; and this one was promised to Mrs. O'Shea, who cooperated with Mrs. Muckenhoupt. A heterozygous male followed in April 1961, and went also to the States.

The first male Rex who went to America became, fittingly, (C.F.A.-CH. )Christopher Columbus. But subsequently more kittens had been acquired from Laemmchen and Curlie (living with nurse Gertraude) and altogether eleven kittens, both homozygous and heterozygous, became the ancestors of the German Rexes in the States, bred by Mrs. O'Shea of Vernon, N.Y. and Mrs. Muckenhoupt of New Highlands, Mass. Both ladies used to write to me about the progress of their cat families for several years until the contact we had was broken by my leaving East Berlin and coming to this country (England) in 1970.



 


 

As will have become clear by now, Laemmchen's at first uncontrolled and later carefully recorded offspring were numerous. Some of the kittens taken over as pets had, according to what the owners told me later, "disappeared," and a small number had been neutered. It was, therefore, no surprise to me when a curly tom turned up in the neighbourhood. His ancestry could not be established with certainty. His mother was said to have been found as a stray in Berlin, and he was born in 1959 or so. There had been plenty of litters by Laemmchen before 1959, and plenty of chances that two related kittens found each other as mates to produce homozygous offspring. Indeed, who knows what had gone on before Laemmchen made her appearance at my hospital?
This curly tomcat was eventually bought from his owner (who kept him in his shop as a mouser) by nurse Gertraude, in whose home he became Curlie's mate. She, henceforth,
produced pure rex litters with her mate. He was black and looked almost exactly like Laemmchen, with the same type of waves, the curled whiskers and eyebrows, the Roman nose, and the occasional interspersed white hairs in the otherwise black, silky coat. He was friendly and intelligent; nurse Gertraude called him Schnurzel. Unfortunately, she lost him soon, certainly not by accident. He may have met the same violent fate my first Blackie had had.
I have not noticed any lethal factor in my own kittens or in those I had given away. The thinner coat, though, may make the Rex somewhat more likely to suffer from exposure to low temperatures. Apart from the texture of the coat, Laemmchen as well as Curlie used to show, in the summer, a tendency to change the black colour into a dark, rich chocolate brown. This was a purely seasonal variety and vanished with the new winter fur. Another peculiarity was the appearance in the young kittens of a silvery hue on the head and back.
This rather attractive shine also vanished when the kitten were weaned. Adult German Rexes were sometimes prone to suffer from a benign eczema over their lower spine, for which no cause could be found (as indeed is the case with most human eczema); and it always disappeared spontaneously.

German cat breeders were slow to recognize the German Rex. It was only after the news from Paris reached them that interest was aroused for the curly cat. The German Rex was first shown at Dresden in 1964, and a year later also in East Berlin. Visitors from West Germany and other western countries who had seen the Cornish Rex before the German Rex found the latter most attractive, and there were some prospective buyers. Now one of my old acquaintances from the East Berlin Cat Club-who had formerly shown indifference to my account of Laemmchen's discovery-bought kittens from nurse Gertraude and started his own breeding program. 

Laemmchen's last kitten Cleopatra was born in 1962, and went to the States, as her older siblings had done. Then all Blackie's attemps to seduce Laemmchen became futile; she just wanted to be left in peace. In the summer of the year 1964 Laemmchen developed a cystic growth on her anterior  mamillae; it became necessary to remove it surgically, and the histology picture appeared to be benign. The post-operative period was most satisfactory, as to her general condition. She was eating and anjoying her meals; and she allowed Blackie to mount her, although somewhat reluctantly. Otherwise her behaviour was that of an aging cat: she used to sleep most of the time. She did not appear to be pregnant. The beginning of December brought a marked deterioration in her condition: she ceased to eat, lost weight and was hardly able to move. She was meticulously clean to the end and died on December 19, 1964.

 


04.03.14
© By Mrs. dr. R. Scheuer-Karpin, Ilona Jaenicke and Andrea Edel