Breed History



History in the Making



 First Cornish Rex Cat : Registration number: SR78021

Source: (B&W): Nature July 11, 1953, Vol. 172, p.82. (Colour: Source Unknown)


NOTE: The above black & white photograph has been confirmed as Kalibunker from early journals, however  there is some debate as to the true of the identity of the cat in the coloured photographs. Rather than Kalibunker, these may be  photographs of an early German Rex.  Feedback on the true identity of this cat is welcome.




KALLIBUNKER, the first curly coated cat was born on July 21st 1950, in the Duchy of Cornwell, in England, to an ordinary straight-coated farm/barn cat named SERENA, in a litter of otherwise straight-haired kittens. The kitten with the curly coat was the only one in an otherwise unremarkable litter of four.

Serena's owner, Nina Enismore, a breeder of curly-haired Astrex rabbits, knew immediately that this cream tabby male kitten's "rex coat" was unique. Nina contacted well known cat breeder Mr Brian Stirling-Webb and geneticist, A, C. Jude. After some deliberation it was decided to test the genetic basis of this unique velvety curled coat by mating the kitten, now named KALLIBUNKER, back to his tri-coloured mother. This mating produced 3 kittens: 1 normal female and 2 rex males. Unfortunately, one of the boys died, but the other, named POLDHU, a rare blue-cream tabby, went on with Kallibunker, to father a number of litters. Most of Poldhu's matings were to straight-coated females to prevent inbreeding. All the straight-coated offspring from these mating carried the Rex gene.

The following link leads to the full article as published by Dr's Searle and Jude and featured as a link at

Searle A. G.& Jude A.C. (1956) 'The Rex Type Coat in the Domestic Cat', Journal of Genetics, Vol. 54, No.3. pp. 506 -513







Born: July 21st, 1950
Died: 12th September, 1956

Note the distinctive lean, tall, body type with tummy tuck, angular head and large ears


Testing the Genes

Over the next few years Mrs Enismore began a formal breeding programme that involved keeping detailed records of the each mating.  Initially, 64  kittens: 29 normal and 35 rex were produced by mating Kallibunker and Poldhu  back to Serena and other non-rex females from Kalli's first few litters.  Uncontrolled matings between Kallibunker and normal coated cats resulted in 100% normal kittens. The rex X rex matings produced 100% rex kittens, an early indication and correct assumption, that this particular rex coat is controlled by a fully penetrant, recessive gene. 

Mrs Ennismore kept records of all the early matings and, in the 1950's, provided quite detailed records of her early breeding programme to the The Forum, a newsletter of the Rex Breeders United Club.


The following is a summary of Kallibunker and Poldhu's earliest matings

Source: Original published: The Forum, April, 1971. Reproduced by Dr Rosamonde Peltz. Source unknown

Birth Date Sire Coat Queen Coat Kitten Coat
  21.3.53 Kallibunker  (r) Serena  (R) r - R 1
15.6.53 Kallibunker  (r) Orange Girl  (R) r 2 R 1
10.7.53 Kallibunker  (r) Serena   (R) r 2 R 1
17.8.53 Kallibunker  (r) Butterfly   (R) r 2 R 1
5.12.53 Kallibunker (r) Serena   (R) r 2 R 1
30.4.54 Kallibunker  (r) Orange Girl (r) r 3 R -
19.8.54 Poldhu  (r) Millie Brim  (r) r 3 R -
29.8.55 Poldhu  (r) Loveday  (r) r 3 R -

        r = Rex coat      R = normal straight coat


It can be seen from this table that the earliest Rex x Rex matings resulted in 100% Rex kittens.  The Cornish Rex was breeding true, early signs that this new curly coat gene was fully penetrant, and recessive, to the normal straight coat gene.

The curly coated kittens all carried the distinctive tall, lean, long whippy tail, large eared, and fine, angular body type of the typical Cornish Rex pedigree cat. The straight coated kittens on the other hand,  were typically "moggy" in type; heavy set, rounded head with smallish ears. The "rex" coat would seem therefore, to be somehow linked genetically to other phenotypic (what you can see) factors such as body type and personality, all of which are unique and distinctly Cornish Rex in character.

POLDHU was an unusual individual. Apart from his rex coat, he was a  genetic oddity in other ways. His coat colour was a striking tortoiseshell & blue-cream and, as the records show, also very fertile: a genetic impossibility.


                       unknown source


Tortoiseshell coat colour is expressed by the red (O) gene which is only present on the X chromosome. Two X (female) chromosomes are required for the full expression of the tortoiseshell trait,  a pattern characteristic of female cats only.

The few true documented male tortoiseshell cats have been sterile. Poldhu however, was not only very fertile, but of note, sired red & cream kittens from 4 different queens which would suggest,  that he was a true tortie.

As genetic knowledge has expanded, so has our understanding of sex-linked genes. Poldhu is now thought to have been a chimaera, carrying a double allocation of the XY male sex genes,  symbolised as XY/XY, a combination enabling full expression of male tortoiseshell colouring as well as fertility.

Read more about Poldhu and other chimaera's in the following site featured at:

Mosaicism, Tortie Tomcats, Genetically Impossible Kittens & Gender Anomalies

Unfortunately POLDHU was accidentally rendered sterile during exploratory surgery to extract tissue samples to enable investigations to help determine the exact nature of his genetic makeup. *KALLIBUNKER had died by this stage and with POLDHU now infertile, the new Rex breed was in danger of extinction. However, with careful breeding of POLDHU's offspring , especially his daughter, LAMORNA COVE, and KALLIBUNKER's only other surviving progeny, a cream and white male called SHAM PAIN CHARLIE (CHAS),  the Cornish Rex breed was saved.




* By 1956, the financial burden of maintaining a serious, committed breeding programme was taking its toll, and although Mrs Ennismore was assisted by Mr Brian Sterling-Webb and A. C. Jude,  she was ultimately forced to destroy a number of the early cats. Unfortunately, Serena and Kallibunker were among them. 






Early USA



In 1957, LAMORNA COVE established the Cornish Rex in America after being imported to California from Britain by Mrs Francis Blancheri. LAMORNA was already pregnant to her father POLDHU prior to leaving and soon after arrival in America, delivered 4 Rex kittens. One died in the first year and one male was infertile. The remaining two kittens, DIAMOND LIL a female, went to Mrs Fred Galvin and MARMADUKE of DAZ-ZLING, a male, went to Mrs Helen Weiss went on to establish the breed in America. MARMADUKE can be found in the pedigree of most Cornish Rex cats, in all countries.





A comprehensive article written by Mrs Weiss on the early Cornish Rex breeding programmes in America was published by the C.F.A. Year Book, 1965 under the title of, Rex the King









Lamorna Cove


       Lamorna Cove and her first litter of kittens. Stud: Poldhu. Born 1957 California, USA.    

NOTE: Marmaduke 2nd from left & Diamond Lil 2nd from right (and below)







Diamond Lil Fan-T-Cee

Marmaduke of Daz-Zling

Poldhu's progeny

   First Registered Cornish Rex in America.

First female Cornish Rex born  in USA

   FA Registration No. 990-001-PR1





In 1968, when it was thought that Marmaduke was the last remaining Cornish Rex male, Mrs Weiss began breeding Marmaduke to a Siamese Queen and other shorthair females.




These early matings with cats of a finer build altered the look of the breed considerably and also introduced the colourpoint gene into the lines: a very attractive and highly sought after colour variation in the Cornish Rex world today.  The British Cornish Rex cats were relatively large and, while tall and slim,  quite "chunky" in comparison to their American cousins and the Cornish Rex we see today. 




There was considerable debate for many years regarding the differences between the American and British Cornish Rex. This came to a head when  DALI, a black and white coated male, the first American Cornish Rex to be exhibited in another country, was put up against the British "type" in France. DALI created a quandary for the judges who were required to choose between these distinctively different  types. Eventually was the prize went to DALI.





American Rex



Over the years there have been a number of spontaneous mutant births of Rex coated kittens in the USA. Some of the recognised Rex mutations are listed below:





Ohio Oregon California Pennsylvania Connecticut
1953 9.5.1959 13.8.1960 1971 17.8.1972



Others that have appeared in later years, are thought to be the offspring of free roaming Rex cats that have mated with normal domestic cats.





Special thanks to Mrs Eula Cross who worked with Mrs Gabriel Kaufman as one of the earliest Rex breeders in Australia. Much of the information on these pages was provided by Eula, including many of the old photographs, that were unfortunately, collected without source in the early years of the Cornish Rex breeding history.  Definitive origins of some of the photographs is proving difficult to obtain: any information pertaining to the originating source of any photographs not acknowledged would be appreciated. 



Cornish Rex in Australia

The Cornish Rex breed was established in Australia in 1963 by Mrs Gabriel Kaufman who imported the very first "Rex", a red and white male (since thought to be a "hot cream"), named, SENTY TWIX CRISPUSS. CRISPUSS (see photograph below) was sent to Mrs Kaufman, an established Oriental breeder, by UK breeder Mrs Nancy Harding who was a member of the UK Cornish Rex breeding team. Mrs Harding had heard of the excellent genetic work Mrs Kaufman was applying to her established and highly successful breeding programme involving the Havana Brown.

Senty Twix Crispuss (Imp. UK)

Breeder: Mrs Nancy Hardy UK., Owner: Mrs Gabriel Kaufman
Source: Walcott, Barbara & Richards, Dorothy, Complete Book of CATS IN AUSTRALIA (revised), Reed Books, Australia, 1989


Mrs Kaufman mated Crispuss to BLUEMEAD ALPHA and other selected hybrid Oriental Queens and also imported a male Rex, TERRANOVA REGAL GENERAL (m), from New Zealand. Around the same time, the genetic pool was boosted by Mrs Joan Williams another highly regarded breeder in Victoria, Australia, who imported another male from the Terranova line, DINADOR DRAGON KING. Mrs Kaufman and Mrs Williams worked closely together to develop a solid base of genetically sound Cornish Rex cats in Australia.

The Cornish Rex at this stage was still extremely rare, even in England, and most of the export animals were snapped up by breeders in the United States. It wasn't until 5 years later that a male,
, were imported into South Australia from the UK by Mrs M. Key and her daughter, Mrs Brumby. Both of these imports were later transferred to Mrs Lorna Nottingham, another Victorian.

Several more Rex's were imported in these early days by Mrs Valerie Norton who chose a blue male, Grand Champion
ANNELIDA TANTAN-OOLA, a second blue male, HEPHZIBAH PEWTERIPPLE, and a black and gold female tortoiseshell HEPHZIBAH STARLING.


A "Rex" By Another Name

    Devon Rex

In 1960, a second curly coated cat was discovered in England, this time in the County of Devon. Initially it was assumed that the Devon strain and the established Cornish breed were genetically the same. However, when KIRLEE the original Devon Rex, was mated to one of Kallibunker's descendents, all the progeny had straight coats. At first this was thought to be merely a quirk in the early breeding programme, but, subsequent matings all produced straight-coated kittens. It then became quite clear that since the two breeds, when mated, did not "breed true" for the curly coat, that is, they did not produce curly coated kittens exclusively, there seemed to be quite specific genetic differences. The Devon and Cornish Rex cats were indeed proven to be carrying different genes for the curly coat. KIRLEE was therefore the product of a separate, spontaneous mutant event and quite unique in terms of genetic makeup, coat and body type.

This was supported by subsequent outcrossing of the Devon Rex to normal straight-coated cats. Matings between the offspring from the initial crosses, back to one of the parents produced both curly and straight coated kittens in the expected numbers (1:1 ratio) of 1 straight to 1 curly coated kitten. Curly coated kittens from this second generation, when mated to each other,  produced only curly coated kittens. 



unknown source

Visible differences between the two breeds were also observed. The Devon Rex, with its pixie face and more squat, square body lines, extremely large ears and full whisker pads looked quite different to the tall, lean, more angular Cornish Rex. It was also noted that the deeply rippled Cornish Rex coat was perhaps slightly less curled, and far more dense than the Devon Rex coat. The hair density was also distributed in a different way. The Devon appeared to have more covering on the belly than the Cornish, which had a heavier coverage on the chest and down the spine. The "type" differences are clearly visible in the following two early examples of each breed


Devon Rex


Cornish Rex




Source: Gegharrdt, R.H., Pond, G., Raleigh, I. A Standard Guide To Cat Breeds. McGraw-Hill, United States, 1979.

Genotypes: Once solid proof was established that the Cornish and Devon Rex variations were genetically quite different, they were labelled for scientific purposes as: Gene 1 Rex (Cornish) and Gene 2 Rex (Devon). Genetically the two breeds are currently known as: Cornish (rrReRe) and Devon (RRrere). Therefore, a Cornish x Cornish mating would produce kittens that were genetically the same for coat type as their parents (rrReRe), as would Devon x Devon kittens be the same for coat as their parents (RRrere) but a Cornish x Devon mating results in straight coated kittens with a RrRere genetic descriptor. Both breeds however, are genetically recessive to normal coat but independent of each other.

At around the same time in the early 1960's, Rex kittens began to appear in other parts of the world: America, Germany, and in the 70's other countries including Australia. Experimental breeding programmes carried out to test matings between the Australian, American, Cornish & Devon Rex breeds all produced straight-coated kittens in the first generation, thus establishing the genetic difference between all four breed varieties. These four breeds carry recessive Rexing genes. The German Rex, while thought to pre-date the Cornish was first discovered in 1947. The German Rex, unlike the other breeds is genetically compatible with the Cornish: all kittens from this cross breeding have rex coats.


German Rex

According to Wikipedia, 1930-31 was the earliest recorded birth of a cat in Germany with a Rex coat. Munk, as he was named by his owner, Erna Schneider, was the progeny of a mating between a red Angora cat and a Russian Blue. Munk was never neutered and roamed the streets free to spead his genes around. However, Munk was never bred for his Rex coat and there is no evidence to suggest that he was the forefather of what we know today as the German Rex.  

In 1947 a stray cat with a curly coat. named Lammchen (Little Lamb of Berlin)  was fed intermittently by staff at the Hufeland Hospital in Berlin. Lammchen usually mated with a local Tom called Blackie. All the known kittens from this mating had straight coats. Lammchen remained elusive until Blackie died. In 1951 she was adopted by Dr. Scheuer-Karpin and Miss Dorothy Diamond and mated to one of her son's, Friedolin in 1957. Two curly coated kittens and two normal coated kittens emerged from this mating.

Lammchen was subsequently mated to a roaming tom and one of the kittens from this mating, named Blackie II was retained by Dr Scheur-Karpin. Blackie II was mated  back to his mother Lammchen on a number of occasions. Christopher Columbus, a male kitten from one of these matings was exported to the USA.  In all, four more kittens from Lammchen were sent to the USA: two hybrid normal coated kittens went to Mrs Sarah Muckenhoupt and Christopher Columbus and Cleopatra went to Mrs Joan O'Shea in New York.

Lammchen died in 1964, thirteen years after her delivering her first official litter. As she had been observed in the hospital grounds for a number of years prior to this she was thought to be around 20 years of age at the time of her death. Cleopatra was one of the two last kittens delivered by Lammchen, two years before her death.

A complete history and a large number of  wonderful photographs of Lammchen, Blackie II  and  many  of their progeny are displayed on the following pages:

Lammchen died in 1964, thirteen years after her delivering her first official litter. As she had been observed in the hospital grounds for a number of years prior to this she was thought to be around 20 years of age at the time of her death. Cleopatra was one of the two last kittens delivered by Lammchen, two years before her death.

Cha Paw Prints Amy


Brown Tabby Mackeral: German/Cornish Rex born Dec. 1970. Bred: Mr & Mrs Charles Tracy

Unfortunately the German Rex population is currently under threat of extinction - if this happens it will be a sad loss for the cat world. Hannele and Islo of Jokikatin Cattery in Finland, have a very informative page on the GRex and the Current breeding programme. 

A complete history, including a large number of  wonderful photographs of Lammchen, Blackie II  and  many  of their progeny are displayed on the following pages:

Photo Gallery:


Selkirk Rex

Another variety of Rex, the Selkirk Rex is the only one to carry a dominant Rexing gene. The first Selkirk was the only curly coated kitten in a litter of 7, born in 1987, to a domestic cat in an animal shelter in Montana, USA. 


Source: Fogle, Bruce, The Encyclopaedia of the Cat, Dorling Kindersley, London, 1997

The kitten, was named Miss DePesto of NoFace ("Pest") by Jeri Newman, the breeder who adopted her. "Pest", was subsequently mated to a straight-coated stud and 3 of her litter of six had rex coats, establishing the dominance of this rex gene. "Pest" also carried the recessive genes for longhair and colourpoints. The Selkirk Rex is bred in two versions, a plush shorthaired line and longhair version that makes the cat look heavy and unkempt. (See photograph at left). The Selkirk is however, more heavy set than the Cornish and Devon Rex's as most of the outcrossing for the establishment of this breed was carried out with Persians.


We would welcome any correspondence relating  to the breed history,  especially any  information regarding the origins of some of the early photographs that have not been referenced. 

If you own or know of a page that provides further information on any Rex breed of cat please email us and we will add a link. Furthermore, please contact Glynne if you believe any of the above information to be historically incorrect.