Short History of the Ragdoll
The Ragdoll breed began its journey to becoming a recognized breed in the 1960s in Riverside by a lady name Ann Baker and her non-pedigreed white domestic longhaired cat named Josephine. She was of a Persian/Angora type and had litters sired by several unknown male Birman or Burmese-like cats, one of which had the Siamese point coloration. The kittens produced took on the docile and affectionate nature which became one of the defining characteristics of the ragdoll breed. After many years of selected breeding to hone the desired traits, the ragdoll breed began to take shape.
In 1971 Ann Baker coined the name “Ragdoll” to the breed and began her own cat breeding association called the International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA) which is still in existence today but quite small. She set stringent measures to breeding and also disallowed association with other cat breeding associations such as the TICA or CFA.
In 1975, a group led by Denny and Laura Dayton, left the IRCA with the goal of expanding the Ragdoll breed by gaining recognition through the much larger breeding associations. The group eventually developed the standards for the ragdoll breed which are still used today.
The ragdoll breed is a very special breed of cat characterized by their friendly demeanor, large size, soft fur, dander free coats & blue eyes. It is a pointed breed meaning that the coloration of the cat’s body is pale to white with the extremities having color. I.e. face, ears, tail, & paws. There are different variations of markings in the ragdoll breed that we will discuss below under “Patterns.” But first let us get into the variety of colors in the ragdoll breed.
There are four traditional colors in the ragdoll breed: Seal, Blue, Chocolate and Lilac. The first two of the group are the ones that are more commonly referred to and the later two are best verified by DNA testing. There are two main sets of genes that determine the coloration of any ragdoll cat. For our purposes, we will call them: (B) “Black” dominant, (b) “Chocolate” recessive, (D) “Dense” dominant and (d) “Dilute” recessive. In any combination that the dominant is present, it will mask the recessive gene. Below I will explain the gene traits for each of the traditional colorations.
Seal: (BB DD, BB Dd, Bb DD, Bb Dd)
The seal coloration is a purely dominate gene coloration. As shown above, it contains at least one dominate gene in each pair. The coloration can vary from an almost black to a medium brown color.
Blue: (BB dd, Bb dd)
The blue coloration is the recessive dilute gene combination to seal. As shown above, it contains two recessive “d” genes. This coloration can vary from a very dark grey to a lighter grey.
Chocolate: (bb DD, bb Dd)
The chocolate coloration is one that carries two recessive “b” genes and at least one dominate “D” gene. This coloration is displayed as a light brown or cinnamon color. As mentioned above this coloration must be proven by DNA test since a light seal can be commonly mistaken for a chocolate.
Lilac: (bb dd)
The lilac coloration is the rarest of the colorations due to the fact that it carries all recessive genes. This coloration is displayed as a very light grey with an almost pinkish blue tint. Once again this coloration should always be proven with a DNA test to verify authenticity.
In recent years three more colors have been added to the ragdoll breed with the addition of the “O” gene. This gene is a separate gene which masks or partially masks the genes described above and also is affected by the sex of the cat. One additional thing to note is that the “O” gene also has a slight lynx pattern to it and should not be confused with the Lynx/ Tabby pattern described below.
The flame coloration is the masking of the dominant coloration of seal or chocolate as described above. For a male ragdoll the “O” genes work as an on/off switch. A male ragdoll only needs one “O” dominant gene to get the flame coloration. I.e. (O, OO). As for the female ragdoll, it requires two “O” dominant genes to have the flame coloration. i.e. (OO).
The cream coloration is the masking of the recessive coloration of blue or lilac as described above. The “O” dominant gene requirements for male or female remain the same as described under flame coloration description.
The tortie coloration applies only to female ragdolls. This coloration comes into play when a female ragdoll receives only one “O” gene. It is characterized by a tortoiseshell or calico pattern at the pointed portions of the cat. There are two classifications of colorations for torties:
Seal/Flame - This coloration of tortie is displayed as a random patchwork patterning of seal and flame patches over the pointed portions with the white base that covers the rest of the body.
Blue/Cream - This coloration of tortie is displayed as a random patchwork patterning of blue and cream patches over the pointed portions with the white base that covers the rest of the body.
*One notable thing about torties is the individuality of each tortie. Due to the randomness of the patches of color within the pointed regions each tortie is unique in how it looks.
Change in color:
When a ragdoll kitten is born it comes out almost completely white in color due to the fact that their fur is temperature sensitive. Inside the mother’s womb the fur is keep very warm and in turn makes the fur almost white when they are born. Once they are out it takes at least 3 to 4 weeks to start seeing their coloration more clearly. This is why DNA testing should be administered when determining a chocolate or lilac coloration. When a kitten is young a blue can look just like a lilac and a seal can look just like a chocolate. This is why many breeders do not specify chocolate or lilac when placing kittens or they will charge more for these colorations if proven.
Even as the ragdoll becomes an adult their coloration will change due to the temperatures that they are exposed to. In cooler climates the non-white portions of their fur will become darker and vice versa in warmer climates their fur will become lighter.
In another situation where the cat is shaved for a surgery the fur in the shaved area will come in darker due to the change of temperature at the skin level. Over time the fur will correct itself and will return back to the previous coloration.
Extent of Color
The extent of color or darkness of points can be different from cat to cat. Above is a very simplified version of the genes that control the coloration of a ragdoll. However, two ragdolls with the same gene sets as described above can appear very different. The extent and darkness of the coloration purely depends on the inherited genes of the parents.
There are 6 different pattern variations in the ragdoll breed: Colorpoint, Mitted, High Mitted, Bi Color, Mid-High White & High “Van” White. These colorations are controlled by the “S” gene. There are three common “S” genes in the ragdoll breed which make up the patterns: (s) recessive, (S2) mitted & (S4) Bi-Color. Each of these patterns have no affect on the color variations we discussed before however they do alter the location in which the color is manifested. Below is a description of each type.
Colorpoint: (s s)
This is the most traditional of patterns in the cat world. The pattern is characterized by having color at the extremities. I.e. face, ears, tail, & paws. This pattern occurs when a ragdoll has two (s) recessive genes.
Mitted: (S2 s)
This pattern is just as it sounds. It is similar to the Colorpoint with the exception of having white front paws, white rear hocks. A perfectly marked show quality mitted will have evenly marked paws that go straight across and have no marks on their rear hocks, chest or belly. This pattern occurs when a ragdoll has the (S2) mitted gene and a (s) recessive gene.
Blaze: Within the mitted pattern there is the possibility of an anomaly called the “blaze” which can occur and is fairly uncommon. This is characterized by a patch of white on the nose or between the eyes and can vary in size and shape.
High Mitted: (S2 S2)
This pattern looks pretty much identical to a Bi-Color and is usually referred to as a Bi-color unless it is being used for breeding purposes. See Bi-Color for marking characteristics. This pattern occurs when a ragdoll has two (S2) mitted genes. When added together you get (S4) which describes the Bi-Color gene.
Bi-Color: (S4 s)
The Bi-Color pattern is the iconic look of the ragdoll and is regularly used as the defining look of the breed. This pattern is characterized by the inverted “V” of white on the face, white front and back legs, white chest and belly & color on the top half of face, along the back and tail. Many have said it looks like they are wearing a mask. This pattern occurs when a ragdoll has the (S4) Bi-Color gene and a (s) recessive gene.
Mid-High White: (S2 S4)
This pattern is very similar to the Bi-Color except that the inverted “V” on the face is much higher. This pattern occurs when a ragdoll has the (S2) mitted gene and the (S4) Bi-Color gene.
High “Van” White: (S4 S4)
This pattern is once again like the Bi-Color except that the “V” on the face is above the eyes. This pattern occurs when a ragdoll has two (S4) Bi-Color genes.
Apart from all color variations and patterns already described there are two additional patterns which have recently been added to the ragdoll breed with the addition of the (L) Lynx/Tabby gene. This gene works like an on/off switch, it either gets passed on or not at all. This pattern is a little different in that it just pairs with the patterns listed above such as “lynx mitted” or “lynx bi-color”.
This pattern is characterized by the striped pattern of the colored regions and white lining of the ears and around the eyes. Although it is fairly new to the ragdoll breed it is becoming a favorite of many.
Lastly, this pattern is the one that incorporates all the genes available in the ragdoll breed. The simple way to describe it is to say it is a tortie with the addition of the lynx gene. When it is displayed in the colorpoint or mitted pattern it has a noticeable orange mark on the nose with the addition of the standard lynx markings.
The mink ragdoll is nothing new or rare at all. The beginning of the ragdoll breed started with a solid white Persian/Angora and a black Burmese type cat. Under Ann Baker and the IRCA the mink was part of the ragdoll breed. When the Dayton’s separated from Ann Baker they had decided to weed out the Burmese genes, which causes the mink coloring, to refine the pointed coloration which is the standard that the ragdoll breed was first accepted into the TICA with.
The mink ragdoll is not a true pointed ragdoll at all. Some key differences of the mink ragdoll are: aqua/green eyes, they are born with their color & their fur is soft like mink fur. Although their fur tends to be slightly softer than the traditional ragdoll the first two differences do not meet the requirements for it to be a true pointed breed cat which the Ragdoll breed is.
There are two forms of the mink ragdoll: mink and sepia. Mink follows all the same colorations and patterns of the standard ragdoll with the exception of having the mink traits described above. The mink gene is actually a combination of a Burmese gene and the pointed gene of the pure ragdoll. Sepia is a completely black coloration caused by the breeding of two mink cats together. This is actually a Burmese coloration which occurs when a kitten receives the Burmese gene from both parents and does not get the pointed genes.
There has been a resurgence of the mink ragdoll as of late with the labeling of rare mink or sepia ragdolls. This is nothing more than a gimmick to be able to charge more money for them. In reality they were intentionally removed from the breed back in the mid 70’s. Denny Dayton made a comment that “He NEVER wants to see the mink or solid colored ragdolls allowed into the Ragdoll Standard.” Despite the opposition some have continued the breeding of mink. The mink ragdolls are capable of being TICA registered however they cannot be shown in the championship competitions.
Many of the mink ragdolls today actually come from the cross breading of a ragdoll with another breed called the RagaMuffin. The RagaMuffin was developed in 1994 from another group that split off from Anne Baker’s breeding program. The exact development of the breed is not completely clear. They share similar characteristics to the ragdoll such as size and friendliness however there is no real standard for their coloration or patterns and they have greenish hazel eyes. The CFA granted registration status in 2003 and full championship status in 2011. As of this point the TICA have not recognized the RagaMuffin breed as a distinct breed.