Ragdoll History

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History of the Ragdoll

The Ragdoll  is a breed whose origins are surrounded by controversy and tall tales.  They are a relatively new breed started in the 1960’s. Ragdolls are known for their large size, loving and affectionate temperament, long non-matting coats, serene dispositions, striking appearance, blue eyes, and the tendency to relax in a person’s arms like a rag doll (hence the name).  Ragdolls are perfect for people who thought (as we did) that only a dog could love them back so completely. Ann Baker’s client entrance attached to her home with her cattery name. The Ragdoll breed was first created by a woman breeding black Persians and Apple headed lilac Balinese cats named Ann Baker in Riverside, California in the 1960’s.  Her cattery was named ‘Raggedy Ann’.  The story of the mother of all Ragdolls is a mystical one that includes both the famous first cat, ‘Josephine’ and her breeder, Ann Baker.  The true story proves that fact is stranger than fiction.   According to various stories, the foundation cat, Josephine, produced unremarkable kittens until she was struck by a car in the early 1960s. After her recovery, all of her subsequent litters produced kittens that displayed characteristics that are today referred to as Ragdoll traits. The more detailed story is that ‘Josephine’ just happened to live next door to Ann Baker. The neighbors who claimed ownership of Josephine were the Pennel’s.  Ann Baker and other neighbors noticed that Josephine’s litters of kittens ‘changed’ after she survived the almost fatal car accident, which required time in a hospital and which left her missing an eye.  Josephine was rescued by an employee of the vet hospital after finding her wounded by the side of the street.  Josie was nursed back to health by the vet hospital employee’s at the facility she recuperated in.  For some reason the cat was returned to the Pennel’s, and Ms. Baker decided she had to have some of the subsequent kittens from ‘Josie’.  At first, Ms. Baker kept two males from two different feral tom sires, even though these boys did not have a pedigreed past. Supposed picture of Josephine with some of the kittens used later, possibly her male ‘Blackie’. After the car accident Josephine had mated on her own with a feral black and white mitted long-haired tom and produced a solid black male kitten that Ann Baker kept as a stud named “Blackie”.  Another unplanned litter by Josephine followed, sired by a solid brown long-haired tom. This tryst produced a seal mitted male named “Daddy Warbucks”.   What Ann clearly states is that “Blackie” and “Daddy Warbucks” are both sons of Josephine, but with different sires who were unknown and undocumented.  Ann Baker created her own registry for Ragdolls in 1971 called the International Ragdoll Cat Association (IRCA).  In the IRCA booklet it would appear to indicate that Blackie’s father was a black cat from the East, that appeared more Persian than Burmese.  During detailed questioning, Ann confirmed that no-one had ever seen the father of Daddy Warbucks, and he was the only kitten in that particular litter of Josephine’s.  This being so, makes it difficult to take the origins of the breed further.   Ann Baker in her later years with one of her Ragdolls.   Many write-ups of the history of Ragdolls incorrectly state that Daddy Warbucks was of Birman descent.  He did have front mittens similar to Birman cats.  However, while Daddy Warbucks may have looked Birman, he certainly wasn’t a Birman.  The Ragdoll’s white spotting gene is definitely not the same as in the Birman breed.  This has also been confirmed by TICA’s genetics committee chairperson, Dr. Solveig Pflueger, M.D., Ph.D Known picture of Daddy Warbucks, a seal mitted with blaze. Even though ‘Blackie’ and “Daddy Warbucks” were Josephine’s sons, Ann Baker bred them back to Josephine, and then bred daughter’s from those matings back to their fathers.  This is referred as in-line breeding, and some Ragdoll breeders have relied on it.  This type of inbreeding can result in healthy offspring, but some genetic abnormalities are usually produced.  Ann Baker documented that she believed seven generation of females needed to be bred back to their original sire’s. Ann Baker kept control of the Ragdoll breed by making it into a franchise operation, where she was paid a royalty fee for all kittens that were sold, and she was also paid for the cats she had sold as breeders. Here is a picture of the two family tree’s that Ann Baker started.

The TWO Breeding Programs of Ann Baker   

Ann Baker started two breeding programs from her two boys.  ‘Blackie’ headed up “The Dark Side”.  Blackie and Josephine gave birth to daughter, ‘Buckwheat’ (picture of her below). ” The Dark Side ”  (Consisting of darker kittens in primarily mitted and colorpoint from Blackie and Buckwheat.) Female ‘Buckwheat’ above, and daughter of Josephine and Blackie An interesting fact is that the first litter between Buckwheat (daughter of Blackie and Josephine) and Daddy Warbucks produced four kittens of ragdoll history; two solid kittens and two pointed kittens.  The two solid kittens were named Gueber and Mitts, and although they were used for additional breedings, and eventually were used to breed ‘Ragdmuffins’, they were not registered as Ragdolls. This leads us to believe that solids were indeed part of the original Ragdoll family… However, their pointed siblings, Kyoto and Tiki, were registered and crucial to the formation of Ragdolls from “The Dark Side”. This is Raggedy Ann Kyoto (above). He would eventually replace Daddy Warbucks as Ann’s top stud, although Daddy Warbucks, with his white blaze and white tipped tail was always Ann’s favorite. ” The Light Side “(Consisting of lighter kittens mainly in the pattern of bicolor from Josephine and Daddy Warbucks) The second group was headed up by Fugianna, the daughter of Daddy Warbucks and Josephine, and was called “The Light Side”. Both Josephine and Fugianna mated with Daddy Warbucks to produce the first Ragdolls on the light side. Ann Baker with her female bicolor, ‘Fugianna’ above, a daughter of Josephine and Daddy Warbucks. Ann Baker’s dedication to Josephine’s offspring and her two new programs led her to register them as a new breed (Ragdolls) in 1965.  She eventually registered Josephine’s litters under the new breed name of “Ragdolls”. It is from the five cats mentioned so far: Josephine, Daddy Warbucks, Fugianna, Blackie, and Buckwheat that 100% Traditional Ragdolls are descended. Only two were registered as “Ragdolls”, Daddy Warbucks and Fugianna, in the National Cat Fanciers Association (NCFA) in 1966.Kyoto and Tiki are also considered to be part of the Traditional Ragdoll lineage.  Daddy Warbucks, a seal mitted with blaze, was registered as #66-0577-6 and was said to be bred by Merle Pennel.  Tiki, a chocolate colorpoint, was registered as #66-0578-6 and was said to be bred by Ann Baker of Raggedy Ann Ragdolls.  Kyoto, a seal mitted, was registered as #66-0579-6 and was said to be bred by Ann Baker of Raggedy Ann Ragdolls.  Fugianna, a seal bicolor, was registered as #66-0580-6 and was said to be bred by Merle Pennel.  Ann Baker told some interesting stories, especially as she aged, and one of those stories was that Josephine was taken to a laboratory after her car accident, where she was genetically altered as part of a secret government experiment, resulting in genetic changes.  Another story was that Ragdoll’s felt no pain.  While these are amusing stories, no scientific evidence exists to support any of these claims, and, in fact, geneticists say that this type of genetic alteration did not exist in the 1960s.She also franchised and trademarked the Ragdoll name.  Another interesting fact is that Ann Baker was also breeding Black Persians and apple head lilac Balinese cats back in the early 1960’s.  According to letters sent to Blanche Herman, Ann used some of her Persians and Balinese to breed with her Ragdolls, although Ann Baker did not want this to be common knowledge. Chocolate Ragdoll is Second Ragdoll ever Registered. The cattery name was called “Raggedy Ann” and the first two kittens registered by Ann Baker included a seal mitted male, named “Raggedy Ann Kyoto”, and a chocolate colorpoint female named “Raggedy Ann Tiki”.  Yes, Ann Baker had chocolate ragdoll kittens from the very beginning. We carry on this long tradition of offering ragdoll kittens in chocolate here in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC area.   Raggedy Ann’s Tiki, a chocolate colorpoint

How the Ragdoll gained Notoriety

Back in 1969, Ann Baker sold two breeders to Denny and Laura Dayton, who named their program Blossom-Time. Their first breeding pair from Ann was “Raggedy Ann Rosie”, a seal mitted, and “Raggedy Ann Buddy”, a seal colorpoint. They named their cattery after Rosie (Rose) and Buddy (Bud). They named most of their offspring after flowers, herbs and living plants like Lily and Sunflower. The very first Blossom-Time litter was born May 30, 1970. The Dayton’s and Ms. Baker ultimately did not agree on breeding practices and had many legal disputes, however these two groups of people are ultimately responsible with the creation of what is now known as the Ragdoll breed. Ann’s breeding program was a strict one. The IRCA booklet described Ann’s breeding program as follows. New owners were sold a cross of Fugianna and Tiki kittens. They had to line breed for seven generations and not use any resulting male offspring for breeding purposes, only the male originally purchased. After the seventh generation, they had to use another direct son of Josephine’s, (purchased from Ann) at which point they could breed ‘authentic’ Ragdolls.  The Dayton’s were excellent marketers, while Ann was a meticulous journal keeper and breeder. As the legal disputes mounted, the Dayton’s made several claims against Ms. Baker that may have been fiction, but have gone down in Ragdoll history. Eventually, as Ms. Baker aged, she started to make outlandish claims about Ragdolls herself, including the claim that they were immune to pain and were part skunk. This led her to lose a lot of the credibility she had earlier developed. It was at this time that the Dayton’s role in Ragdoll history increased. The Famous “Blossom-Time Photo by Denny Dayton of the three Ragdoll patterns all in the color of Seal. Left to Right: Mitted, BiColor, and Colorpoint. This picture is obviously taken from the FRCI website banner. A wonderful club that we belong to, and which we talk about on our links page. Their site contains an even more detailed history of the Ragdoll!

A Little about Lilac and Chocolate Ragdolls in the Ragdoll History

Due to breeders not completely understanding color and genetics, the colors of chocolate and lilac were all but lost in breeding. There were some breeders that did like them and continued breeding them, but most breeders ignored them and sold them as pets.  Breeders that would have lilacs and chocolates probably thought their colors were just ‘poor’ blues and seals, or that the colors were sub-par.  Some breeders, like AngelGirls, try to find the last remaining lilacs in the gene pool from 100% traditional lines, but that is close to impossible in most cases.  There are other breeders, like Gerda Stapel from Australia, that started an officially licensed chocolate and lilac outcross program. Her cats were given the call names of “Dancingmist” and “Icedolls”.  It is hard for us to find great fault in Ms. Stapels program, since Ragdolls are from a mixed breed originally, and because Ms. Stapels held to a rigorous breeding back program, if documents are to be believed.  However, Ragdoll breeders are an opinionated bunch, and there are breeders on both sides of the fence on whether they think out-crosses should EVER be used for Ragdolls anymore.  It also needs to be mentioned that if it were not for out-crossing, there would be no lynx Ragdolls, and no red or tortie Ragdolls. There are a handful of other Ragdoll breeders, starting in the USA and Australia, who started to out-cross to other breeds like the Birman, the Himalayan or the Balinese in the mid 1990’s to bring in (or to re-introduce) the chocolate gene (and it’s partner, lilac). There were other breeders who out-crossed for Lynx and Red.  In the cat associations, usually a cat that is NOT a ragdoll has to breed through three generations before the kitten is considered a full-bred Ragdoll with SBT title. We have found that many of these ‘Ragdolls’ are a very sad imitation. They often don’t have the right fur, or look, or ear set, or personality, and many have acquired some of the health problems of their ancestor’s secondary breed.  Sometimes this is merely due to a breeder needing to perfect their health, temperment, and ‘look’.  Other times, the experiment doesn’t work.   However, it is a definite fact that the Ragdoll is a unique, man-made, American breed. It is not as long in the making as the Turkish Van, the Maine Coon, or the Birman, and it most certainly has Balinese and Persian in it’s original foundation. However, here at Angel Girls, we strive to perfect the lilac and chocolate Ragdoll type, and the type just gets better from generation to generation. At first our mission was to perfect the lilac and chocolate ragdoll. Eventually we grew to want to include perfecting the lynx, tortie, mink, sepia and white Ragdoll.  We still do not work with solids, Ragamuffins, cinnamons, fawns, silvers, or any non blue-eyed Ragdolls.  We can happily claim the first International Grand Champion Lilac Ragdoll. Many breeders specializing in “chocolate” and “lilac” Ragdolls even today are in fact breeding poorly colored seals and blues. We have bought a few of those! This is all before color testing, of course. Unfortunately, often incorrect pedigrees are never corrected. We prefer to breed our own cats, but when we do buy a new baby, we always get a DNA color test and an HCM test before we agree to bring them on board.