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8 Elegant Facts About Russian Blue Cats

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We’ve ogled the British Blue Shorthair, and admired the plush gray fur of the Chartreux from France. Now, it’s time for a crash course on Russia’s sleekest, most aristocratic-looking feline: the Russian Blue.

1. THE RUSSIAN BLUE LIKELY HAILS FROM NORTHERN RUSSIA.

The Russian Blue’s ancestral roots are lost in time. Some people speculate that they’re descended from the pet cats of Russian czars, but there’s probably more truth to the claim that the breed originated in northwest Russia. According to legend, the gray kitties lived in the wilderness, and were prized—and sadly hunted—for their dense, warm fur. Today, it’s said that gray cats resembling the Russian Blue still live in the country's coldest regions.

It’s believed that sailors brought the Russian from the port city of Arkhangelsk—which sits on the Northern Dvina River in the northwestern part of the country—to Great Britain and Northern Europe in the 1860s. The city was one of the most important ports in the Russian Empire. Its name means Archangel in English, which may explain why the Russian Blue was once known as the Archangel Blue. (Other early monikers include the Maltese and Foreign Blue.)

2. RUSSIAN BLUES WERE SHOWN AT ONE OF THE WORLD’S FIRST CAT SHOWS.

The “Archangel Cat” made an appearance at one of the world’s first cat shows, held at London’s Crystal Palace in 1875. The breed reportedly drew praises from one writer in attendance, who described it as "a very handsome cat, coming from Archangel … particularly furry …. They resemble mostly the common wild gray rabbit."

Sadly, the Russian Blue didn’t win any prizes: Harrison Weir—the show’s founder who’s today remembered as “the father of the cat fancy”—grouped all the short-haired blue cats into one category, and he preferred the stockier, round-faced British Blue.

3. THE RUSSIAN BLUE NEARLY DISAPPEARED DURING WORLD WAR II—BUT IT LATER MADE A COMEBACK.

Britain’s Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) recognized the Russian Blue as a distinct breed in 1912. The cat was often referred to as a "Blue Foreign type” or the "Foreign Blue." But World War II eventually broke out, and many breeders no longer had the resources to continue the kitty's bloodline. The Russian Blue dwindled in number, but after the war ended, cat lovers in countries including Britain, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark saved the cat by crossbreeding it with other feline types.

Today, the Russian Blue's appearance varies around Europe. Scandinavians mated the cat with Siamese cats, resulting in a longer, more angular look. And in Britain, the kitty was crossbred with bluepoint Siamese cats and British Blues, so they developed a stockier silhouette.

Russian Blues first arrived in America sometime in the 1900s, but it wasn't until much later that the country's cat enthusiasts started breeding them in earnest. They imported Russian Blues from Scandinavia and England, and over time, combined their unique features into the blue-furred, green-eyed cat we know and love today.

4. A RUSSIAN BLUE INSPIRED NYAN CAT.

A Russian Blue cat helped inspire the Internet’s most famous 8-bit animated feline. Nyan Cat—the YouTube video-turned-viral Internet-meme of a flying cat-Pop Tart hybrid flying through space, leaving a rainbow trail in its wake—was created in 2011 by then-25-year-old illustrator Chris Torres, who owned a Russian Blue named Marty.

Torres was participating in a Red Cross donation drive, and received conflicting suggestions on what to draw. One person wanted him to sketch a cat; another, a Pop Tart. Torres ended up drawing a hybrid of both, but if you look closely, you'll notice that the feline portion of Nyan Cat strongly resembles Torres's beloved cat.

This wasn't a coincidence: Marty, who was named after Marty McFly from Back to the Future, “heavily influenced a lot of my comics and the creation of Nyan Cat,” Torres tweeted after his cat died in 2012.

5. THE RUSSIAN BLUE ISN'T TOTALLY HYPOALLERGENIC.

Some people say that the Russian Blue is a good pet for people with allergies. It doesn’t shed a lot, plus the gray kitty allegedly produces lower levels of Fel d 1 protein, the allergenic protein in cat saliva and skin secretions that makes your skin itch and eyes water. But even small amounts of Fel d 1 can cause you to suffer an allergic reaction, plus Russian Blues still have dander. There are plenty of reasons to want the gray cat; just keep in mind that it won't be the solution to your allergy woes.

6. THE RUSSIAN BLUE IS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER "BLUE" CATS.

With its slate-colored fur, the Russian Blue resembles other “blue” short-haired cats like the Chartreux and the British Blue. But if you look closely, you’ll see subtle differences between the three breeds. For one, the Russian Blue has green eyes, whereas the Chartreux has brilliant orange pupils, and the British Blue’s are gold, copper, or blue-green. Also, the Russian Blue and Chartreux have round faces and stocky (if not slightly chunky) bodies, while the Russian Blue is much more elongated and lithe, with a wedge-shaped head. Finally, the Russian Blue's dense, double-layered coat is silky to the touch. In contrast, the British Blue's plush fur feels slightly crisp, and the Chartreux's is tufted and wooly.

7. THE RUSSIAN BLUE IS A LOVING (BUT SHY) FELINE.

If you're looking for a calm cat with a pleasant disposition, consider the Russian Blue. The kitty is shy around strangers, but affectionate with owners. It enjoys sitting quietly by the side of its favorite humans—but it's also down for a playful game of fetch.

8. THE RUSSIAN BLUE GETS ITS HUE FROM A UNIQUE GENE.

The Russian Blue gets its silvery fur from a diluted version of the gene that's responsible for black hairs. If you mate two Russian Blues together, they'll produce a litter of all-gray kittens. But if the Russian Blue is bred with another cat type, the black Russian Shorthair, the union will result in a mix of blue and black kittens. (Mate the Russian Blue with a white feline, and their children will be white, blue, and black.)

All photos courtesy of iStock.

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Ranthambhore National Park Is Helping India's Famous Tigers Thrive
Stringer, AFP/Getty Images
Stringer, AFP/Getty Images

Forty-four years ago, India launched its “Protect Tiger” initiative and declared the Bengal tiger the national animal. At the time, the population had dwindled to just 268 cats due to poaching and habitat loss. The species is in much better shape today: India’s tiger population has increased by 1300 percent in the past four decades, and that’s thanks in part to tiger sanctuaries like Ranthambhore National Park.

According to Lonely Planet, Ranthambhore National Park may be the most famous tiger park in India. It’s certainly one of the most successful: The site has provided a secure home for generations of tigers since it was founded on the former hunting grounds of a Maharaja in 1955. While the overall tiger population in India is still threatened by poaching, habitat loss, and human-tiger conflict, Ranthambhore claims 67 tigers inside its borders—the highest-ever number for the park, according to the latest census. And with cubs making up 26 of those cats, the park has a promising future ahead of it.

Tigers within the park borders are so abundant that officials at Ranthambhore plan to share their good fortune. Cats from the park will be sent to the neighboring Sariska National Park, which was completely devoid of tigers in 2005 due to a poaching crisis. There are 13 tigers living in the park today, and the transplants from Ranthambhore will hopefully strengthen the population.

Ranthambhore National Park is open to tourists from October 1 to June 30. If you’re unable to book a tour, you can check out the photos below to see the park’s famous residents.

Tiger walking behind car.
Koshy Koshy, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Tiger laying on dirt path.

Tiger in the woods.
Himangini Rathore Hooja, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Tiger laying down and yawning.
Aditya Singh, AFP/Getty Images

Tiger looking out from tall grass.
Stephen Jaffe, AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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15 Fun Facts About Puppy Bowl
Animal Planet
Animal Planet

The Super Bowl can keep its 111.9 million viewers and $5 million ad buys. Because the Puppy Bowl, which celebrates its 14th year this Sunday on Animal Planet, has got something much better: puppies! Ninety of them—and all of them adoptable. There are kittens, too (they provide the halftime entertainment), and Meep the tweeting African Gray Parrot (follow him at @MeepTheBird) plus a host of other species.

With the help of Dan Schachner, who’ll be donning the black and white stripes for his seventh go as the "Rufferee," we’ve uncovered 15 things you might not have known about Puppy Bowl.

1. IT WAS INSPIRED BY THE YULE LOG.

Yes, that long-running holiday television special that featured nothing more than the image of a log burning in a fireplace with Christmas music playing in the background is what inspired the Puppy Bowl. And its broadcast debut, back in 2005, was a much less elaborate affair, comprised mainly of copious amounts of footage of puppies playing. But it did feature the game’s very first Unsportsmanlike Delay of Game penalty, issued to a pup named Riley for, in the announcer’s words, deciding to “use the field as his own personal bathroom.” (See the video above.)

2. SAFETY IS THE TOP PRIORITY.

Puppies will be puppies. And puppies don’t always play fair. In addition to a veterinarian, who is on the set throughout the program’s production, representatives from the Humane Society and each of the shelters whose dogs are being featured are on hand to ensure the safety of the competitors. This includes giving the puppies a break from the lights, camera and action every 30 minutes. For the 2018 event, 90 puppies from a record 58 shelters and rescue groups from 24 states and Puerto Rico will be represented.

3. GAME DAY OCCURS IN OCTOBER.

JPaw and Lila compete in Puppy Bowl XIV
Animal Planet

Puppy Bowl is not a live broadcast. It’s shot over the course of two days in October. “That element takes people aback,” admits Schachner. But the reason why is totally understandable. “It’s three months of preparation because it’s two full days of shooting,” continues Schachner. “Plus it’s 21 cameras on the field. So that’s a lot of footage to edit and turn into a two-hour show.”

4. PEANUT BUTTER IS THE PRODUCTION TEAM'S BEST FRIEND.

Just how does the production team manage to get all those adorable up-close images? Easy: Peanut butter. Of the dozens of cameras used to capture all the on-field action, one is mounted beneath a glass-bottom water bowl while others are hidden in the dogs’ chew toys, but not before they’re smeared with peanut butter to attract the competing canines.

5. PUPPY BOWL VIII FEATURED A DOUBLE TOUCHDOWN.

“We’re very open-minded as far as our rules go,” says Schachner, who notes that in Puppy Bowl VIII, “we had a simultaneous touchdown and that had never happened before. Two puppies dragged two chew toys into the end zone at the same exact time. I didn’t know what to do, so I talked to our control room. We did an instant replay and determined that it counted. Each puppy was then awarded one touchdown point.”

6. THE CHEERLEADERS ARE ALWAYS CHANGING.

In 2010, the Puppy Bowl added a bit of ra-ra-ra to the production when it included a team of bunny cheerleaders. In 2011, chickens were the animals cheering on the sidelines. In 2012, the chicks were replaced by a Piggy Pep Squad, followed by a team of hedgehogs in 2013, a group of peppy penguins direct from the Columbus Zoo in 2014, five Nigerian dwarf goats in 2015, "five big-haired silkie chickens" in 2016, and a squad of rescue rabbits and guinea pigs in 2017. For 2018, the game will feature what Animal Planet is calling "an adorable blended bunch of baby barnyard cheerleaders," which will include ducklings, piglets, and baby bunnies.

7. LACK OF ENERGY IS CAUSE FOR DISQUALIFICATION.

Ana competes in Puppy Bowl XIV
Animal Planet

“We’ve had penalties when puppies are too rambunctious, but also when they’re too lazy,” says Schachner of the behaviors that can disqualify a pup from competition. “That’s called ‘illegal napping’ or ‘excessive napping.’”

8. “PANCAKING” IS ALSO NOT ALLOWED.

When asked about the oddest penalty he has ever had to heap on a competitor, Schachner recalls “one puppy that was literally flattening other puppies. Puppies will shove and bite and sniff and tackle. But there was one puppy that was literally jumping up and landing on the backs of the other puppies. So we made up a foul then called ‘pancaking.’ We sent her back 15 yards.”

9. PUPPY BOWL LANDED AN OLYMPIC SPINOFF.

In 2008, a Puppy Bowl spinoff—Puppy Games—aired opposite the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics. While the setup was the same as Puppy Bowl, the competitions were all new and included swimming, boxing, soccer, and gymnastics events.

10. THERE’S A LOT MORE POOP THAT YOU DON’T SEE.

Cleaning up after the game’s not-always-housebroken competitors is part of the ref’s job. But Schachner says that the biggest misconception about his role is that “I’m picking up poop and pee all the time. [People] forget that there’s an amazing grounds crew here on staff. They’re like little elves who come in and magically erase all the pet poop that’s left on the field so that when the game is actually playing and those cameras are rolling, you’re not going to see too many fouls. You’ll see a couple, but you’re not going to see too much of puppies doing what comes naturally to them!”

11. YES THE PUPPIES ARE ADOPTABLE—BUT GOOD LUCK ADOPTING ONE.

Barry and Olympia compete in Puppy Bowl XIV
Animal Planet

Yes, all of Puppy Bowl’s competitors are shelter dogs. (So are the cats.) But because of the show’s October production versus February airing, “by the time the Puppy Bowl actually airs, most of these puppies have already found their forever homes,” says Schachner. “We encourage everyone to go on to AnimalPlanet.com during the airing and if you see a puppy that you fall in love with, check him out. They may be adoptable. And if not that shelter will have other puppies who are equally adorable, maybe even from the same litter.”

12. IT’S NO LONGER THE ONLY ANIMAL "BOWL."

The Puppy Bowl’s popularity has not gone unnoticed by other networks. Hallmark Channel will cater to the cat crowd with the fifth edition of its Kitten Bowl.

13. A RECORD NUMBER OF VIEWERS TUNED IN FOR THE 2014 EVENT.

Peanut and Hinesville compete in Puppy Bowl XIV
Animal Planet

Puppy Bowl X scored huge ratings; a total of 13.5 million tuned in throughout the 12-hour canine extravaganza, making Puppy Bowl the most watched cable program during 2014's Super Bowl Sunday and the second most watched show in all of television that night (second only to some football game playing on Fox). Though the total number of viewers dipped in 2016, Puppy Bowl bounced back in 2017, which ended up being its second most-watched Puppy Bowl ever.

14. SEVERAL SPECIAL NEEDS PUPS WILL BE COMPETING. 

In a Puppy Bowl first, three of last year's competitors were pups with disabilities. Even more special needs pups will be participating in this year's Big Game: There's Ryder, a visually impaired Husky; Chance, a deaf Dalmatian; Moonshine, a sight-impaired and deaf Border Collie; and Luna, a Pomeranian mix with a cleft palate. 

15. THIS YEAR'S PUPPY BOWL WILL FEATURE A RESCUE SLOTH.

After seven years as the Puppy Bowl's referee, Schachner is a pro. But that hasn't stopped him from enlisting some help this year when it comes to calling penalties and celebrating touchdowns. Assisting him on the field for 2018 will be a special guest: Shirley the rescue sloth.

An earlier version of this story ran in 2014.

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