History Background represents our currently known knowledge, additions will be added as our knowledge of the breed expands.
The True Origin-
The true origin of the Chantilly/Tiffany has been a subject of mystery and controversy, part of their ancestry is for sure is that they came to the America’s from the Netherlands. Exactly how or when they got here is not certain yet. Were they product of the Angora type cats developed in Europe in the early 1900s; then shipped over to the America’s to be used in breeding programs? Or is the origin much older? Or a Combination of the two? Only time, thorough research, and proper genetic investigation will tell.
The Official Beginning (1960s – 1970s)-
The Chantilly/Tiffany breed had its official beginning as a “Foreign Longhair”. In 1967 with Jennie Robinson (Neotype Cattery) of New York. She purchased a pair of semi-foreign longhaired chocolate cats with golden eyes in White Plains, New York. They may have had the same parents but were not litter-mates. “Thomas” was about a year of age upon purchase, and “Shirley,” was around 6 months.
Shirley’s first litter of six kittens was born in 1969. They all looked like they had been cut from cookie cutter. All were a chocolate color and shared a similar appearance. Robinson initiated a breeding program to emphasize these traits. In the early 1970s, the ACA registered Thomas and Shirley, along with many of their descendants as “Foreign-Longhairs.”
The Passing of the Torch (1970s –1980s)-
Robinson ended her breeding program in the 1970s. Sigyn Lund (Sig Tim Hil Cattery) a Florida Burmese breeder, purchased some of Ms. Robinson’s kittens and took on the “Foreign Longhair” breeding program. The New York origin was not well known to the public at the time. Because of Lund’s reputation as a Burmese breeder, It has been speculated that the Chantilly was a long haired Burmese. A change in the breed’s name was requested by judges, because they felt the breed’s current name “Foreign Longhair” was to general, the name “Mahogany” was suggested. Ms. Lund changed the breed-name from “Foreign-Longhair” to “Tiffany” (a name often representing elegance and class). Lund promoted the breed under “Tiffany”. The ACA dropped the “Tiffany” from recognition, their reason being its rarity. As a result, all breed representatives registered under the Lund (Sig Tim Hil Cattery) name became unregistered and lost their pedigree status. After this event, the breed continued to be advertised as “Burmese.” At one point, in an informal phone interview, Sig Tim Hil cattery supplied information to researcher Joan Bernstein regarding these chocolate cats. This interview resulted in a publication of information, again suggesting the possibility they were the product of UK crosses between Burmese and Himalayans (a Persian cross). This information was posted in “Harper’s Illustrated Handbook of Cats”. “The Ultimate Cat Book” by David Taylor in 1989, the Tiffany’s History was also described as “produced from crossing Burmese cats with Persians”. The false advertisement and the phone interview could explain the tie to Burmese in these books. All this confusion lead the breed to near extinction.
Chantillys and Canadian/ American teamwork (1980s-1990s)-
Around the same time Robinson and Lund were developing the “Tiffany” in the United States, a Canadian acreage owner was surprised by a cat who appeared at his home in 1973. She was a long-haired, semi-foreign chocolate, gold-eyed feline of unknown ancestry who gave birth to a litter of kittens. Once again these kittens were carbon copies of their mother. An experience shared by Robinson with the cats in her breeding program. Offspring of these were rescued by Canadian breeders in order to re-establish the “Tiffany” breed in North America with a cooperative effort with Robinson and Lund.
One major advocate of the Chantilly was Tracy Oraas who began her involvement with the breed in 1988, when she responded to a classified ad advertising “Chocolate kittens”. Tracy Oraas got in touch with Siamese Oriental breeder Jan DeRegt. Oraas and DeRegt undertook efforts to reestablish the breed after consulting a TICA judge. This judge expressed that nothing on the show bench compared with them. It took some major detective work, including calls to every veterinarian in Florida, but they managed to contact the Tiffany’s original breeders, Jennie Robinson and Sigyn Lund. Oraas and DeRegt also concluded that the Burmese was never used in any Tiffany breeding program. Their research did reveal that English breeders had crossed Foreign Longhairs (in an attempt to recreate an Angora-type cat. They suspect that the Tiffany may have been a product of these efforts. Since none of the original Chantilly’s could be found, they established using registered European Angoras, Havana Browns, and Abyssinians, and Nebelungs.
In 1992, Oraas was asked to rename the breed because of possible confusion with the British Tiffanie. Wishing to preserve the elegance the “Tiffany” name represented, they chose “Chantilly”.
The Disappearance, and the Last Chantilly Cattery (1990s – 2000s)-
Tracy Oraas bred “Chantilly/Tiffany” up to the early 2000s, then seemed to have faded from the breeding scene. In 2001, there were a few Catteries working with the Chantilly: one in Germany, one in Canada, one in Washington State, one in West Virginia, and one in southern Illinois known as Amorino Cattery. Anne Davenport-Parini started Amorino Cattery in 2001 when she brought Nugget (also known as LTD or Little Tabby Dude) of Emberhearth Cattery home to Illinois. By 2003, Amorino was the only “Chantilly” Cattery in the US still operating. She was the last known Chantilly breeder in the USA. LTD produced many beautiful kittens before his retirement.
Read the the touching story of the Chantilly: Emberhearth Hershey Nugget LTD of Amorino Here
The last known Chantillys, the devastating fire, and extinction (2000s- 2010s)
In 2012, a devastating fire destroyed Amorino Cattery and its archives. With the fall of Armino Cattery, the breed was facing extinction. The last “Chantillys” known in the USA were Frosty (Grandson of LTD) and his Daughter Acey. Frosty was shipped to a Nebelung breeder in Norway (Cacao Criadero Cattery). There was a struggle to get Frosty to breed to the Nebelung female, the exact reason for this struggle is unknown. One kitten, Acey, was produced in the efforts. In 2015, Norwegian breeder gave up on the Chantilly breeding program after the death of Frosty, and fixed her female Acey. As a result of this event, the Chantilly is considered extinct. However, it was little chocolate cats on a farm somewhere in Canada that brought the breed back, and saved it from extinction last time, perhaps history will repeat itself.