In 1960, an English woman, Beryl Cox, found a cat with a strangely curly coat near an abandoned mine near Buckfastleigh in Devonshire. She hoped to breed from him, but despite many attempts to catch him, he always eluded capture. However in 1960 he mated with a stray tortoiseshell and white female, and she produced a litter of kittens. Mrs. Cox, who lived near the tin mine, and who had been observing the strange looking Tom for some time, had befriended this queen. The litter was born in a field at the end of her garden and, taking a closer look at them she was able to see that one of the kittens, a male, had the same curly coat as the wild Tom. She took this kitten and raised him carefully in her home. Named Kirlee, he was to become the founding father of the Devon Rex breed.
Miss Cox had seen photos of the Cornish Rex Cat Kallibunker, who had been discovered nearby ten years earlier, and contacted the group, who were developing that breed, with a view to a mating. They took Kirlee and mated him to several of the female descendants of Kallibunker, but to their astonishment found that all the kittens born from these pairings were straight coated. Despite repeated attempts, the Cornish x Devon cross did not produce a single curly coated kitten.
They were therefore forced to the surprising conclusion that, despite the geographical closeness, the wavy haired gene of the Devon Rex was not the same as the one, which was causing the wavy hair in the Cornish Rex breed. The two recessive genes were therefore named (r) for Cornish and (re) for Devon.
Because of this difference, the only way to establish the Devon Rex as a distinct breed was to in-breed from Kirlee. A similar in-breeding program had been successfully employed with Kallibunker. Kirlee was mated with his daughters and before long the Devon Rex Cat was safely established. Kirlee lived a long and productive life, until he was eventually killed in a road accident in 1970.
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