History of the Chartreux Cat
As the legend goes, the Chartreux, (pronounced sh'r-TRUE) breed developed at Le Grand Chartreux monastery in the French Alps just outside Paris. The Carthusian order of monks at the monastery, in their spare time between praying, liqueur-making, and weapon-forging, bred Chartreux cats with the same skill and dedication with which they created their world-famous yellow and green Chartreuse liqueurs.
The monastery was founded in 1084 by St. Bruno, but the cats, if the story is true, didn't arrive there until the end of the Crusades in the thirteenth century, when Crusading knights limped home from their fight with the Turks and retired to monastic life. They brought with them plundered goods that included blue cats picked up along the African coast.
The monks selectively bred these cats to have quiet voices so the cats would not disturb their meditations. Although this story cannot be verified with the monastery's order today, fanciers love to relate the romantic tale.
The truth is that no one really knows for sure where the Chartreux came from but he has been around a long time. The verifiable history of the Chartreux began in the sixteenth century, according to the literature of the period. The Histoire Naturelle, written in the 1700s by biologist Comte de Buffon, lists four cat breeds that were common to Europe by that time: domestic, Angora, Spanish, and Chartreux.
The modern history of the breed began in the 1920s when two sisters by the name of Leger discovered a colony of blue cats on the small Brittany island of Belle-Ile, off the coast of France. These free-roaming cats lived around a hospital in the city of Le Palais, and the cats matched the description of the Chartreux breed. (The hospital was run, coincidentally, by a religious order.) The Leger sisters decided to work with the breed and in 1931 were the first to exhibit Chartreux cats in France.
World War II decimated the breed and, to keep the bloodlines going, the remaining Chartreux cats were bred with blue British Shorthairs, Russian Blues, and Persians. In European cat shows today, the Chartreux is shown in the same breed category as the British Shorthair, and hybridization is allowed.
Since in the United States cats are separated by breed rather than color, as is the policy in the United Kingdom, the current stock in North America is purer than much of the European stock. The Chartreux made its journey to the United States in 1970, when the late Helen Gamon of La Jolla, California, brought back a male Chartreux from the cattery of Madame Bastide in France, a breeder who had pure Chartreux lines.
This cat (by the grand name of Taquin de St. Pierre of Gamonal) became the foundation male of the North American Chartreux. Gamon aided in establishing and promoting the Chartreux in the United States and in getting the breed accepted in the associations. The breed achieved CFA Championship status in 1987.
Known for their hunting prowess, Chartreux cats may have been taken in by those monks long ago to rid the monastery of vermin. Today, however, Chartreux cats are popular because they make terrific companions. They are amiable, loyal, and vocally quiet, and when you sit down next to your Chartreux you invariably end up with a lap full of cat.
Known as quiet, sweet cats, Chartreux cats also have a playful, comical side that they keep well into adulthood. They seem to have a well-developed sense of humor, and enjoy a good game of fetch or a playful romp with their friends and family. They are very intelligent cats; they quickly learn their names and will come when you call, if they're in the mood, of course.
Chartreux Breed Traits
Although the Char-treux is sometimes unflatteringly called a 'potato on toothpicks' because of its stocky body and slender legs, the Chartreux is extremely agile. The body type is sometimes called primitive because it is neither cobby nor classic, but is instead husky and robust.
The Chartreux is generally a healthy and hardy breed, but some lines are known to possess the recessive gene for medial patellar luxation. The condition is genetic in origin, but the exact mode of inheritance is not yet known.