Devon Rex make delightful pets and are excellent companions for those seeking an action packed character for they can be wickedly naughty and demand constant attention. Affectionately referred to by some as the ET of the cat fancy their type is quite unique with their large hypnotic eyes, enormous ears and long slender necks. They are loving, need human companionship and share the dog like habits of their Cornish Rex cousins. Their long toes allow them to use their paws like little hands. They are also pretty good at climbing net curtains! Many years ago a well known Devon Rex breeder was stopped by a neighbour who had seen her kittens climbing the curtains and was curious to know what type of monkey she kept!
The Devon Rex owes its origin to a natural mutation which occurred amongst non-pedigree cats in Devon. Kirlee, recognised as the first Devon Rex, was born 15th July1959, he was the only curly coated kitten in a litter born to a non-pedigree dam, his sire was unknown but a large black cat with ringlets hanging from his tail inhabited the local tin mine and was assumed to be Kirlee's father. This theory was substantiated when Kirlee later proved to be a longhair carrier.
As a young kitten Kirlee was adopted by Miss Beryl Cox and her friend Miss Margaret Croll of Buckfastleigh, Devon. Some months later during1960, whilst reading an article in the Daily Mirror promoting the forthcoming Kensington Kitten and Neuter Show, they became aware of just how rare their Kirlee was. The article was accompanied by a photo of a winking kitten - Du-Bu Lambtex - with a caption stating he was the only curly coated kitten in Britain and would be on exhibition at the show. Miss Cox immediately wrote to the breeder of the kitten, Mrs Agnes Watts (my mother), telling her she too had a kitten with a curly coat, and so Kirlee was 'discovered'.
As Devon and Cornwall adjoin it was quite naturally assumed Kirlee resulted from of the same mutation responsible for producing the Cornish Rex which appeared some nine years earlier. Arrangements were made for Brian Stirling-Webb to purchase Kirlee from Misses Cox and Croll as a valuable addition to the limited breeding stock. Mr Stirling-Webb was a well known judge and cat breeder of the day who had brought together a group of fellow breeders in a last attempt to establish Rex cats as a breed in this country.
It was only after Kirlee was bred to two Cornish Rex variant queens (normal coated females carrying the Cornish Rex gene) producing only normal shorthair and semi longhair kittens that suspicions arose as to whether Kirlee was indeed the result of the same mutation. No further breeding took place with Kirlee until the only Cornish Rex female kitten bred by a member of the group was old enough to be mated to him. Broughton Purly Queen - a cream and white,was bred to Kirlee in 1961 producing a litter of normal coated kittens proving beyond doubt
Kirlee was the result of a quite separate and incompatible mutation.
The two Rex mutations were then developed independently of each other but due to the scarcity of breeding stock and lack of breeders willing to become involved at this early stage it was necessary to use the variants produced from the three litters by Kirlee out of the Cornish Rex line as well as a few other variant litters produced by breeding pedigree shorthair queens to Kirlee. As a consequence all Devon Rex worldwide have a considerable amount of Cornish Rex ancestry. No other Rex mutation has been found to be compatible with Devon Rex.
The effect of the Devon Rex mutation not only altered the coat structure but also accentuated the characteristics of the domestic cat, creating a longer, more muscular and agile animal than its ancestors with the length of hind legs emphasized. It also created a unique head shape and accentuated the size of the ears which are large (in comparison to most other breeds very large), very wide at base tapering to rounded tops and set wide apart and low on the head. The head is a short broad wedge in shape with high cheek bones. The skull is flat, the nose is short and in profile has a definite stop. Their wide set eyes are large and oval in shape with the outer edges sloping up towards the outer edges of the ears and typically have a devilish expression. There should be a well defined whisker break with a well developed muzzle and firm chin. Devons should stand high on long slim legs and have long fine tapering tails well covered with short fur.
Today's Devon Rex have a more exaggerated head type with larger and lower set ears than Kirlee but few have his elegant length of body and legs. The type of the Devon Rex worldwide varies little. There can be few things more enchanting than Devon Rex kittens just a few weeks old with their huge ears seeming to be at least two sizes too big, little worry lines on the forehead and wrinkles down their backs indicating their skin may also be a size too large and then there are those eyes!
As with other Rex breeds it is the coat that really is the main feature to differentiate them from all other breeds. Once felt never forgotten! In the best examples it is short, soft, dense and luxuriant in texture with neat even waves covering their bodies, some even have waves extending down their legs and on to their paws. The fur on the tail of most Devons contains some guardhairs making it a little harsh in texture.The breed standard does allow a few short guard hairs to be present in the coat but in some cases these extend throughout the coat making it very harsh in texture.
Kirlee lacked sufficient coat on his underparts and this is still a common occurrence in the breed. Only a small percentage of Devons have completely coated underparts, most have a covering of down whilst others are virtually bare. Devon Rex are blessed with what can be best described as designer stubble rather than a full complement of whiskers and eyebrows. Their crimped whiskers are brittle and seldom grow to much more than an inch in length before breaking off. From the very beginning Devons have been notoriously late in developing their coats, Kirlee's coat did not really develop fully until his was about 15 to 18 months old, although there are exceptions with super coats right from birth. New born kittens' coats vary tremendously from some being virtually bald to those that are covered all over in little curls.
Quite a few of the Devons on the show bench at the moment have excellent density and overall quality of coat.The coats of most Rex usually look their best at full maturity which is between 18 months and three years of age. Coat texture and length does very considerably within the breed as does the pattern of moulting. Some moult gradually so as to be virtually unnoticable whilst others lose theirs all at once and maybe without a coat for several months before their new one emerges.