In Eastern Turkey lies the mystical Lake Van, which is one of the world's largest endorheic lake. The Turkish Van is a breed of cat that hails from this rugged mountainous region. The first one to be registered was imported from Turkey to England in 1955 by Laura Lushington. This breed was originally called the Turkish Cat, but in 1985 in the UK and in 1979 in the US respectively, the name was changed to Turkish Van to differentiate it from the Turkish Angora cat which is native to the regions around Ankara in central Turkey.
This is a graceful cat with a pristine white body and markings on its head and tail. Its coat is perfectly suited to the climate in the regions surrounding Lake Van. This area faces extreme temperatures during the summer and winter seasons. The Turkish Van's wonderfully adapted coat is semi-long haired, water resistant, and thick in winters, all the while maintaining a soft, cashmere like texture. These cats receive their winter mane upon reaching maturity. During the hot spring and summer months, the long hair on their body is conveniently shed and replaced by a velvety short coat. The hair on the tail remains long all year round and the bushy, but smooth tail has the appearance of a bottle brush.
The coloring of this cat variety is usually restricted to the head and tail. However, some cats may have random body spots of hues similar to those on the head and tail. Pure Vans do not have more than 20% of color on the entire body and no marking on the legs. The color of the first one to be exported out of Turkey was Red Tabby and White, which is still considered to be its authentic coloring. Later colors added were Cream, Black, Blue, Cream Tabby, Brown Tabby, Blue Tabby, Tortoiseshell, Dilute Tortoiseshell, Brown Torbie, and Blue Torbie. In Turkey, the Van Kedisi breed is completely white and spotless, and used to be considered by most people to be the same breed.
The body of the cat is fairly large and muscular with a short neck. Their eye color can be amber, blue, or odd (one each, amber and blue). The perfect specimen has broad shoulders with a forward center of gravity. Some large males cannot follow their heads through a fence due to the broadness of their chest and shoulders. It has a moderately long body with back legs that are slightly longer than its front legs, but it maintains perfect overall proportion. Males can weigh up to about 16 lb, while females tend to be a bit lighter in weight, at 12 to 14 lb. They take up to 3 years to reach full maturity and have been known to measure 3 ft long from the nose to the tip of the tail.
These cats have been domesticated for centuries. They are the pride and joy of the Turks, exalted for their exceptional character and unique coloring. They are known for being very affectionate towards their owners and also display an alert intelligence. They enjoy the company of people and are very active, constantly playing, jumping, and exploring things. However, their most extraordinary attribute is their penchant for water. This liking is not limited only to pawing water and playing with it, but extends to entering ponds for a swim! The name 'swimming cats' is synonymous for them the world over.
An interesting tale about the Turkish Van states that the large rump spot above its tail is known as the 'toe boot of Noah', for that is the spot where he kicked them off the ark for jumping and playing. However, the clever Vans learned how to swim to spite him!
Their personality and appearance makes them a prized pet all around the world. They are hypo-allergenic cats because of their fine fur. They have the added benefit of being excellent pets for people with allergies.