The German Rex is the oldest of all recognised Rex mutations in cats.
The very first German Rex, was a blue male called 'Munk'. He was born in 1930 in Köningsberg, East-Prussia, descending from a 'brown Angora' and a 'Russian Blue'. It is not known if he ever produced offspring, but very likely since he was not neutered and roamed the streets freely. Munk died in 1944 at the age of 14.
Years later, a black curly female was found in Berlin. A lot of workers from East-Prussia were there at that time. Nothing was known of her background, but people told that she was left behind by a nurse from Köningsberg.
This black curly female roamed at the grounds of the Hufeland hospital and patients and staff took care of her. In 1951 dr. Scheuer-Karpin noticed her, she was very interested in the odd looking cat, she took her into her home and named her Lämmchen (Lambkin).
Lämmchen had several litters of a black straightcoated male, Blackie, while living with dr. Scheuer-Karpin. All kittens were straightcoated. She had to be mated to one of her sons to see if it was a recessive coat mutation. But Lämmchen only wanted to mate with Blackie untill 1957 when Blackie died she could be mated to her son Fridolin. The recessive gene was proven when she got 2 curly and 2 straightcoated kittens from him. She had more litters after that from different males.
One of her curly daughters, Curlie, went to live with a nurse. Around 1960 a curly male was found in Berlin, probably one of Lämmchen's offspring, wich he resembled a lot. This male was adopted by the same nurse, she named him Schnurzel. Schnurzel and Curlie had a number of litters with curly kittens.
Lämmchen died in 1964, she had her last curly kittens in 1962.
There was no interest in the curly kittens in Germany at that time. Most of Lämmchen's offspring went abroad.
One went to England. Dr. Scheuer-Karpin came in contact with a group of English Rex breeders. In 1950 the first Cornish Rex, Kallibunker, was born. The English breeders wanted to use the German Rex in their breedprogramm, but unfortunately the kitten died during quarantine.
A number of cats went to Professor Letard in Paris. He was the first to bring the German Rex to a catshow, in 1960 in Paris. His breeding programm included cats in diluted colours and white. His cats drew a lot of attention and after that Dr. Scheuer-Karpin got more requests for her Rex cats, where before she could hardly find homes for her kittens, most were given away as pets.
A large number of her cats went to the USA and were later crossed with Cornish Rex. It turned out to be the same genetic mutation and all offsping was curly. These cats were used in Cornish breeding, there are no pure German Rex left in the USA.
In 1968 there were only three pure German Rex left in Germany. Mr. and Mrs. von Barensfeld from East-Berlin were the owners of Beatrix vom Buchenstein, her daughter Jeanette vom Grund and Brutus vom Buchenstein. The had to make a breeding programm for these three cats and outcross to domestics, but they also used other breeds like f.i. Persians.
In 1970 the Barensfelds got two Rexcats from Denmark. They were very happy with them, because they needed new blood. What they didn't know was that they were infact Devon Rex, from a mixed Devon/Cornish Rex breeding. The outcome of a Devon mated to a Cornish or German Rex are normal straightcoated kittens.
The East-German breeders were isolated behind the iron curtain and they didn't have the information about the different Rex genes and they also didn't know about the mixed background of their cats. Because of the identical genes of the Cornish and the German Rex, they initially did get curly kittens from their German/Devon/Cornish mix.
At one point the Dutch international judge and Rex fancier Mrs. van Winsen came in contact with Mr. von Barensfeld. She gave him a lot of information about the Cornish and Devon Rex. It wasn't a suprise anymore when later straightcoated kittens were born from the German/Cornish/Devon mix.
After a lot efforts Inge and Siegfried Wöllner (cattery von Zeitz) from West-Germany got their first (pregnant) hybrid German Rex, Silke vom Grund in 1973. The contact between East and West-Germany was difficult. They could not buy the cat, it was illegal for East-Germans to possess western currency. They exchanged it for another cat.
A black Rex male was found in 1974 in Münich. This male, Ceasar, was mated to straightcoated Silke. Unfortunately just one straightcoated kitten was born and shortly after Ceasar died.
Another Rex male was found in 1979, a black and white named Preuss. The Wöllners also used this male for breeding. He was mated to a hybrid female Quicki von Zeits; two kittens were born and used for further breeding.
In 1982 a Rex male was found on Lanzarote. This male named Locki appears frequently in all German Rex pedigrees.
At that time there were some more breeders and the German Rex was recognised by FIFe in 1982.
As outcross mates domestics were used as well as Cornish- and Devon Rex, Persians, Forestcats, Siamese, Abessinian and British Shorthairs.
The German Rex is sturdier build than the Cornish or the Devon Rex. The head is more rounded and broader between the ears, the noseline has an indentation. The coat is very soft and wavy and compared to the Cornish coat thick and dense.
German Rex breeding has always been behind on the Cornish and Devon Rex breeding, who are much more popular. Throughout the years there has always been a small number of German Rex breeders that preserved the breed.
Late 90's there were not many descendends of Lämmchen left. In 1999 there were only five fertile curly and hybrid German Rex left. At that time a number of breeders got interested again in the breed. It became a challenge to keep the last cats for breeding and to get offspring to prevent the breed from extinction.
At this date, 15 years later, we can say that they succeeded.
Still not much breeders, but a few very passionate and dedicated saved the breed and the numbers are rising.
© Marianne Gerver
- "Rexkatzen" by Siegfried and Inge Wöllner
- Website: http://german-rex.lima-city.de/ and documentation of Ilona Jänicke (cattery Batu's and Saxon Glory)
Photo's are used with courtesey from the archive of Ilona Jänicke