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The story of the Cornish Rex begins on July 21, 1950, in Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, England. An ordinary red and white farm cat, Serena, gave birth to a litter of kittens, among them a red tabby male who was unlike anything owner Nina Ennismore had ever seen. Instead of being covered with short baby hair, Kallibunker (as he was called) was covered with tiny, tightly rolled curls all over his body, which gave him the appearance of a small lamb. As he grew, Kallibunker became even more striking - long and slender with a whippy tail, huge ears and a narrow head. His tight curls became smooth, silky waves all over his body, and even his short whiskers were curled and crinkly. Luckily for Cornish Rex fanciers, Ennismore's veterinarian recognized the value of the mutation and talked her out of having Kallibunker neutered. He persuaded her to enlist the help of a geneticist, Mr. A. C. Jude, to help her propagate a new breed. Kallibunker was mated back to Serena, who had two more curly kittens. Ennismore named the breed "Rex," which came from her previous experience breeding curly coated Rex rabbits. After a different Rex gene was discovered in 1960, the words 'Cornish' and 'Devon' were added to differentiate the two breeds.
The Cornish Rex came to America in 1957, imported by Frances Blancheri, whose female cat, Lamorna, established the foundation of the Cornish Rex in the United States. Lamorna and her kittens were bred to Siamese cats to widen the gene pool, which resulted in them having a thinner body than the Cornish Rex in the United Kingdom. The Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) began registering Rex cats in 1962, but unlike most other organizations, they did not differentiate between the Devon and the Cornish Rex. It wasn't until 1984 that the CFA changed the Rex breed into two separate breeds.
While some breeders like to label the Cornish Rex "hypoallergenic," in truth no cat is truly nonallergenic. What is true is that the Cornish Rex's coat can be better for people with allergies because it does not shed as much as other breeds.
The gene that causes the Cornish Rex's curly coat is called Rex-Gene I.