Interview summary by Tim Leider
The first known Rex Cat appeared unexpectedly in July 21, 1950 in a litter of “Barn Cats” born on a farm near Cornwall, England, Bodmin Moor to be exact. Serena, a red and white farm cat, had a litter of kittens with an unusual red tabby male named Kallibunker. Instead of short straight hair like his littermates, tiny tightly rolled curls covered his body, somewhat like a lamb in appearance.
As he grew, he became long and slender with a whippy tail, huge ears, and a narrow head. Even his whiskers were curved and crinkly. His owner, Mrs. Nina Ennismore, decided he would make an unusual pet and took him to her vet to be neutered. Fortunately for the Rex breed, the vet recognized the kitten for a true mutation and persuaded the owner to breed Kallibunker back to his mother.
Several curly kittens were born. Out crossing to Siamese, Burmese, and British Shorthair, the new breed was named after a similar mutation among rabbits. When a descendant of Kallibunker, LaMorna Cove, was shipped to the United States the breeding continued. The new “Mutant Breed” was called Cornish Rex for the vicinity of origin, and for the Astrex Rabbit, which has a similar coat mutation.
Rex cats caught the interest of breeders and the general public after LIFE MAGAZINE featured a full-page picture of a kitten with curly hair and whiskers. In 1958-59 a black Cornish Rex female, Grand Champion Rodell’s Ravenesque, became the highest scoring shorthair female in the U.S. It was with great joy that in 1960 another mutation appeared in England because the lines were very limited and still rare. This new mutation originated in Devonshire. However, this new strain was proven unrelated and would become the start of the Devon Rex. (German and Devon Rex)
There is yet another Rex breed, with a different type of genetic mutation, called the Selkirk Rex. This adorable, fluffy, cuddly cat, resembling a bathroom carpet, has a longer haired curl, and a totally different body type.