The ideal York Chocolate is a strikingly rich chocolate brown or lustrous lavender with a coat that has a glossy sheen and flows over body lines accentuating graceful, flexible body movement.
York Chocolates are an extremely friendly, even-tempered breed. They strike a nice balance between high energy and loving devotion. After a rousing session of fetch or catch-the-catnipmouse, they want to snuggle into the lap of their preferred person for some purring and petting. Although not generally vocal, York Chocolates are enthusiastic purrers and make a characteristic “purrrt?” questioning sound when announcing their arrival, or alerting you to serious problems, such as empty food bowls.
Most Yorks enjoy being held and cuddled, on their own terms, of course, and are wonderful companions to the one special human person with whom they choose to bond. Although they are usually one-person cats and are intelligently cautious of strangers, they are friendly and affectionate to their extended family, including well-behaved children.
Ordinarily, they get along well with other pets, as long as the proper introductions are made. Intelligent and energetic, York Chocolates enjoy following their favorite humans from room to room to make sure all activities meet with cat approval. Yorks are also inquisitive and curious and insist on helping their preferred persons. Whether you’re reading the paper, folding clothes, or working at your desk, Yorks want to keep on top of things—literally.
Yorks also have a fascination with water and take every opportunity to leap into the sink or tub, sometimes even when you’re trying to wash dishes or take a bath. Because of this breed’s barnyard background, Yorks are hardy and healthy and enjoy practicing their stalking skills whenever the chance presents itself — indoors, of course. Therefore, Yorks are fond of toys that move, or in which you take an active role, and quickly become bored with playthings that just sit there.
In 1983 on a goat dairy farm owned by Janet Chiefari in Grafton, New York, a longhaired black and white barn cat named Blacky had a romantic rendezvous with a longhaired black tom cat named Smokey, which produced a litter of kittens that included one longhaired brown and white female kitten named Brownie. What the names of these cats lacked in originality, the kitten herself made up for with her attractive coloring and charming personality. The next summer Brownie learned the facts of life from her handsome longhaired father, and produced a litter that included Minky, a longhaired black male kitten.
In 1985 Brownie taught her now-grown son Minky about the feline facts of life, and they produced two kittens: Teddy Bear, a longhaired brown male, and Cocoa, a longhaired brown and white female. By now, the farm had grown quite a crop of kitties with long lustrous coats. The farm’s owner, Janet Chiefari, was not only taken by the cats’ long, soft, richly colored coats and consistency of conformation, but also by their intelligence and sweet temperaments. As a goat farmer, Chiefari knew a lot about goats and goat breeding but little about cats and cat breeding; at the beginning she only knew that cats were adept at ridding her barns of rodents, and if left unaltered they multiplied quickly.
Chiefari started reading every book on cat genetics she could find. By 1989, Chiefari had converted her porch into a cattery, which she named Upon the Rock. She created a breeding program using Brownie, Minky, Teddy Bear, Cocoa, and all of their chocolate-brown offspring. Chiefari placed the ten kittens she chose not to use in the breeding program with responsible homes. To Chiefari’s surprise the cats bred true, producing solid and bicolor longhaired brown cats with smooth, non-matting coats; Chiefari noted that their head shape, body type, and fur type were consistent from the beginning.
Since long hair is governed by a recessive gene, and both parents had long hair, this meant each had two copies of the long hair gene. Therefore, the only possible outcome was longhaired kittens. In addition, Blacky and Smokey must have each possessed one copy of the dominant black gene (B) and one copy of the recessive brown allele (b) to produce Brownie; to express brown coloring, brown cats must inherit two copies of the b gene, one from each parent. After that point, whenever two brown cats were bred together, all the kittens were either brown or brown with white, depending upon the inheritance of the white spotting factor gene, which causes white mittens and patches of white.
By summer of 1989 Chiefari’s cattery included twenty-seven longhaired solid brown or brown with white bicolor cats and kittens, and she was so enthusiastic about her new breed that she began to look for ways to promote them. In July 1989 Chiefari’s veterinarian introduced her to Nancy Belser, a cat breeder and judge for the Cat Fanciers’ Federation (CFF). Belser came out to the cattery and confirmed what Chiefari already believed—this breed was unlike any other in the cat fancy. Nancy Belser encouraged Chiefari to exhibit her cats in CFF. Chiefari’s background didn’t prepare her for the daunting task of starting a new cat breed, but she loved her cats and believed in them, so she jumped in with both feet. “Both feet, and total ignorance,” she noted in a later interview.
That September, Chiefari took Prince, a brown six-month-old male, to a CFF cat show and registered him in the household pet (HHP) kitten category. At that first show, Prince won four rosettes and took a first place trophy. Excited by the warm response and quick acceptance she received at that first show, Chiefari started the process of bringing the York Chocolate into the cat fancy limelight by applying for new breed status with CFF and ACFA. The breed still didn’t have a name, so after some thought she chose York Chocolate: “York” for her home state of New York and “Chocolate” for the breed’s characteristic coloring. With help from CFF and ACFA, she wrote the first breed standard.
In March 1990, the York Chocolate was accepted as an experimental breed in both CFF and ACFA. Around the same time, the first lavender kitten was born. When a cat inherits two copies of the recessive dilute color gene d, one from each parent, instead of the dense gene D, the color brown becomes a soft gray known as lavender. Lavender and lavender bicolor were added to the standard.
It takes more than one breeder to gain acceptance in the associations, so Chiefari began to recruit other breeders, relatives, friends, and neighbors; just about everyone Chiefari knew got a pitch about the joys of owning and breeding York Chocolates. The number of York Chocolate breeders increased, and just two years later, 1992, the York Chocolate was granted championship status in CFF. Canadian breeders Michèle and Frank Scott became involved with the breed, and together with other members of their newly formed York Chocolate Society were instrumental in gaining recognition with the Canadian Cat Association (CCA). In 1995, CCA granted championship status for the York Chocolate. However, CCA asked for minor wording changes in the standard, including that the York Chocolate Genetics Committee must give written approval for all domestic cats used as outcrosses in York Chocolate breeding programs. The main purpose of this rule was to prevent the sex-linked orange gene from becoming established in the breed, and was easily accepted by breeders.
Anna and Francesco Baldi from Verona, Italy were the first European breeders of the York Chocolate. They purchased several York Chocolates from Michèle and Frank Scott in Canada, and Emile Belisle and Pat Chew in the United States to establish their cattery. Although the Baldis are no longer breeding, they were instrumental in creating the International York Chocolate Federation (IYCF), an Italian-based organization of breeders and fanciers dedicated to preserving and promoting the York Chocolate. In 1997 IYCF members and other breeders and fanciers were successful in gaining the York Chocolate’s acceptance with the World Cat Federation (WCF) based in Germany, and other international and European associations including the World Felinological Federation (WFF) in Moscow, Russia, the International Progressive Cat Breeders’ Alliance in Upton, Kentucky, and the Feline Federation Europe (FFE) in Nuremberg, Germany.
Size medium to large. Oblong, lengthy type with smooth flowing body lines. Neck is short to medium. Chest is full and rounded. Boning is sturdy; musculature firm. The rump slightly higher than shoulders. Males are larger, heavier boned, and more muscular than females.
Medium size, in proportion to body, longer than wide when whiskers and facial hair are smoothed back. Head is modified wedge shape, beginning at nose and spreading to tips of ears. Muzzle is moderately rounded, neither short nor sharply pointed. In profile, skull is slightly rounded; nose has slight dip. Slight whisker break, gently curved, following lines of wedge. Chin is gently contoured; tip in an even plane with tip of upper lip.
Large, pointed, tufted, tilting forward, broad at base, set well apart continuing wedge line of the head. Ears are tufted inside, little hair is present on outside
Medium in size, almond shaped, slanted slightly toward nose, conforming with wedge line of head. Eyes are at least one eye length apart. Color is striking gold, green, or hazel.
Legs are medium to long in length and well-muscled. Hind legs are slightly longer than forelegs. Paws are large, round, and slightly tufted.
Medium to long; length comparable to length of body; wide at base tapering to rounded end.
Medium long in length, smooth and glossy, following body lines. Texture is soft and silky to the roots, with no wooly undercoat. Hair is shorter on face, belly, and lower legs; longer on back, sides, and upper legs. Slight frontal ruff. Ears and toes tufted.
Solid chocolate; solid lavender; bicolor chocolate and white; bicolor lavender and white. Chocolate brown color slow in developing. Kittens are significantly lighter than mature cats and may have some barring and tipping.