When you attend a cat show, there is a chance you might see a cat exhibited as an "AOV". AOV stands for Any Other Variety. Generally, AOVs are colors or variations of existing breeds that CFA registers and allows to be used for breeding purposes but does not accept for showing in championship. These cats may be the offspring of titled cats, and may produce cats that can compete for titles, but they themselves can only earn the breeding title of Distinguished Merit (DM).
You might wonder why do AOVs exist? After all, if two "accepted" cats of the same breed produce a kitten, surely it should also be accepted? There are a variety of reasons why breeds can produce cats that are labeled as AOV.
In some cases, in CFA, AOVs are not accepted to be shown to titles because they mimic another breed too closely. For example, a seal point Oriental is identical in appearance to a seal point Siamese. Or a mitted Ragdoll could be thought to be very similar in appearance to a Birman. Or a Longhaired Exotic looks like a Persian. In each case, the AOV is registerable and can be used in a breeding program, but is not accepted for championship status in CFA.
Some of the time, cats are AOV when they do not have the mutation that defines their breed - straight-eared Scottish Folds, Manx with tails, or American Curls without the curled ear, for instance. While these AOV cats cannot be shown, they can play an important place in a breeding program.
Many AOV cats are simply colors that have not yet been accepted in CFA within their breed. When CFA accepts a new breed, it doesn't assume that the breed comes in every color possible. While some newer breeds have written their standards to include a wide range of colors, the older breeds often started with just a few colors and expanded from there. For example, when Persians were first accepted to be shown, only solid colors were accepted. The other colors were added as the years went by and interest in working with new colors increased.
Acceptance of AOVs In CFA
In order to have "new" color variations accepted for showing in CFA, breeders have to go through a rigorous process. The requirements include:
- Having at least ten breeders working with the color.
- Having numerous examples of the color being registered and shown in CFA as AOVs so that judges can become more familiar with the colors.
- Once breeders who want to advance the color meet the requirements, they can ask that the color be added to the breed council ballot. The breed council then must vote to accept the color.
- If it passes the Breed Council vote, the CFA Board of Directors must also vote to approve the colors before they actually become part of the breed standard.
It can be a long, arduous process and often takes a lot of cooperation, patience and perseverance on the part of the breeders involved. Even when colors are accepted in other registries such as TICA, GCCF or FIFE, the colors may not be accepted other than as AOVs in CFA. Here's a look at some of the colors considered AOV in CFA in the Persian division...
Golden tabbies are produced from silver and golden programs. Unlike silver tabbies, that have a copy of the dominant smoke and tabby genes, the golden tabbies also have the "wide-banded polygenes" that make the silver/golden division unique. Golden tabbies are actually shaded goldens with low expression of the wide-banded polygenes. They can have exceptionally beautiful and clear tabby patterns, although not genetically different from a shaded or chinchilla golden. Though similar to a brown tabby, they have a much stronger/more vivid "rufous" coloring - and of course green eyes.
Blue Goldens and Blue Silvers
In a silver breeding program, if a dilute cat is used as an outcross (such as a blue Persian, or a black Persian carry the dilute gene), then dilutes of shaded silvers and shaded goldens occur. These colors are called blue silver and blue golden (and their chinchilla variants).
The most recent ballot in CFA regarding the acceptance of these colors narrowly failed.
One of the challenges in gaining acceptance of a new color is getting the wording and description of the color to be acceptable to the majority.
Great care has to be taken to accurately describe the new color, and its limits. Complicating the matter is that with a new color especially, different breeders may have different opinions on how best to describe the color. For instance, the blue golden proposed standard allowed for "ivory to honey" undercoat. In this author's opinion, an ivory undercoat on a blue golden would make the cat look similar to a blue shaded or a blue silver tabby. In my opinion, the ideal blue golden would have a honey or golden undercoat.
Although distinctive in coloring, there is may be a concern that some blue silvers might be confused with shaded silvers, and visa versa. Blue silvers and blue goldens are an accepted colors in other registries than CFA including CCA (Canada) and GCCF (Great Britain).
Black Shaded/Black Shell/Blue Shaded/Blue Shell
In the shaded/smoke division, a cat that is designated as a "smoke" has the most color on the hair shaft. "Shaded" is about 50/50, and shell only has colored tips. While all other accepted colors of the shaded/smoke divisions are accepted in smoke, shaded, or shell, black and blue are singled out as only being accepted as smokes, not in shaded or shell. The reason for this is the belief that a black or blue shadeds or shell would be similar in coat appearance to shaded silvers and chinchilla silvers.
Of course, a black or blue shaded or shell would not have the distinctive eye and nose liner of the silvers, nor would they have the green eyes, but breeders against the acceptance of these colors still feel they would simply be too similar to shaded silvers. This can lead to black or blue shadeds being registered and shown as black or blue smokes, even though they may have too more white on the hair shaft than would be considered a smoke. These cats generally are able to compete without problems, though some judges will penalize their color slightly.
Chocolate and Lilac Smokes
While chocolate calico smokes and lilac calico smokes are accepted in CFA, (included with the acceptances of the calico and dilute calico smokes), chocolate and lilac smokes were not accepted.
While it doesn't make sense, CFA did not accept all the variations of chocolate and lilac smoke at the time it accepted the chocolate calico smokes and lilac calico smokes., it can only be supposed that the oversight was perhaps due to the fact that chocolate and lilac smoke are rare colors and not enough breeders are working with them in CFA at this time.
There are some breeders working hard to get these other colors accepted, and it would seem clearly logical to do so.
As of May 1, 2012 Chocolate, lilac, chocolate tortoiseshell, and lilac-cream smokes Persians were accepted for championship status in CFA.
Spotted and Ticked Tabbies
While there are currently four variations of tabby pattern that are accepted in CFA - Classic, Mackerel, Spotted, and Ticked. Most breeds only have accepted the first two patterns (Classic and Mackerel). These two are the most easily identified. Spotted is recognized in some breeds - mostly shorthair breeds including the Exotic Shorthair. The last variation, ticked, is probably the least commonly accepted, though it is widely seen in Orientals.
Classic, Mackerel and Spotted tabby patterns occur in Persians, although because long hair makes it more difficult to always see the pattern, it can be difficult to differentiate between them, especially between a mackerel tabby with broken lines and a spotted tabby.
Because CFA does not accept the spotted tabby pattern in Persians (although it does in Exotics), when Persian has a spotted tabby pattern, it is often registered and shown as a Mackerel tabby. While some judges will deduct points for pattern, these cats are generally able to compete. Indeed, there has been Persians that have granded and earned regional titles and there was at least one Persian national winner in CFA that many thought was a spotted tabby rather than a mackerel.
While a proposal to accept the spotted tabby pattern has been placed on the Persian Breed Council ballot in recent years, it has not yet passed.
Tortie and White/Bluecream and White
(While tortie and white and bluecream and whites are not actually AOV colors of Persians, they are included in this discussion because they do occur in bicolor breeding programs and are accepted colors in other registries and breeds).
Often times, low-white calicos are born with coloring resembling that of a tortoiseshell (strong intermingling of the colors rather than bold patching.) In some breeds, the tortie and whites are judged as separate color from calicos. However, in CFA, the bicolor division of the Persian breed standard does not include the definition of tortie and white, nor the dilute variation, the bluecream and white.
There is no genetic difference between a calico and a "tortie and white." Both cats have a copy (or rarely, two copies) of the bicolor gene, and a red gene on one X chromosome, and a black gene on the other X chromosome. The difference is that the definition of a calico is a cat with patches of red, black and white, while the tortie has the red and black intermingled or brindled... plus white. While these cats have the same basic genes for color, one has the more preferred expression of the color, as defined by the standard.
Many examples of low white calicos exist with bold patching, so the low white markings do not force the intermingling of colors although the two seem to be linked.
Calicos with strong intermingling of color are shown successfully as calicos. The bicolor division of CFA once recognized the pattern difference between a bicolor and a van, but has since dropped the van designation, thus opting for less differentiation in its color/pattern description rather than more. In the same manner, it seems unlikely that tortie and white/ bluecream and white would be added to the Bicolor Persian Colors to differentiate the color from calico/dilute calico.
Smoke Points/Silver Points/Golden Points
Originally, lynx points were produced when silver breeders outcrossed their silver lines to bring in better type, boning, and coat. Silver breeders often used Himalayans as outcrosses, the belief being that the blue eyes of the Himalayans would do less "harm" to the Silver's lovely green eyes than using a cat with copper eyes. While most programs that produce and work with lynx points today use tabby lines, it is important to remember that the original lynx points came from silver programs.
Many silver programs continue to use the lines that carry the recessive color point gene. Since silvers have three unique genes - tabby, smoke, and "wide banded polygene" - occasionally, they would produce pointed kittens born that had either the smoke or wide banded polygenes as well (rather than just the tabby that produces the lynx points.)
These cats are beautiful with their delicate point color and blue/blue-green eyes, however it can sometimes be a challenge to determine exactly what color they are, especially to breeders or judges unfamiliar with the colors possible. The more modifying genes a cat can have, the greater the opportunity to produce unusual colors that may be difficult to define. If a seal lynx point has no rufus color and the bottom of the feet are black, is it seal silver lynx point? If it has some barring and a white undercoat is it a seal silver lynx or a seal smoke with ghost barring? Or did it have the wide banded gene that can cause some barring? Or how about a Bluecream lynx point with indistinct blue cream points that are golden or chocolate in appearance? Are the points just tabby barring or is something else going on? It can certainly be a puzzle.
With the number of breeders working with these colors small and some colors may be difficult to determine, it is easy to see why breeders striving for the acceptance of these colors in CFA may find it a difficult road. It may even be harder to build up the numbers needed to be accepted in CFA., because these colors are already accepted in TICA - and breeders working with them are more likely to show in that registry.
Pointed and White
This color is last as it is one near and dear to the author's heart. When working with bicolors and pointed Persians, it is inevitable one will eventually have some pointed bicolors (or pointed and white) born. Considering how popular and beautiful the bicolor division has become in recent years, it's likely that more and more breeders of Persians might consider using a bicolor in their program to improve type, body, coat, etc.
Many pointed breeders do not like the idea of pointed bicolors because they feel the bicolor markings - which almost always appear on the feet and face, even in the "low white" variation, would obscure or "ruin" the pointed color. Some breeders think the bicolor gene will actually ruin point color, while others simply mean that a pointed cat should have color on all 8 points (feet, ears, face, tail). They feel white markings mixed or covering the points would be a sacrilege of the Himalayan-Persian ideal.
There are even "myths" that surround the bicolor and pointed genes when they are put in combination. Some people believe that a pointed bicolor cannot have good Persian type. Others insist the bicolor gene will cause dark body color.
There is also the controversial issue of which division should the pointed bicolors be shown in. Are they bicolors or are they pointed cats?
There are precedents for both positions. The current CFA Himalayan-Persian division includes solid points, particolor points, and tabby points. It would seem that bicolor points should also go there, as anything with "points" is in that division.
However, the current bicolor class has solid and white, particolor and white (calicos), tabby and white, and smoke and white. So the argument can be made that the pointed bucolors belong in this color division.
I believe it's a rather simple solution. With solid points, particolor points, and lynx points, the "color" is restricted to the points. That is, a solid color point should only have that color on its points. A lynx point should only have stripes on the points. That's the idea. However, on a pointed bicolor, one would not - and cannot - restrict the bicolor markings to the points. The best that could be done would be "low white" variations with only color on the feet and maybe some on the face. But the bicolor standard calls for a minimum of white on the face, chest, feet, and legs. So clearly, the pointed bicolor belongs in the bicolor division since the bicolor pattern cannot be restricted to the point. Another term for Himalayan gene is "point restricted color." The bicolor gene cannot be a point restricted color.
While there are a several breeders that are working with bicolor points, it is usually as a by-product to a Himalayan breeding program, and not their primary focus. It is difficult to say if or when there will be enough breeders working to produce pointed and white that they may seek acceptance of the color in CFA, especially as they can show their cats in TICA where the color is already accepted.
There are many colors or variants in pedigreed cat breeds that are considered AOVs in CFA. When working with a breed, it's always important to understand what AOVs exist in the breed and why those colors or varieties are considered AOV. If an individual decides to accept the challenge of trying to promote the AOV to championship status in CFA, it is useful to understand the challenges and roadblocks that may be encountered.