|The Korat is a blue cat that originated in Thailand,|
where they are considered to bring good luck.
Illustration by bullet_chained, via Adobe Stock.
The Korat is a handsome and ancient breed of cat from Thailand (formerly Siam), where they are considered to bring good luck. They are sometimes called Si Sawat in Thailand, meaning “color” and “good fortune.” In fact, pairs of Korats have traditionally been given to newlywed couples in Thailand to bring the marriage good luck. I don’t know about luck, but anyone with a Korat has a blue-coated cat that tends to be playful, affectionate, and loyal.
A coat like pampas grass
The Korat’s blue coat has a silvery, shimmery quality to it that results from the effect of thousands of individual hairs, each lighter colored at the root and darker near the tip, which is silver. Large green eyes complement the blue coat, giving the Korat a particularly striking face. In a 20th-century copy of an old Thai text, the Korat is described like this:
The cat Mal-Ed has a body color like “Doklao” [dok meaning “flower, and lao meaning “lemon grass” or “pampas grass”]. The hairs are smooth, with roots like clouds and tips like silver. The eyes shine like dewdrops on the lotus leaf.
|A Korat, showing the beautiful silver-tipped blue coat.|
Photo by Mikkel Bigandt, via Adobe Stock.
The five hearts of the Korat
There are said to be five hearts associated with the Korat:
- The face forms a heart, which you will see if you look at the cat straight on.
- The top of the head forms a heart, which you will see if you look down on it.
- The nose forms a heart.
- The cat’s chest shows a heart shape when the cat is sitting down.
- And of course there is the cat’s actual heart.
An ancient breed
The recorded history of the Korat goes back to a book called Cat Book Poems, which was made sometime between 1350 and 1767 and is now in the Bangkok National Library. It describes 17 “good luck” cats, including the Korat. This book was copied sometime in the 19th century, under commission from King Rama V (1853–1910). This copy, called Smud Khoi of Cats, is also in the national museum. Then there is the 20th-century copy quoted above. You can see the 17 lucky cats on this page from Korat World (the Korat is the fifth cat).
The Korat was named by King Rama V. When the king was asked where the cats came from, he answered that they were from the Khorat region, which is in the country’s northeast. It is thought that the cat’s coloring provided good camouflage among the granite rocks common to that region.
Superstitions and stories associated with the Korat
|Korats have large emerald-green eyes set in a face that suggests|
the shape of a heart--one of the breed's "five hearts."
Photo by Mpc92, via Adobe Stock.
- Traditionally, Korats could only be given as a gift; they could not be bought and sold.
- It is said that when Thai warriors charged into battle on elephants, some carried their fierce male Korats with them.
- The Korat’s fur represents wealth and good fortune.
- The cat’s green eyes are like the green of young plants, representing a good harvest.
- The cat’s coat is like rain clouds, and rain brings a good harvest.
- A Korat with a kink in its tail is thought to be especially lucky.
The Korat comes west
It seems that a Korat was exhibited at a cat show in 1896 at Holland House in London. This cat, named Nam Noi and owned by Mrs. B. Spearman, was described as “a blue cat from Siam.” Mrs. Spearman contended that the cat was a Siamese, but it was disqualified from the Siamese class because of its unusual coloring. However, the cat placed first in the “Russian or Any Other Blue” class. A report on the show said this:
Siamese were plentiful. Raheng was a really good male. Nam Noi, a Blue, was entered as a Siamese, and very possibly came from Siam; but that does not make him a Siamese any more than an English cat coming from Persia would be a Persian. To my thinking, Nam Noi was an undoubted Russian. The pick of all the Siamese, however was Rimo and when fullgrown he ought to figure well and be a credit to that excellent studcat, King Kesho. In Russians Nam Noi in its right class won.
Although there do seem to have been a few Korats in the country much earlier, the first of these cats to “officially” arrive in the United Kingdom came in 1972, when a female and two males were brought in. The breed had arrived in the United States several years before, in 1959, when Jean Johnson, owner of Cedar Glen cattery, was given two Korats. Other breeders also imported Korats to establish breeding programs.
Today Korats remain rare, so count yourself lucky if you’ve seen one!
Coleman, Cheryl. “The Korat.” Cat Fanciers’ Association website. http://cfa.org/Breeds/BreedsKthruR/Korat/KoratArticle.aspx
Lacey, Jen. “Was This the First Korat to Be Shown?” Korat World. http://www.koratworld.com/namnoi.html
Pickeral, Tamsin. The Elegance of the Cat: An Illustrated History. Hauppage, NY: Barron’s, 2013.