A TRIBUTE TO CLAIRE DODDS
of ROYALE SWAN CATTERY

(written by Camilla Baird)

 


In this picture, Claire sitting near Camilla Baird. On her back: Deb Estep, Ray Ratlif and Anthea Whitehouse.
This picture has been taken during the CFA International show in 2000

Claire died on March 13th 2002.
The Korat community will miss this wonderful lady immensely and will be always thankful to her
for the great contribution she gave to the Korat breeding. She won't be forgotten.

I got to know Claire by chance a few years ago by email. Claire had been surfing the Internet and had found my site and decided to initiate contact. I was honoured at hearing from one of the first Korat breeders in the West ever and 'pumped' her for all the information I could. We ended up becoming good friends and when Webcat (Primprau's Wait, Watch and Win) needed a new home, i couldn't think of anyone better to place him with than Claire and her family. The 1,5 years they had together were very dear to Claire, even though Webcat attached himself more to Claire's son than to Claire herself. I met Claire in person for the first and last time at the CFA International in Kansas City when she picked up Webcat. I had continuous reports about Webcat's faring and her health which was not good. I will miss her.

Camilla Baird
Primprau's Cattery

NARA AND DARRA, THE BEGINNING OF KORAT BREEDING...
written by Claire Dodds

In the late 50's I raised Siamese cats.  At a show in Portland, Oregon I saw my first Korats, Nara & Darra.  They had only recently been brought to this country by Jean Johnson who owned Cedar Glen Cattery.  Now, there is a story. I purchased my first Korat, Cedar Glen's Isis of Royale Swan, from one of the first litters born in the United States.  During the early years of the breed in this country I worked closely with Jean to establish the breed with the various cat associations.  When the time finally arrived for breed recognition one of my cats, Royale Swan's Sissy, was used as a model for the show standard.  (There were four models if memory serves me correctly.)

She was known as Cedar Glen's Isis of Royale Swan.  Her son, Royale Swan's Aries, was one of the few toms of breeding age left alive after an outbreak of mutated distemper.  He did his part happily to see the breed continued. :) At the time Nara and Darra were imported from Thailand we did not have any guarantee further imports would be forth coming.  Jean had been given a pair of Korats by Thai friends while living in Thailand at the close of WW II.

When she and her family returned to the U.S. she was not allowed to bring the cats with her.  It took nearly seven years to gain permission from the King to import Nara and Darra, progeny of her original pair.  Since that time other exports have been allowed but they did not begin to arrive for several years. Because it was unknown when if ever additional imports would be obtained Nara and Darra were never bred together.

I bred Korats for almost ten years.  I was one of the first breeders (I raised Siamese at the time) to purchase a Korat from Jean.  Royale Swan was my cattery name.  The first Korat ever seen in the states of California and Washington was Isis.  I took her there on exhibition.  Approximately, two years later we were allowed to show in the AOC classes.

Circumstances forced me to quit breeding in 1976 and I have not had a Korat since that time.  I have missed them sorely as they are like no other feline. I found the Korat a gentle, loving cat, more demonstrative than what one is usually accustomed to in a feline.  Several of my early cats were inclined to be timid in the presence of strangers.  Most were not as open and direct as the Siamese but would approach an object or person in a round about fashion reminiscent of a wild cat stalking prey.

The Korats I have known have all been gentle loving cats, very loyal to their families.  They were prone to pick a favorite. My name when raising Korats was Claire Dodds, it is now Claire Dudding.  I remarried in 1974.  Several years after I began raising Korats my parents joined me in the venture and I added their names to my cattery registration papers.  There names were John and Mary Emma Fry. I suckered them in by giving my mother a kitten for her birthday.  Children can be so manipulative.

I met Jean at a cat show in Portland, Oregon not long after Nara and Darra had arrived in this country.  I don't remember the exact year, '59 or 60. Over the years we became close friends and worked together well.  Jean lived in Gresham, Oregon not far from my parents home. Mother and Jean became best of friends and often socialized together.

I fell in love with the Korat at first sight.  The satin gleam of the coat, the silver dusting and the large luminous green eyes were more than I could resist.  My father felt the same way and supported me from day one.  I left that show room signed contract in hand.

This is the story of Nara and Darra as told to me by Jean.

During the years she lived in Thailand she was given a pair of Korat cats by Thai friends.
Always a cat lover, she told some friends she would like to have a Siamese cat.
She was thinking of a color point and was not quite sure what to make of the blue kittens they presented her with sometime later.  It was explained to her the color points were indeed Siamese cats but the Si'siwat was The Cat of The Thai, the living silver.
Jean's husband was high ranking military so I assume her social connections in Thailand were from the higher social level. However, she never identified them as royalty although they may have well been.

Jean was sweet natured person not given to tooting her own horn.
When they left Thailand after being there about seven years Jean was unable to gain permission to bring her cats with her.  She left them with friends and continued to work through channels and friends to gain the permission needed to bring them to the U.S. That took almost another seven years.  It took a special proclamation from the King. To the best of Jean's knowledge, Nara and Darra were the first Korats ever to leave Thailand legally.

Nara and Darra were progeny of her original cats.  Not only were they siblings they were inbred siblings.  It was obvious the breed could not be established with only these two cats.  Jean contacted an English geneticist, Dr. Jude. (not sure of that spelling).  Dr. Jude felt the original color point (Siamese) was a blue point, a natural mutation of the Korat.  One interesting fact supports this theory.  When a Korat is bred to a blue point Siamese the litter will be split between Korats and color points.  The rule being 3 Korats, 1 color point.  The color point will have perfect markings, not a tortie.  Nor do black kittens appear. This is the only out cross breeding of a color point with another cat that produces perfect color points in the first generation.  Also, these color points, when bred back to color points produce color points, not solid color cats.

Nara & Darra were bred only to blue point Siamese.  Not the elongated head type then emerging but what later came to be called an apple head.  The progeny was then line bred back.  The out cross was to occur only in the first generation and, to the best of my knowledge, this was the case except for one exception.  Royale Swan's Aries.
I don't think the blue points Jean used were from Thailand but some of them may have been.  In order to establish a healthy gene pool repeat breedings with the same blue points were seldom done.
Aries was a magnificent cat.  He did his share to keep the Korat going after the terrible outbreak of a mutant strain of distemper which traveled the show circuit in the early 60s.  This disease attacked the vaccinated as well as the unvaccinated and was often fatal.  For about a year he was one of the few breeding Korat males in the U.S.

I don't doubt the Royale Swan name appears in the linage of many cats from the U.S.  :)
The Thai people at the time Jean was in that country did not breed cats in the sense we do.
I understand now it is gaining some popularity.  The cats were pets, honored members of the family.  They were not sold as that would have brought bad luck. Korats were only given as gifts and usually in pairs who would later mate.

It was a very exciting time to be breeding the Korat. I enjoyed the years I worked with them and was thrilled when they finally became a breed recognized for championship classes in this country. I am also very proud of the cats my parents and I raised. It is nice to know the Royale Swan line still shows up after all these years. An interesting aside.....according to Thai legend, the crease in the male was the result of constant petting...

Claire Duddling
Royale Swan Cattery - USA

1st picture: Royale Swan's Aries
2nd picture: Royale Swan't Ti Nung Cha
3rd Picture: Mahajaya Darra of Cedar Glen