Origins & History

The Chartreux cat is one of the oldest and most adored French breeds, and there are many assumptions regarding the history of this highly intelligent, observant breed. A popular tale in French folklore tells that the Charteux are descendants of feral cats brought from the Syrian mountains to the Grande Chartreuse, the head monastery of the Carthusian monks, situated in the Chartreuse Mountains. It is suggested that Chartreux cats were introduced to the monastery in the thirteenth century by returning Crusaders who joined the holy order.

This theory was discounted in 1972 by the Prior of the Grande Chartreuse, as no written record of the Chartreux cats exist in the monastery archives. However, it cannot be entirely discounted, as the monastery suffered a series of fires between 1320 and 1676, and many records have been lost. In support of this theory, the Carthusians monks were also know to be interested in genetics, and they were experienced in the the breeding of animals and plants. Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics, was also a Carthusian monk. It is further rumoured that the cats were bred to be silent, to be in accordance with the monks who had taken vows of silence.

The French naturalist, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon was the first to officially document Chartreux cats during the seventeenth century. However, the breed was eventually decimated due to prolific hunting, and the devastation of the first World War, and feral colonies were no longer seen after the second World War. The breed was saved from extinction due to the collaborative efforts of eighteenth century European breeders. The last remaining Chartreux cats were bred with British Shorthairs, Persians and Russian Blues. Today, the Chartreux Cat is still quite rare, and the purest bloodline of Chartreux cats are found in North America.

The poet, Joachim du Bellay, makes an early reference to the Chartreux in a poem written in 1558, titled ‘Vers Fran├žais sur la mort d’un petit chat’. A 1747 painting, entitled, ‘Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange’ by the artist Jean-Baptiste Perronneau depicts the Chartreux as an engaging pet in the arms of the female subject.

The renowned naturalist, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon was the first to document the Chartreux breed in the eighteenth century. Throughout history, the Chartreux were popular with the famous, including former French president Charles de Gaulle, French writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, and the poet Charles Pierre Baudelaire.