The Cinnamon gene, although relatively new to the standards of many breeds, has in reality been in existance for a long time. The colours Cinnamon and its dilute version Fawn are now accepted colours within many breeds, but the road to acceptance has not always been an easy one.

Although there has been a provision for Cinnamon Tonkinese in the Australian standard since 2007, I have personally had to negotiate with a great deal of prejudice and misinformation on the colour as it applies to both Tonkinese and Burmese breeds (see 'History of the colour in Australia) as we have tried to familarise others with the colour. A little research into the how the colours were accepted in other breeds reveals a familiar tale of unfounded fears and misinformation regarding the colour.

The 'Cinnamon' or 'Sorrel' Abyssinian - sourced image

The Abyssinian & the Cinnamon Gene

The earliest record of the Cinnamon gene is within the Abysinnian breed and it is considered that the gene most likely originated in the Abysinnian breed, as a further mutation of the gene for black/brown.

In some many countries within the Abysinnian breed, the colour Cinnamon is referred to as 'Sorrel'.

The Cinnamon colour had been known to exist in the Abysinnian breed since the turn of the 20th. Century when many breeds were first 'taking shape' or becoming established, but 'Sorrel' was not fully-developed until the 1960's when the colour was also previously known as a 'non-sex-linked Red' was accepted into breeds standards for the Abysinnian and thus 'Sorrels' were then eligible for championship status.


 The 'Fawn' Abyssinian - sourced image

The Dilute of Cinnamon = Fawn 

With the additional presence of the dilute gene - the expression of Cinnamon is far lighter and cooler in tone. This is called 'Fawn' and the naming of which seems to be fairly consistent within other breeds

The same gene creates 'Blue' Abysinnians where the more traditional colour or Ruddy or Black gene is in place.

The dilution gene present in other breeds also converts Chocolate to Lilac and converts Red to Cream.

  sourced image below

 The Oriental & the Cinnamon Gene

In the year of 1960 in the UK, the first breeding experiments were carried out with a view to incorporating the Cinnamon gene into the Siamese/Oriental breeds and a Siamese breeder Pam Evely (Kemow prefix) mated her Seal Point Siamese, Annelida Fair Maid, to a Sorrel Abyssinian stud,  Tranby Red Tutankhamen, and the resulting kittens then went to Maureen Silson of the 'Southview prefix'.

Maureen mated a black agouti female from this litter to a brown agouti male and the resulting litter produced the first Cinnamon solid/self coloured kitten. This kitten was registered as a 'Havana' (an oriental-style breed where the colour 'Chocolate' was the defining colour of the breed) - yet this kitten was very distinctive from its darker colour litter-mates.

The kitten that bore the Cinnamon gene was named Southview Pavane, and indeed the early Cinnamon Orientals were referred to as 'Pavanes'. Maureen went on to mate her Cinnamon Oriental' to her Siamese lines and produced the first Cinnamon Point Siamese.


 sourced image below

 The Oriental & the Cinnamon Gene

The image on the right depicts Orientals in both Chocolate (brown) and Cinnamon expressing the full-colour versions, that describes well the differences between these two colours. The cat on the far left is a Cinnamon Siamese and therefore the colour is restricted to the points.

Sharing the Cinnamon Gene

If a gene for a desired colour trait is not present in a breed then it is frequently incorporated by mating to an individual of another breed that displays the desired colour gene. Of course this will influence the 'type' of the progeny and it often takes many generations to 'breed-out' the influence of type from the breed that was used to incorporate the gene.

Thus the gene for Cinnamon was subsequently incorporated into the numerous breeds that exhibit the colour via various routes; And most often the breed chosen is 'closer' in type to the breed that is developing the colour;

The pathway of the Cinnamon gene to other breeds was as follows;

Aby to Oriental
Aby to Ocicat
Aby to Bengal
Aby to Egyptian Mau

Oriental to Siamese/Balinese
Oriental to Persian
iamese to Persian
Persian to British
Aby & Oriental to Burmese

  sourced image below                                                                      sourced image below

Cinnamon Bi-Colour British Shorthair

Fawn Tortie & White British Shorthair

Many breeds have 'embraced' the introduction of these newer colours and this is very true of the British Shorthair breed (although this is not the case within the breed gene pool in Australia)

There are thus many colour and pattern combinations that allow for both Cinnamon & Fawn

 The Cinnamon Gene in Burmese & Tonkinese

The Cinnamon Burmese & Tonkinese programs originally derive their colour genes from both the Abysinnian and the Oriental which were first used in transmitting the gene for Cinnamon into the Burmese breed and subsequently the Tonkinese, both developed in new Zealand by a renowned geneticist Dr Rod Hitchmouth, (not some back yard breeder randomly making crossbreeds) – the integrity of his program is well-documented for anyone seeking to further their knowledge and the colours have long been accepted as legitimate in Siamese and Orientals and also the Mandalay – that is now accepted here in Australia, as the ‘Burmese-type’ equivalent of the Oriental (full expression of colour, ie; no Himalayan gene)

Cinnamon & Fawn Burmese

Developed and established by Dr Rod Hitchmouth in New Zealand, and subsequently introduced and developed in Australia by Bambi Edwards of Bajimbi Cats.

Louise Warren from Yahztak Burmese has championed their acceptance in Queensland and has bred some stunning show winners amongst her Cinnamon & Fawn Burmese

Cinnamon Burmese - bred by Bambi Edwards.

Fawn Burmese - bred by Dr Rod Hitchmouth (sourced image) 


Breed Purity vs. Genetic Diversity - within the Burmese breed

In no other breed is there as much controversy surrounding the introduction of the Cinnamon and Fawn genes, as there is in Burmese.

Although Abysinnian genes were used to create the first Cinnamons within the Siamese and Oriental breeds – you don’t hear anyone arguing that these colours mean that the Siamese breed is not ‘pure’. This is also true of the tabbies (allowed in Siamese and Orientals as are genes for silver etc.) ….. those genes had to come from somewhere.

In the Burmese breed, opposition to the introduction and establishment of these colours is most pronounced.

Both the Burmese and Siamese were originally defined by the colour 'Seal'-  and therefore a pertinent question might be how did the other colours lilac, blue and chocolate, not to mention torties and reds appear in the gene pools of the breeds that have these colours (and specifically Burmese, Siamese and Tonkinese)  – by spontaneous mutation? …. no, but by the infusion of other genes from other breeds or from domestics that carried genes that were desirable.

This begs the question if a breeder believes Cinnamon should not be accepted then would they breed blues lilacs and chocolates in Tonkinese??? ……. as these colours were all infused by breeds or cats of other origin at some stage in the past.

Amongst Siamese breeders there are purists who believe that Siamese should only appear in the original colour of seal – or proponents of the sacred Siamese that believe that the breed should only appear in the 2 basic colours Seal and Chocolate and their dilutes Blue & Lilac.

We all have our opinions of what should and shouldn’t be allowed – and a great deal of variation in knowledge that underpins those opinions. Some love the torties – I personally am not a fan but I don’t suggest that because they don’t appeal to me that they should not be permitted in the program or are not legitimate due to the colours not being ‘native’ to the breed.

There is much ignorance and misconceptions about the colour Cinnamon and dare I say prejudice – I worked hard to get Cinnamon Tonkinese accepted on the show-bench and by different councils, alongside Louise Warren of Yahztak Burmese and many registries still differ in their level of acceptance of Cinnamons in both breeds.

When first introduced some other Tonk breeders too expressed their objections - indeed when I first brought in Blaze there were tonk breeders that would have liked to ‘ban’ the colour – I was ‘advised’ that I would not be able to register, breed or sell kittens – some believing that the standard did not allow for the colour, yet having pointed them in the direction of the ACF standard that states that Cinnamon & Fawn have been accepted since 2007,  those breeders are now going to great lengths to establish the colour within their own programs.

There have also been many hurdles in establishing the colour Cinnamon here, and even more so in the Burmese breed where some councils will accept the colour fully while others behave as if it is the end of the world for a new colour or pattern to be accepted.

The Cinnamon colour does tend to polarise people and if not liked or desired then my advice to a breeder would be simply not to get involved in a program that explores the use of these colours.

Some breeders do not believe in the ongoing evolution of a breed – and the introduction of new colours and patterns that is happening in a wide range of breeds that have formerly been associated with less colour/patterns …..

It could be argued that by bringing fresh ‘unrelated’ genes from other sources is critical to the long term survival of breeds and that many breeds that comprise small gene pools are destined to die out or be so compromised health-wise through inbreeding – there is an argument put forward that the Burmese breed is in grave danger through a closed gene pool and that debilitating health problems many of which are fatal will see the demise of the breed without intervention and the infusion of new genes.

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