The exact origins of the Birman cat is unknown, but the legends of its origins are lovely. Centuries ago, 100 pure white cats with amber-colored eyes lived in the Lao-Tsun monastery. The cats carried the souls of departed monks into the afterlife. The monks’ souls were so pure that the goddess Tsun-Kyan-Kse transmigrated the monks’ souls into the cats’. When the cat died, the corresponding monk achieved Nirvana. The head monk, Mun-Ha had a special companion cat named Sinh. After an attack on the temple, Mun-Ha lay dying in front of the statue of the goddess. Sinh climbed onto Mun-Ha and purred on his chest to help him cross over. Moved by this, the goddess turned the cat’s amber eyes to blue and her pure white coat took on a golden hue. Her face, ears, tail and legs darkened to the color of the earth that Mun-Ha was laying on, but Sinh’s paws remained pure white to signify Mun-Ha’s spirit. All the other cats in the monastery changed the next morning.

Here’s what we know for sure: In 1919, a pair of Birmans were headed to France. En route, the male, Maldapour, died. The female, Sita, luckily, was pregnant and gave birth in France. During World War II, the breed was almost wiped out and only one pair remained. Through careful breeding with (most likely) Persians, Siamese and others, Birman numbers were re-established.

Think of Birman cats as the middle ground between the Siamese and the Himalayan. Birmans have a long, silky coat covering a stocky, strongly built body. They have large, round paws. Males weigh between 9 to 15 pounds, females are 6 to 10 pounds.

They have a large ruff around the neck, their coat is longer on the stomach and hindquarters and their long coat lacks the downy undercoat of the Persian, meaning less attention to grooming. Their faces are rounded with a strong chin.

Birmans are very affectionate and devoted to their owner; they adore people. If you’re doing it, they want to do it too. They make a perfect lap cat, in fact, they not only enjoy being picked up, but cuddled as well!

Birman cats enjoy both fetch and hide and seek. They are very intelligent cats that learn quickly. Not as vocal as their Siamese cousins, expect to have a few conversations with your Birman. They are gentle, beautiful and well-mannered. Birmans were the Sacred Cats of Burma, and they expect to be the Sacred Cat of Your Household.


Group: Rare

Akbash is Turkish for “white head.” Originally from Turkey, Akbash were used for herding.

Size: 90 to 130 pounds. 28 to 32 inches (females), 30 to 34 inches (males).

Color: White.

Life span: Up to 10 years.

Health problems: Hip dysplasia or osteochondritis dissecans, a joint condition.

When not raised to be a companion, Akbash make ideal guard dogs as they will not be personable at all. If you want an Akbash companion and you provide him with the proper socialization, an Akbash  will be ideal. Intelligent, loyal and brave, they display a unique sensitivity that isn’t found in many breeds.

If you’re a farmer or rancher, this is the perfect dog for you. He will be happy to assist you with all your tasks. If you have a large yard, an Akbash could be the dog for you. If you live in an apartment or a small yard, unfortunately, keep looking; Akbash need the space to roam. They are natural herders, be careful if you have small children.

Despite their long coat, a weekly brushing will suffice. Both the long and short coated varieties will shed heavily twice a year.

Running With Your Dog

Any dog from the herding, sporting or working groups (according to the AKC) may require more exercise than a simple walk can provide. If you’re  a jogger or a runner, your dog may become your perfect running partner. Burning off your dog’s excess “spunk” can lead to a much better behaved pooch.

Before you begin taking your dog along, check with your vet to ensure your dog doesn’t have a heart condition, breathing difficulties, that he doesn’t overheat easily or is too overweight. Even if your dog is healthy, he could experience elbow or hip dysplasia and running will not help these problems.

Prior to beginning the running regimen, your dog should be properly leash trained. He needs to be able to turn and stop with you and run alongside you without running ahead or pulling on the leash. The basic heel command is a definite plus to help keep your dog safe.

If your dog is new to running, work up to your speed and whole routine gradually. Start at a walk/jog combination, keeping the distance short. As your dog grows comfortable, you can increase the distance in small increments and slowly work up to a full jog/run.

Always try to run on soft surfaces (dirt, grass, sand or asphalt) with your dog — concrete can be too jarring. Try to run in the mornings or evenings and in cooler weather. Hot pavement can burn a dog’s paws and lead to heatstroke or dehydration. Include a warm up and a cool down for both you and your dog. On longer runs, take frequent breaks, this will give your dog a much needed water break. Always praise your dog before and after a run. You want him to have fun and to increase your bond. (Dogs love praise — for anything and everything.)

If your dog develops an injury or you start to notice a limp, take him to the vet and avoid exercising until he’s fully recovered.

Bengal cat

Bengals look like little leopards because….they are! In 1963, a Himalayan breeder bought a female leopard cat. (At this time, it was legal to buy exotic pets; it is no longer legal.) She then attempted to form a friendship between the leopard cat and a random-bred male. It worked so well, they had a kitten, who went on to have two more kittens. The breeder then experienced some personal problems and gave away the leopard cat. In 1975, after her life had settled down, the breeder began trying again to introduce a domesticated leopard into the homes of cat lovers. (She was hoping that by doing this it would discourage the poaching of leopards.) It took an additional ten years before she had worked out the kinks enough to present this new breed. At first, Bengals posed quite the ethical dilemma, but since then, Bengal cats have become one of the most popular spotted breeds of cats.

Bengals are athletic-looking, muscular-bodied medium-to-large cats. Their hind legs are slightly longer than the front legs. Their heads are broad modified wedges that are slightly smaller in proportion to the body and sit atop long, muscular necks. Their noses are large and the bridge extends up past their eyes. Males weigh 10 to 18 pounds while females weigh 7 to 12 pounds.

Bengal coats are short to medium in length and lay close to their bodies. It’s thick but soft and silky. Some Bengals have a recessive “glitter” gene that gives the coat an iridescent gleam. (It looks like the cat is covered by a winter frost.)

Eyes are large, oval, set wide and range in color. Ears are medium to small and rounded at the tips.

Loving and dependable, Bengals form deep long time bonds. Very communicative and interactive, they let you know what they’re feeling. Active and athletic with that feline curiosity, Bengals are always eager to play. They love to climb (they did descend from leopards!), so you might have to put your knickknacks away. With superior intelligence, Bengals can be taught to fetch and a multitude of other tricks — like turning off the lights, opening doors and flushing the toilet…They also love to pounce. If you’re having a problem with mice, well, you won’t soon after you bring a Bengal home. Like many other active breeds of cats, Bengals prefer not to be picked up and fussed at. They love and cherish their freedom. And a final note, they love water. Don’t be surprised if your Bengal joins you for a bath.

Ainu Dog (also known as Hokkaido)

Group: Working

Three thousand years ago, the Asian Ainu tribe brought the Hokkaido dog to Japan. Ainus were bred for guarding and companionship purposes.

Size: 45 to 65 pounds. 18 to 22 inches.

Color: grey, tan, brown, white.

Life span: Up to 14 years.

Ainu dogs have small dark brown eyes, a broad head, a pointed muzzle and black nose. Their ears are small and sharply pointed. Their tongues are covered with black spots, which suggest a relation to the Chow Chow, a dog native to China. (The exact whereabouts of the Ainu dog’s origins are unknown.)

Ainu dogs are natural protectors. They are incredibly faithful, brave and their coats allow them to withstand cold temperatures (they were once used as sled dogs). If you lose your Ainu, fear not, they have an innate sense of direction. They are naturally athletic and require long daily walks and a large yard. Ainu dogs will not do well in an apartment. Regular brushing will keep their double coat in tip top shape.