By Carissa Altschul
When you attend a cat show, there is a chance you will see a cat exhibited as an "AOV." What you might not see or know is what AOV means and why that cat is "AOV" when other cats are not.
AOV means Any Other Variety. The unspoken part of that grouping is "not accepted for championship competition." Generally, AOVs are colors/variations of existing breeds that CFA has not accepted for competition, but will allow for registering purposes and breeding programs. That is, while these cats can be offspring of titled cats, and can produce cats that can compete for titles, they themselves can only aspire for one title, the breeding title of Distinguished Merit (DM).
You might wonder why do AOVs exist? After all, if two "accepted" cats of the same breed produce a cat, surely it should also be accepted? Oftentimes, AOVs are not accepted to be shown because they mimic another breed too closely. For example, a seal point Oriental is identical in appearance to a seal point Siamese. Or a mitted Ragdoll is very similar in appearance to a Birman. Some of the time, cats are AOV when they do not have the mutation that makes their breed what it is - straight-eared Scottish Folds, Manx with tails, or American Curls without the curled ear. While those cats cannot be shown, they have a very important place in their breeding programs. Finally, the majority of AOV cats are simply colors that have not been accepted yet in CFA. When CFA accepts a new breed, it doesn't assume that breed comes in every color of spectrum. While new breeds have written their standards to include a wide range of colors, the older breeds only started with a few and expanded from there (Persians, for example, started with only solid colors… other colors were accepted over the years.)
So in order to get "new" color variations accepted for showing in CFA, breeders have to go through a process with CFA. The process includes having at least 10 breeders working with the colors, with numerous examples of the color being registered and shown in CFA. Then, if the breeders who want to advance the color meet the requirements, they can put the color on the breed council ballot. The breed council then votes if they will accept the color or not. Finally, the CFA Board of Directors must also vote to approve the colors before they actually become part of the breed standard. It's a long, arduous process that most breeders find they cannot complete. It takes a lot of cooperation and patience.
Here's a look at some of the colors considered AOV in CFA in the Persian division and some of the reasoning behind accepting them or not accepting them.
Golden tabbies are produced from silver and golden program. Unlike silver tabbies, that have a copy of the dominant smoke and tabby genes, the golden tabbies also have the "wide-banded polygenes" that make the silver/golden division unique. The "problem" with golden tabbies is that they are actually shaded goldens with really low expression of the wide-banded polygenes. So they are actually not genetically different than a shaded or chinchilla golden. While they can have exceptionally beautiful and clear patterns, they actually are very poor examples of shaded golden - not a genetically unique color. They would have green eyes, but would be very similar to a brown tabby - only they would have a much stronger/more vivid "rufous" coloring.
Blue Goldens and Blue Silvers
It's logical to assume that in a silver breeding program, if a dilute cat is used as an outcross (such as a blue Persian, or a black Persian carry the dilute gene), then dilutes of shaded silvers and shaded goldens will occur. These colors are called blue silver and blue golden (and their chinchilla variants). While it's clear that these cats are very distinctive in their coloring, there is some concern among the silver breeders that poor examples of blue silvers will be shown as shaded silvers, and visa versa. The most recent ballot in CFA regarding the acceptance of these colors has failed, but only narrowly. Perhaps part of the problem was the wording of the standard, especially when it comes to the blue goldens. The standard allowed for "ivory to honey" undercoat. In this author's opinion, an ivory undercoat on a blue golden would make the cat look very similar or exactly like a blue shaded (which can't be shown, but…) or a blue silver tabby. A standard should be written for the ideal cal, and the ideal blue golden, one would think, would have a honey or golden undercoat.
It's probably only a matter of time before these cats are accepted into championship, but it might require a few more examples being shown and a more rigid standard.
UPDATE: As of the 2010-2011 show season, these colors have been accepted for Championship in CFA! My congrats to the breeders who worked for and achieved this goal!
Black Shaded/Black Shell/Blue Shaded/Blue Shell
While all other accepted colors of the shaded/smoke divisions are accepted in smoke, shaded, or shell, only blacks and blues are singled out as only having "smoke." In the shaded/smoke division, a cat that is designated as a "smoke" has the most color on the hair shaft. "Shaded" is about 50/50, and shell only has color tips. The "problem" with black and blue shadeds and shells is that they are very similar in coat appearance to shaded silvers and chinchilla silvers. While the black and blue shadeds and shells would not have the distinctive eye and nose liner, nor would they have the green eyes, the concern seems to be they would simply be too similar to shaded silvers. This has resulted in many black or blue shadeds being shown as black or blue smokes, even though they really had too much white on the hair shaft to be considered a smoke. These cats generally are able to compete without problems, though some judges will penalize them for having too much white.
Chocolate and Lilac Smokes
The chocolate and lilac smokes have not been accepted yet most likely due to the fact that not enough breeders are showing them and breeding them at this time. They are certainly unique and do not mimic any other colors in the Persians. Oddly, the chocolate calico smokes and lilac calico smokes are accepted - this was written in with the acceptances of the calico and dilute calico smokes. For some reason, even though it doesn't make sense, CFA did not decide to go back and accept all the variations of chocolate and lilac smoke at the time it accepted the chocolate calico smokes and lilac calico smokes. There are some breeders working hard to get these colors accepted, unfortunately, the breeders of "traditional" smoke colors have become stridently opposed to allowing these colors to be accepted. Long-time smoke breeders say the reason they oppose the chocolate and lilac smokes is because a lilac smoke would be too difficult to tell if it is a smoke or not. Of course, it's pretty easy to make the argument that it's not easy to tell if a cream smoke is actually a smoke... but that is what they say. The only way those who wish to promote the chocolate and lilac smokes to overcome this would be to actually produce and show chocolate and lilac smokes to show they are distinctive. I believe that should the vote ever pass the smoke Persian BC, the CFA BOD will vote to approve these colors.
Spotted and Ticked Tabbies
While there are currently 4 variations of tabby that are shown in CFA - Classic, Mackerel, Spotted, and Ticked - most breeds only have accepted the first two variations (Classic and Mackerel). These two are the most easily identified. The 3rd variation, Spotted, is recognized in some breeds - mostly shorthair breeds, as with short hair, it's easy to identify. The last variation, ticked, is probably the least commonly accepted, though it is widely seen in Orientals.
Spotted and ticked tabbies do occur in Persians, but they are not accepted for showing due to the fact that with long hair, it's very hard to tell the difference between a poorly marked mackerel tabby and a spotted tabby. Additionally, ticked tabbies often times have some mackerel striping. The problems arising from some judges trying to call a poorly marked cat a mackerel and some trying to call it a ticked and perhaps others calling it a spotted is something that both the breeders of tabby Persians and CFA have decided to avoid by not accepting the spotted and ticked tabbies. Of course, spotted and ticked tabbies do show up in the show ring - registered and shown as mackerel tabbies. While some judges will count points off for pattern, these cats are generally able to compete with their well-marked competition (especially if they have a lot of coat to "hide" their flaws.)
It's unlikely that these colors will be accepted any time soon, as there are not really any breeders pushing for them to be accepted, not to mention that the breed council will probably not support such a resolution.
Tortie and White/Bluecream and White
(While tortie and white and bluecream and whites are not actually AOV colors of Persians, they are included because it is talked about often in bicolor breeding programs)
Often times, low-white calicos are born with coloring more of a tortoiseshell (strong intermingling of the colors rather than bold patching.) In some breeds, the tortie and whites are judged as separate color. However, in Persians, the bicolor division of the breed council has decided they do not wish to accept the tortie and whites, nor their dilute variation, the bluecream and whites. First, there is no genetic difference between a calico and a "tortie and white." Both cats have a copy (or rarely, two copies) of the bicolor gene, and a red gene on one X chromosome, and a black gene on the other X chromosome. The difference is one is marked boldly, while the other lacks the subtle genetic nuances that allow for bold patching. It is essentially the same as a poorly marked tabby or a brownish colored black. While these cats have the same basic genes for color, one has "good" color genes and the other has "bad" color genes. Bicolor Persian breeders believe that accepting "tortie and white" would be promoting "bad" color genes in their division. Many examples of low white calicos exist with bold patching, so the low white markings do not force the intermingling of colors (though the two seem to be linked).
Currently, low white calicos with strong intermingling of color are shown as "Calicos." Some judges will call them "tortie and white" and have suggested to the breeders to push for a "tortie and white" color description in their standard. But, just as breeders of solids will not re-write or add to their standard to allow for brownish hued blacks or dark creams, the breeders of Bicolor Persians have thus far decided to keep the "ideal" calico in their standard to be a cat with bold patching. There is not a movement to accept these colors, and hopefully, unlikely to be any in the future.
Smoke Points/Silver Points/Golden Points
Originally, lynx points came about when silver breeders wanted to outcross their silver lines to bring in better type, boning, and coat. Many chose to use Himalayans because they believed the blue eyes in the Himalayans would do less "harm" to their lovely green eyed silvers than using solid blacks with copper eyes. While most programs that produce and work with lynx points today make them by using tabby lines, it is important to remember that the originals came from the silver programs.
Many silver programs continue to use the lines that carry the color point gene. Since silvers have 3 unique genes - tabby, smoke, and "wide banded polygene" - it makes sense that occasionally, they would have pointed kittens born that had either the smoke or wide banded polygenes as well (rather than just the tabby that produces the lynx points.)
While these cats are beautiful with their delicate point color and blue to blue-green eyes, the problem with them is that their colors are often very difficult to determine. When you start mixing too many modifiers in a cat, you end up with some really funky, muddled sorta is/sorta isn't colors. I've seen many examples of these, and it's really hard to pin down their colors. One appeared to be a seal lynx point, but it had no rufous color. The bottom of the feet were black. This lead the breeders to believe it was a silver seal lynx point. Another had some barring and a white undercoat. But was it silver seal lynx or simply a seal smoke with ghost bars? Or did it have the wide banded gene causing some barring? The most confusing example I've seen was shown as a blucream lynx point. But her coloring was all wrong. Her points were more of a brown color - golden or chocolate in appearance. The bluecream markings were indistinct and might have been just tabby bars.
Some breeders are working for the acceptance of these colors, however it's unlikely they will be accepted any time soon. First, many of the owners of these cats are showing them under the wrong colors - ones that are accepted in CFA - and therefore they are not building up the numbers they need to be accepted for CFA. Whether this is due to ignorance or intentional misrepresentation is irrelevant. Second, the majority of breeders of pointed Persians are simply not interested in passing acceptance for these odd and indistinguishable colors. Finally, there are simply not many breeders actually working with these colors.
Pointed and White (or Bicolor Points)
This color is last as it is one near and dear to the author's heart. When working with bicolors and pointed Persians, it is inevitable one will eventually have some pointed bicolors (or pointed and white) born. Considering how popular and beautiful the bicolor division has become in recent years, it's likely that more and more breeders of Persians might consider using a bicolor in their program to improve type, body, coat, ect.
Many pointed breeders do not like the idea of pointed bicolors because they feel the bicolor markings - which almost always appear on the feet and face, even in the "low white" variation, would obscure or "ruin" the pointed color. While some actually mean that the bicolor gene will actually ruin point color, others simply mean that a pointed cat should have color on all 8 points (feet, ears, face, tail.) They feel white markings mixed or covering the points would be a sacrilege of the Himalayan-Persian ideal.
There are many "myths" that surround the bicolor and pointed genes when they are put in combination. Some people honestly believe that for some reason, when you have a pointed bicolor, it is impossible to have good Persian type. Others insist the bicolor gene will cause dark body color. That is usually because the only examples they have seen of the pointed bicolors are shown by breeders who do not regularly show and compete at the Grand Championship and above level. They generally show up at small shows and are shown by people who only show their cats maybe once year, for the purpose only of obtaining "champion" titles for their breeding cats. In other words, no cats from such program would have good type or pale body color - including the pointed bicolors they produce.
There are also some issues with how the pointed bicolors should be shown. Are they bicolors or are they pointeds? There are precedents for both. The current Himalayan-Persian division includes solid points, particolor points, and tabby points. It would seem that bicolor points should also go there, as anything with "points" is in that division. However, the current bicolor class has solid and white, particolor and white (calicos), tabby and white, and smoke and white.
This author believes it's a rather simple solution. With solid points, particolor points, and lynx points, the "color" is ideally restricted to the points. That is, a solid color point should only have that color on its points. A lynx point should only have stripes on the points. That's the idea. However, on a pointed bicolor, one would not - and cannot - restrict the bicolor markings to the points. The best that could be done would be "low white" variations with only color on the feet and maybe some on the face. But that is contrary to the bicolor standard that calls for white on the face, chest, feet, and legs. So clearly, the pointed bicolor belongs in the bicolor division since the bicolor pattern cannot be restricted to the point. (Another term for Himalayan gene is "point restricted color." Clearly, the bicolor gene cannot be a point restricted color.)
There are a several breeders that are working with bicolor points, but most that have them are not breeding for bicolor points, but rather have them as a means to an end (making better pointed cats.) For this reason, most of the bicolor points are not shown, as the breeders producing them don't really feel strongly the need to show them. Additionally, many of these catteries are dual registered with TICA and show their cats in TICA and are satisfied to only show them in that arena.
UPDATE: For the 2010-2011 Bicolor Persian BC Ballot the question of allowing these colors to be shown failed (13 yes, 20 no). The question will appear on the 2011-2012 ballot - and I will continue to submit the question even if it continues to fail. For those who are interested in seeing these colors show, there are a few things you can do. One, join the Bicolor Persian Breed Council so you can vote YES for these colors. Two, talk to people who are on the Bicolor Persian Breed Council and encourage them to vote YES for the colors. Finally, if you have bred a good example of a bicolor point, please enter it as AOV bicolor in a show or two - or take it along with your other show cats to shows and show other Bicolor Persian breeders so they can see first hand what they look like.
There are many other varieties in both Persians and other breeds that are considered AOV. When working with a breed, it's always important to understand what AOVs exist in that breed. Additionally, it is important to understand why those colors or varieties are considered AOV. If the reason is due to lack of participation, a breeder can make the choice to work with other breeders to increase the number of that particular AOV being shown and bred. However, if the reason is due to other reasons, such as either mimicking another breed or lack of a unique identity, a breeder should consider very well if they truly want to invest their time in something that is not likely to ever be accepted.