All Scottish Folds can trace their pedigrees back to a cat named Susie found in 1961 on the McRae farm near Coupar Angus, a town in Perth and Kinross, Scotland. This white female farm feline had unique, folded down ears, and British Shorthair breeders William and Mary Ross, upon seeing this unusual cat, recognized her potential as a new breed.
William Ross asked the McRaes if he could purchase the cat, and was promised a kitten from Susie’s first litter. Susie’s mother was a straight-eared white cat, and her father was unknown, so it’s unclear whether Susie was one of the first of her kind or whether the folded ears had never been noticed before. In 1963, Susie produced two folded-ear kittens, and as promised William and Mary Ross were given one—a folded-ear white beauty like her mother that they named Snooks.
On the advice of British geneticist Peter Dyte, the Rosses started a breeding program using as outcrosses the British Shorthairs that were close on hand in their cattery, and random-bred domestics. They took the name Denisla as their Fold cattery named after the two rivers, the Den and the Isla, which flowed past their cottage.
William and Mary Ross quickly realized that the gene governing the folded ears was dominant; only one parent needed the gene in order to pass along the unique trait. Any cat possessing one copy of the fold gene produced about fifty percent of Fold kittens.
Originally, the Rosses called their new breed Lops after the lop-ear type of rabbit. In 1966, however, they changed the name to Scottish Fold, in honor of this most extraordinary trait and the country in which the breed was found. The same year, the Rosses registered their Scottish Fold cats with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). Along with other enthusiasts they gathered along the way, the Rosses began the process of achieving acceptance for their folded friends.
At first, a number of breeders and fanciers were enthusiastic about this new and different breed, but soon GCCF became concerned about potential health problems. At first, they were worried about ear infections, ear mite infestations, and deafness, but these concerns were proven unfounded. However, GCCF soon became concerned about genetic problems, which were, unfortunately, very real difficulties. By 1971, GCCF closed registration to Scottish Folds and banned further registration in their registry. To continue toward the show ring, the Scottish Fold had to pack up its kilts and move to North America.
All genuine Scottish Folds can be traced back to Susie. The Scottish Fold was accepted for CFA registration in 1973; in May 1977 Scottish Folds were given CFA provisional status. In 1978, the Fold became a CFA champion breed. In an amazingly short period, the Fold earned acceptance in all the North American cat associations and a place among North America’s most popular breeds. The longhaired version of the breed was not officially recognized until the mid-1980s, although longhair kittens had been cropping up in Scottish Fold litters since the genesis of the breed. Suzie may have carried the recessive gene for long hair, being a cat of uncertain origin.
The use of a number of Persians in early outcrosses also helped establish the longhair gene. Today, all associations have accepted the Scottish Fold Longhair for championship, although many associations have a separate standard for the longhair and call it the Highland Fold or the Longhair Fold. The Scottish Fold Longhair is known by three different monikers, depending on the association. AACE, ACFA, and UFO call the breed the Highland Fold; CFF refers to the breed as the Longhair Fold. In CFA and TICA, the longhaired Scottish Fold is a division of the Scottish Fold breed and shares one standard in each association. In CCA, the breed is called Scottish, and both hair lengths share one standard, although the two hair lengths are judged as separate breeds. In addition, CCA accepts the Scottish Straight Shorthair and the Scottish Straight Longhair under the name Scottish; these are Scottish Folds that don’t possess folded ears. The Scottish Shorthair, also called the pert-ear, has the same personality and body type as the Scottish Fold; they just don’t have folded ears. Since the Fold doesn’t breed true, the pet-quality pert-ear can be bought relatively inexpensively. In the Australian Cat Federation (ACF), the Scottish Shorthair is accepted as a breed in its own right.