It's easy to confuse these two breeds of cat, but just because both have "Turkish" in their name doesn't mean they're alike. Seeing both breeds in person, at a cat show, perhaps, would quickly end any confusion. They're both affectionate, attractive breeds. Oh, and one of them likes to swim.
Turkish Vans have predominately white bodies, with colored heads and tails. While the classic Turkish Angora can be a long-haired white cat, they also come in many other colors. The classic white Angora might have blue eyes, but a related genetic component frequently renders these cat deaf. If the white Angora has one blue and one yellow eye, he might be deaf in the ear on the same side as the blue eye. Neither breed requires extensive grooming.
Larger and bigger-boned than the Angora, the Van also takes longer to mature. He's not really grown up until he's 4 or 5 years old. The Angora tends to be a more delicate feline.
Both breeds originated in Turkey and were probably related at some point. Both breeds also became nearly extinct in their native land and owe their continued existence to European and American cat fanciers. According to legend, Turkish Vans were the cats Noah brought onto his ark. Crusaders brought the cats to Europe, but by the modern era the breed had pretty much died out there. In the late 1950s, two Englishwomen brought Vans home from a trip to Turkey and realized the unusually marked cats bred true. Vans did not come to the United States until the 1970s.
The Turkish Angora came to Europe much earlier than their Van cousins, brought by the Vikings in the 10th century. Angora blood introduced the long-haired cat to Europe. Their bloodlines strongly influenced the Persian breed. In the early 20th century, the Turkish Zoo in Ankara began an Angora breeding program to reestablish the pure white Angora.
OK, you don't have to wait any longer. It's the Turkish Vans who like to swim. Maybe it was still pretty wet when they got off the ark and swimming was a necessity, but whatever the reason, this is a cat that likes water, and his coat is water-resistant. The strong, athletic Van tends to bond very closely with his person. Angoras, on the other paw, are much more dog-like. They're sociable and smart, getting along with all types of people as well as other pets.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.