ORANGE KING (circa 1889)


Illustration: H.E. Gilbert, Fur and Feather, October 8th, 1891. Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection


When we think back to some of the early English (British) shorthairs, and especially with regard to Red Tabbies, the cats that usually come to mind are the memorable ones such as Lady Alexander's Champion 'Ballochmyle Perfection' (formerly Champion Perfection bred by Mr. R. Betts and owned by Mr. R.Kuhnel); or perhaps Mrs. McLaren Morrison's 'Puck'. But in fact, English shorthairs had already been around, competing at shows for quite some considerable time, and not just foreign blues (or Russians), but also blue-eyed whites, torties, (male and female!) or brown and or red (aka orange) tabbies.

The subject, of this short missive, is one of the earliest red tabbies to have made a mark on the early English show scene, namely 'Orange King'. What is perhaps singularly remarkable about this classic English tabby cat specifically, is that he was owned and exhibited by a cat fancier better known for his advanced knowledge of Cavies! (Guinea Pigs).

Mr. Enoch Welburn was a man of considerable principle, and as such would not mince his words. He was known to say exactly what he meant, and there are examples of him quite literally 'putting his money where his mouth was!' He became over time, a 'small animal' specialist and a highly respected judge of Rabbits, and Cavies. His active participation in the feline world, both as a breeder and exhibitor, ultimately resulted in him also being listed as one of the cat fancy's late nineteenth century's preferred judges.


'Orange King' is not to be found in the Register of the National Cat Club, and therefore his parentage is unknown. From his image, we can see that he had a dark, well-defined classic pattern, so we can imagine how rich his colour must have been from a practical point of view. We do however, have a stud advertisement for him, which was invariably repeated in various issues of 'Fur and Feather' during the first two bound volumes dated 1890 and 1891 respectively. According, we can only speculate on his date of birth, which was probably circa 1889.

    |   Unknown
Orange King, circa 1889, red tabby English Shorthair, M
    |   Unknown

Mr. Enoch Welburn
Celebrated breeder and Judge.

Our Cats Magazine, January 1902.6
Image: Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection

Proof of his ownership is found both under the portrait of the cat, featured on the cover of Fur and Feather, but also in the raft of stud advertisements for 'Orange King' that appeared multiple times in the classified columns in various issues. As to character and esteem in which his owner was held as a fancier and a judge, we can take our impression of the man himself, from the below excerpts, which are taken from a tribute published in Our Cats magazine on January 11th 1902, upon his unexpected death:

"It is with great regret we have to record the death of Mr. Enoch Welburn, the well-known and highly esteemed judge, which took place last Friday at his residence, the Pack Horse Inn, Beverley.

"In the cat world, the late Mr. Welburn was a very prominent figure, and indeed for many years past has never been absent from the list of judges at the Crystal Palace Show, where his portly form and genial face were ever welcome. The last important occasion upon which he adjudicated on cats was at the Autumn Show of the Northern Counties Cat Club, at Manchester."6

In her classic work The Book of the Cat (1903), Miss Frances Simpson had the following to add about Mr. Welburn: -

"Mr. E. Welburn, also a blue Persian judge, was long known and respected in the fancy, and his death in 1902 was a great loss to the cat world. Two silver bowls have been subscribed for by his many admirers in memory of this upright judge, and these are competed for annually at the two largest shows of the National Cat Club and the Cat Club."5

Both of these bowls (Vases), which are exact duplicates of each other, are now held by the National Cat Club, by whose courtesy these images of them has been made possible.

The Welburn Memorial Vases, established 1902 by Voluntary Subscription.
Images courtesy of The National Cat Club.8


There are, of course, no records of siblings for 'Orange King', as he is not found in any register. As for shows, both the illustration of him, and his stud advertisement claim that he was the winner of '10 Firsts, and Specials'. In his stud advert, Mr. Welburn also confidently asserts that he is 'considered to be the best Red Tabby ever bred'.

It would be a bold person who would take on Mr. Welburn in a challenge, but one relatively new breeder of Cavies, Mr. L.S. Perren, did just that. He took specific umbrage when Mr. Welburn asserted in his classified advertisement for his Cavies, that his agouti pig 'Malbro' was probably "the best agouti living", and had beaten "'Yorkshire Lad' on his last appearance". Mr. Perrin, who had quite recently acquired the excellent 'Yorkshire Lad', challenged the claim in a letter to Fur and Feather, demanding that unless Mr. Welburn corrected his advertisement, he would instruct his solicitor to commence an action against him. Unfortunately, in his letter, Mr. Perren also managed to openly impugn the reputation of a respected Cavy Judge in the process.

Mr. Welburn's classified advertisement for Cavies at stud.
Fur and Feather, July 1891.4
Image: Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection

What followed, was Mr. Welburn's well-considered response, with a challenge of his own, and 'putting his money where his mouth is', into the bargain:

"I notice in your issue of the 23rd a letter signed by Mr. L.S. Perrin (sic). Mr. Perren was not the owner of champion 'Yorkshire Lad' at the time, which is within the last two months. I fail to see why he should dispute the truth; therefore I refuse to give him the time, but leave for Mr. T. Hewson, who was then the owner, to either contradict my statement or uphold the fact. It is only six weeks since Mr.Perrin (sic) rushed into the Cavy Fancy. Therefore no honours which the pig had gained are due to him, and I think the Fancy knows their owner then. Mr. T. Hewson never was guilty of showing them out of form. Mr.Perren's short space does not justify him in such an unwarrantable attack on me, as I think my three years of experience and success is quite sufficient to overbalance a man with only six weeks, and no experience.

Talking of mongrels, I think my claim to 'Malbro' being probably the best agouti living is right, for his career in the show pen justifies it. It is now about twelve months since I purchased him from Mr. Astley. He was then known by the name of 'Young Malbrough'. Since then he has been resting in my caviary, with the exception of six shows, winning four and losing two, beaten at one by 'Yorkshire Lad', at Bradford. 'Malbro' is one of the very best bred cavies, being by 'Old Malbro', out of 'Misfire', a daughter of 'Old Dowager', the dam of 'Goldfield', 'Cabbury', 'Marigold', and that good sow, lost at Hull, of Mr. Astley's, besides numerous other winners; so there's no mongrel in 'Malbro'. And again I repeat that on his last appearance he beat 'Yorkshire Lad', and if Mr. Perren is not satisfied I will match him to do so again. I enclose conditions and for #5, to match 'Malbro' against 'Yorkshire Lad'.

E. WELBURN , Beverley."8

Needless to say, there is no evidence that Mr. Welburn's challenge was ever taken up my Mr. Perren, and in fact, in the following issue, he published a retraction and apology for offending the reputation of a judge he had impugned in his original letter to the Editor. Mr. Welbrn however, in the same issue that included the above response, did amend his advertisement that one time, but probably not as Mr. Perren would have expected, making his tongue-in-cheek point unmistakeable! The top portion is provided below…

Mr. Welburn's classified advertisement for Cavies at stud.
Fur and Feather, 30th July 1891.3
Image: Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection

The above is a blunt reminder from a seasoned campaigner, that being sure of one's facts is paramount before embarking on instigating an argument. Note also, that as a result, Mr. Welburn also generously provided his boars at stud at a reduced fee, perhaps to give an opportunity to other new exhibitors to improve their bloodstock.


Sadly there are no locatable records of progeny from 'Orange King' but the author has no doubt that many existed.


Enlargement of the Illustration of 'Orange King', drawn by H.E. Gilbert
Fur and Feather, 8th October 1891.1
Image: Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection

Cover Page of Fur and Feather featuring 'Orange King', drawn by H.E. Gilbert
Fur and Feather, 8th October 1891.1
Image: Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection


This stud advertisement for 'Orange King' appeared semi-regularly in the Classified columns under 'CATS'. Other cats to appear in these columns included the Brown Tabby Persian 'King Gama' (the sire of 'Young King Gama'); Mr. Townsend's Blue Persian 'Goblin', ( a son of Mr. A.A. Clarke's foundation Blue male 'Turco'); and Miss Gresham's Silver Persian, 'Silver Lambkin', the famous progenitor of the Chinchilla.

Stud Advertisement for 'Orange King'
Fur and Feather, July 1891.4
Image: Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection

It is interesting to note the moderate stud fee for 'Orange King' set at only 5 shillings, compared to those of his contemporary long-haired counterparts, whose stud fees averaged out at 10 shillings a piece at the same time.

In Summary:

Through 'Orange King' we gain an opportunity to take a rare glimpse into the life, morality, and common decency of a man of principle, who was to become one of the most respected judges of felines in the latter part of the nineteenth century. In the Cat Fancy, Mr. Welburn was both a popular and genial adjudicator. It was generally accepted that he both knew and applied the written standards to the exhibits he was adjudicating, but did so with a fair-minded and common-sense approach. This quote from him, is reported by Miss Simpson in her chapter on Black Long-hairs:

"I scarcely think that eyes alone should carry an award, yet it is always best to uphold the desired properties so hard to obtain."5

'Orange King' is possibly one of the earliest 'English shorthairs' for which there is both an illustration and a record of his standing at stud in an acknowledged breeding program. That he is inextricably linked to a man with a respected career within the Feline Fancy is an unexpected but revealing bonus of historical fact.


  1. Fur and Feather October 8th, 1891.
  2. Fur and Feather July 23rd, 1891.
  3. Fur and FeatherJuly 30th, 1891.
  4. Fur and Feather, July 9th, 1891.
  5. The Book of the Cat (1903) by Frances Simpson.
  6. Our Cats Magazine, January 1902.
  7. Stud-Book and Register of The National Cat Club (Vols 1-5).
  8. Photographic Archive of the Trophies of The National Cat Club
  9. Photos and quotations as per sources quoted.

Registers associated with this article include The Incorporated Cat Fanciers Association of Great Britain (TICFAGB), National Cat Club (NCC), The Cat Club (CCR), Beresford Cat Club (BCC), Feline Federation Francaise (FFF), Siamese Cat Registry (SCR), US Register & Studbook for Cats (USR)including Supplement(USRS), The Studbook of the American Cat Association (ACA), and the Studbook & Register of the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA).


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