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Preserving Thailand's famous felines ( 6 photo)

The <i>Tamra Maew</i> is an ancient collection of poems about Thai cats, dating back to around 1350. It describes 23 different breeds - 17 that bring good luck and six that bring bad. Each was said to be an omen for a different blessing or curse. Today only five of those 23 breeds survive. Preecha Pookabut, a self-taught cat breeder, has spent the last 50 years attempting to resurrect the 18 extinct breeds and preserve the five that remain. Photos by Jetjaras Na Ranong.

30 May 2013
Preecha Pookabut has dedicated his life to working with Thai cats. He set up Baan Maew Thai in Samut Songkhram province in 2001 to conserve four of the five surviving breeds of Thai cats. More than one hundred cats are taken care of at the centre.

Preecha Pookabut has dedicated his life to working with Thai cats. He set up Baan Maew Thai in Samut Songkhram province in 2001 to conserve four of the five surviving breeds of Thai cats. More than one hundred cats are taken care of at the centre.

The Tamra Maew compares Konja cats to lions, because of their dignified demeanor. Ancient Thais believed the jet-black cats with golden yellow eyes brought good fortune. The Konja breed shares many similarities with the more common Bombay cat.

The Tamra Maew compares Konja cats to lions, because of their dignified demeanor. Ancient Thais believed the jet-black cats with golden yellow eyes brought good fortune. The Konja breed shares many similarities with the more common Bombay cat.

The rare Khao Manee or

The rare Khao Manee or "diamond eye cat" is believed to bring good luck and longevity to its owners. For centuries, the cats were bred in secret by Thai royalty. The breed is distinguished by its short white hair and odd coloured eyes – one bright blue and the other golden yellow.

The Korat or Si Sawat cat is thought to bring good luck. A pair of Korat cats is often given to newlyweds to wish them a strong and fortunate marriage. Until recently, Korats could not be sold, but only given as a gift. These blue-grey cats have water sprinkled over them as part of a traditional rain-making ceremony in north-east Thailand.

The Korat or Si Sawat cat is thought to bring good luck. A pair of Korat cats is often given to newlyweds to wish them a strong and fortunate marriage. Until recently, Korats could not be sold, but only given as a gift. These blue-grey cats have water sprinkled over them as part of a traditional rain-making ceremony in north-east Thailand.

Wichienmas, or Siamese cats, were once the preserve of Thai royalty. The breed became well-known to the Western world when King Chulalongkorn presented a pair to the British consul-general in Bangkok in 1884. The cat is famous for its distinctive marks, cleverness, and dog-like behaviour.

Wichienmas, or Siamese cats, were once the preserve of Thai royalty. The breed became well-known to the Western world when King Chulalongkorn presented a pair to the British consul-general in Bangkok in 1884. The cat is famous for its distinctive marks, cleverness, and dog-like behaviour.

Suppalak cats, also known as Copper or Burmese, almost became extinct when Thailand - then Siam – fell to the Burmese in 1760s. The breed is a distinguishable copper colour. Suppalak cats are known for being sociable and friendly with humans.

Suppalak cats, also known as Copper or Burmese, almost became extinct when Thailand - then Siam – fell to the Burmese in 1760s. The breed is a distinguishable copper colour. Suppalak cats are known for being sociable and friendly with humans.