Birman and Ragdoll cats are often confused, because they are both semi-long-haired cats, and because they often share similar colouration and patterning. However, each breed has specific identifying features that should make telling them apart straightforward. Birmans have a trademark of having four white socks with "laces" up the back of the hind paws and coloured chins, and they are medium-sized. Ragdolls have a "fluffy" coat, a "floppy" nature and white chins, and they are significantly larger.
Is It a Birman? Is It a Ragdoll?
There are a number of significant differences between the Birman and Ragdoll breeds of domestic cat. The differences extend to their origin, nature and telltale signs of the breed.
The Birman can trace its lineage back to Southeast Asia, and as a breed it comes with its own legend---the legend of the sacred cats of Burma. Introduced into Europe in 1916, it was recognised by the Federation Internationale Feline in France in 1925. France became accepted as the home of this breed, despite it not being indigenous to the country, and despite the breed facing extinction after the Second World War, with only one breeding pair remaining alive. Now, all Birmans in the world today are considered to be descended from that single breeding pair.
The Ragdoll, by comparison, is a relatively new breed and entirely the result of human breeding. It is also American through and through---the first Ragdolls were bred in the 1960s in California, by Anne Baker, from cats she owned and some free-roaming cats.
Both Ragdolls and Birmans are semi-longhair breeds, and this, along with certain colouring similarities, can lead to confusion. However, they have telltale characteristics that make them significantly different.
The most distinctive feature common to all Birmans is the breed's white socks, or gloves. Birmans have all four paws white, with the white at the rear of the hind paws coming up to a point. This effect is known as its "laces." It is a colour-pointed cat, meaning it has areas of intense colour on its points, face, ears and tail, usually combined with a toning body colour. To the dedicated Birman-spotter, the high cheekbones, low-set nostrils and flat forehead are also indicative of the breed. The eyes are usually blue, and slightly flattened at the top, rather than round. The "ideal" Birman also shows a well-developed and coloured chin, and has no spots of white on its body, except for the socks. Perhaps most significantly at first glance, Birmans are generally medium-sized, with a long body and thickset legs.
Ragdolls, on the other hand, are generally significantly larger (they are thought to be one of the largest domesticated breeds). They have white chins, compared to the coloured chins of the Birmans, and, while they come in three pattern varieties (pointed, mitted and bicolor), the most distinctive feature of the breed apart from its size and white chin is the placidly "floppy" nature that gave the Ragdoll its name. With no undercoat, the Ragdoll tends to have a "fluffy" look, which combined with the size and the "floppy" nature make it highly distinctive from the long-bodied, white-socked Birman.