The cat known in the United States as the Turkish Van is a rare and ancient breed that developed in central and southwest Asia, which today encompasses the countries of Iran, Iraq, eastern Turkey, and the southwest corner of the former Soviet Union.
Although the breed has an ancient lineage, the Turkish Van is a relative newcomer to the United States, arriving in 1982. Turkish Vans are considered regional treasures in their homeland, and are not readily available for export to other countries. Even in areas where the breed has been known for centuries, they are still relatively rare. The breed was first brought into Europe from the Middle East by returning Crusaders, and has been known by a variety of names over the centuries, such as the white ringtail and the Russian longhair.
The coloration of the Turkish Van, which is considered by many to be the original breed to carry the piebald gene, calls for a white, semilonghaired cat with colored markings restricted primarily to the head and tail. Other piebald cats that have been selectively bred for many generations to achieve similar markings are said to be "van-patterned." after the breed that originally sported it. The coat lacks an undercoat and has a very unique cashmerelike texture that makes it water-resistant. This brings us to another interesting feature of this breed: They love water (in their native region they have been termed the "swimming cats").
Turkish Vans take three to five years to reach full maturity and is a large and agile cat of substantial strength. They are very intelligent, as well as curious, and make very rewarding companions in the right home. The breed is a healthy one and the unique coat does not lend itself to matting, so it requires little grooming.