There are no clear records of the breed's origin exists. They are most often claimed to have originated as the companions of temple priests in northern Burma in the Mount of Lugh. Many stories exist of how the cats first came to France, including pairs of cats being given as a reward for helping defend a temple, or being smuggled out of Burma by a Vanderbilt. Another pair of Birmans (or a pregnant female called Poupée de Maldapour) were said to have been stolen and later imported to France by Thadde Haddisch. The first traces of historical Birmans go back to a Mme Leotardi in the city of Nice in France.
Birmans were almost wiped out as a breed during World War II. Only two cats were alive in Europe at the end of the war, a pair named Orloff and Xenia de Kaabaa, both belonging to Baudoin-Crevoisier. The foundation of the breed in postwar France were offspring of this pair. They had to be heavily outcrossed with long-hair breeds such as Persian and Siamese to rebuild the Birman breed. By the early 1950s pure Birman litters were once again being produced. The restored breed was recognized in Britain in 1965 and by the CFA in 1966. The first Birman cats were seal point. The blue point colour was introduced in 1959 using blue Persian lines. New colours were later added by English breeders including chocolate, red, and tabby/lynx points. Birmans have also been used in the development of new breeds, notably including the Ragdoll.
They are a very sociable and dependent personality from the Siamese/Balinese side, but a more relaxed, cool and independent element from the Persian side. Therefore, they are not as exclusive and tyrannical as the Siamese and not as indifferent and distant as the Persian. They could be defined as middle of the road cats. Some individuals like to sit on your laps, others don't, but they are always beside you and with you wherever you go in the house.
The Birman's fur is medium-long and should have a silky texture and they have no undercoat making them less prone to matting. Coat colour is pointed, except for the contrasting pure white, symmetrical "gloves" on each paw that are the trademark of the breed. The base body colour is white to cream, with a wash of color that corresponds to the points, but is much paler. Recognized point colours are seal, chocolate, blue, lilac (a softer silver-grey), red, or cream. Tabby and tortie variations in seal, chocolate, blue or lilac are also allowed; other colours are in development.