So what is the Turkish Van?

The Turkish Van is not a mode of transport. It is a domestic feline animal, otherwise known as the Van Cat from its home in the Van region of eastern Turkey. It is said that the cats first came to Europe from the Middle East, in the wake of returning crusaders, and thence, in the 20th century, made their way to the United States.

Van Cat, embroidered in Chinese silk

The cats are recognised by their long bushy tails and fluffy white coats, often with brown markings on the head and tail (the all-white ones are very beautiful but breeders complain that they are prone to deafness). Uniquely, their fur is resistant to water: the Van cat is an enthusiastic swimmer. Their other peculiarity, which makes them startling to look at, is their tendency to have eyes of odd colours: one blue, the other tawny.

Statue of the municipal mascots of the town of Van, cat and kitten (photo by Paola Pugsley)

Paola Pugsley’s guide to the Van region of Turkey is published in digital format as Blue Guide Eastern Turkey.