Based on the historical and anecdotal information available, it is believed that the Turkish Van cat originated in the Lake Van region of Turkey. Certainly this is where the breed was first "discovered" in the 1950s by a pair of well known English photographers, Sonia Holliday and Laura Lushington, who first brought the Turkish Van to the attention of English cat fanciers. To better understand this breed, it is useful to know a little bit about the geographic area which they call home and for which the breed was named.
The eastern part of Turkey is a unique region with striking natural richness. It is known as Eastern Anatolia. The Toros Mountains in the south, and the chain of Black Sea Mountains in the north, unite in the east and form the highest region of Turkey, which is different in both appearance and character, to the rest of Anatolia. This region has much geographic and environmental diversity. The high mountains provide excellent opportunities for mountaineering and winter sports in addition to their perfect landscapes.
The explosion of Nemrut volcano in Eastern Turkey led the formation of Lake Van, the largest lake in Turkey.
Lake Van is a saline (salty) lake, located in eastern Turkey at 5640 feet (1719 meters) above sea level, has no outlet, a maximum length of 75 miles (120 kilometers), a maximum width of 50 miles (80 kilometers), and an area of 1450 square miles (3755 square kilometers). The average depth is around 170 meters and up to 450 meters at the deepest points. With its deep blue waters, the lake is surrounded by volcanic formations on the northern and western parts. Mount Suphan is situated in the north and Mount Nemrut lies to the west of the lake. Sodium carbonate sedimentations form along the shores of the lake into which many of the rivers coming from these mountains empty. The alluvial soil deposited by these rivers created thin but fertile plains on its shores. It drains an area of 15,254 square km.
Because the annual inflow is higher than evaporation, the lake level continues to rise. Several peninsulas have become islands during the 19th and 20th centuries and some settlements were forced to move inland. The increase in water level has been gradual since 1900, however since 1986 the rate has accelerated. A dramatic 2.16 meter rise in water level occurred during 1986-1995.
Because the water enclosed here has no outflow, Lake Van has bitter, salty and carbonated (soda) waters. Its waters are unusually rich in sodium carbonate and other salts that are extracted by evaporation and used as detergents. It is said to be an interesting experience to swim in these "soda" waters. Darekh, a species of herring caught during the spring floods, spawns near the mouths of streams feeding the lake and is the only fish that can survive Lake Van's brackish waters. A thriving fishing industry for the region is based on these herring. The undulating shores and zigzags form many bays and capes around the lake. There are four islands in the northern section of the lake (Akdamar, Carpanak, Gadir (Yaka) and Kus islands). Surrounding the lake are agricultural areas where fruit and grain are grown.
The eastern part of Lake Van, where the city was located, used to be called "Waini" in the Urartu language. A castle was constructed in 9 BC at 80 m height from the lake by Urartian King Sardur. One of the most remarkable structures around this area is the rock tomb of Argisti the First, outside which has a long inscription relating the events of his reign. The Urartus had outstanding success in architecture having constructed unique temples, palaces, castles, waterways and artifical lakes despite the tough climate and geographical difficulties of the region.
The Tirsin pasture in Van is a little known but unique area. The rocky area of this 2,400 meter-high pasture is an outdoor archeological museum. There are thousands of pictures on as many rocks: schematic pictures of taurus, bison dating back to between mezolithic times and bronze age. These pictures created by the hunters support the thesis that the area was thickly forested in prehistoric times.
Eastern Anatolia is an area of stark contrasts, from tall mountains to open pastures to the deep waters of Lake Van. It is a rugged area, with temperatures varying dramatically with the change in seasons. The mountains in this area are awe inspiring. They include Mount Nemrut (some of the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets in the world can be viewed from there); Mount Suphan, which was once an active volcano with its black basalt slopes; and Mount Ararat (also known as Agri Dagi). These areas have attracted hikers from across the world.
The biblical Mount Ararat has been the destination of professional mountaineers as well as archeologists and historians for years. It has been hypothesized that Noah's ark landed on Mount Ararat. Creative cat fanciers have further supposed that since the Turkish Vans are swimming cats, then they must be the original descendents of the cats that Noah brought with him.
Information on the Van province in Turkey
All About Turkey-Van
More information on the Van province in Turkey
More information on Lake Van in Turkey
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Last updated on 2 July 2007
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