The Balinese was originally registered as a 'longhaired Siamese', and examples were known from the early 1920s. The occasional long-haired kittens in a Siamese litter were seen as an oddity, and sold as household pets rather than as show cats. This changed in the mid-1950s, when two breeders, Mrs. Marion Dorsey of Rai-Mar Cattery in California and Mrs. Helen Smith of MerryMews Cattery in New York decided that they would commence a breeding program for the longhaired cats. Helen Smith named the cats 'Balinese' because she felt they showed the grace and beauty of Balinese dancers, and because 'longhaired Siamese' seemed a rather clunky name for such graceful felines. The breed became quite popular after this, and a number of breeders began working on 'perfecting' the Balinese appearance. This led eventually to the development of two entirely separate 'strands' of Balinese cat - some owners prefer a traditional or 'apple-headed' Balinese, while breeders and judges tend to prefer a more contemporary appearance.
Like the Siamese, there are now two different varieties of Balinese being bred and shown - 'traditional' Balinese and 'contemporary' Balinese. The traditional Balinese cat has a coat approximately two inches long over its entire body and it is a sturdy and robust cat with a semi-rounded muzzle and ears. The traditional Balinese closely resembles a ragdoll cat although they do not share any of the same genes or breeding other than having a partial Siamese ancestry. A 'contemporary' Balinese has a much shorter coat and is virtually identical to a standard show Siamese except for its tail, which is a graceful silky plume.