The Birman is said to have originated in western Burma; and certainly cats with similar markings are recorded in documents from ancient Thailand. One story claims that a pair was given as a gift to an Englishman named Major Gordon Russell and his friend August Pavie by the priests of the Khmer people; another that the cats were acquired by an American named Vanderbilt from a servant who had once been at the temple of Lao-Tsun where the cats were kept as sacred animals. Two cats were shipped to France in approximately 1919. The male died in transit, but the female was pregnant and gave birth to a litter of kittens in France. These formed the basis of a breeding program and the breed was registered with the French Cat Registry in 1925. The Birman breed was almost wiped out during World War II. Only two cats were alive in Europe at the end of the war, and they had to be heavily outcrossed and rebred to rebuild the breed. The restored breed was recognised in Britain in 1965 and by the American Cat Fancier's Association in 1966.