The Dragon Li is also called Chinese Li Hua, China Li Hua, Li Hua, and Li Hua Mao, or simply Li Mao. It is a Chinese breed of domestic cat originating from nascent Chinese folklore and dynastic culture. The natural breed, based on a native landrace, is presently recognised as a formal breed by the US-based Cat Fancier's Association (CFA) and China's own Cat Aficionado Association (CAA).
The Dragon Li displays a unique golden brown, broken mackerel (also known as broken striped) tabby pattern, distinctive ear tipping, large round almond shaped luminescent yellow-green eyes, and a strong full-bodied stature reminiscent of its wild nature.. The Dragon Li is valued for its unmistakable intelligence, an uncanny cognizance in relation to its surroundings, and its ability to interact perspicuously with humans. The Dragon Li typically weighs between 9 and 12 pounds; is smart, loyal and lively and gentle with people. It has a reputation as a talented hunter of rats and other vermin. His retrieval skills apparently extend beyond rodents as one of these cats is said to have learned to fetch the morning paper!
The eponymous Dragon Li is thought to be a natural self-domesticating breed by way of the wild cat subspecies, Chinese mountain cat (Felis silvestris bieti). While this theory is still somewhat controversial, it has also not been scientifically disproven, and is therefore widely accepted as the origin of this breed within established breeding sources in China. The Chinese character interpretation is based on a legendary description rather than a fully accurate contemporary portrayal of the Dragon Li, and as a result, the breed has been confused with that of the wild fox by the Chinese. For this reason the literal translated characters for Li Hua Mao read as ".." as in fox ".." for flower pattern, and ".. " for cat. This Chinese character description was, and is based on what was believed to be the best interpretation before modern western feline terminology became the standard, ie. 'flower pattern' versus a 'tabby pattern'. (".." = I of course can't show the Chinese characters).
In 2005 an ideal male example ('Needy'), presented by its owner Da Han, was shown and won its class as 1st place champion per an official 'breed standard'. The event was judged by John Blackmore of the ACFA. In February, 2010 the Li Hua was accepted for showing in the miscellaneous class with Cat Fancier's Association and is now acknowledged as an officially recognised breed by CFA. Since gaining international recognition, and due in part to its limited availability, the Dragon Li/Chinese Li Hua has now become a focus of attention the world over. In popular culture, the Chinese literary legend "Li Mao Huan Tai Zi" (The Cat for Crown Prince Conspiracy) utilises a Li Hua Mao as its central theme, and has more recently served as the basis for a China-based television series.