It was first thought that Kirlee, a kitten born in Devon, England, in 1959, shared the same genetic makeup as the Cornish Rex, a breed born a decade earlier in nearby Cornwall, but test breedings soon established that Kirlee was unique, another result of a natural genetic mutation. As suggested by his name, Kirlee had a wavy coat. Little is known of his ancestry. His mother was a stray, and his father was thought to be a roaming tom who also had a curly coat.
Kirlee became the progenitor of a new breed, the Devon Rex, named for his birthplace of Devonshire, as well as his curly coat, which had a texture reminiscent of that of a rex rabbit. Less than a decade later, in 1968, a Devon Rex had emigrated to the United States. The Cat Fanciers Association gave the breed full recognition in 1979.