The Persian comes in two types: show and traditional. The Show Persian has a round head enhanced with a thick ruff, small ears, a flat nose, big round copper eyes, a broad, short body with heavy boning atop short tree-trunk legs, and a thick, flowing plume of a tail. The Traditional Persian, also known as the Doll Face, does not have the extreme features of the show Persian, and his nose is a normal length, giving him a sweet expression. Both types have a long, glamorous coat that comes in many colors and patterns, and both share the same wonderful personality.
The Persian is generally described as a quiet cat. Typically placid in nature, it adapts quite well to apartment life. Himalayans tend to be more active due to the influence of Siamese traits. Persians are rated usually higher than non-pedigree cats on closeness and affection to owners, friendliness towards strangers, cleanliness, predictability, vocalization, and fussiness over food.
In the late 1950's a spontaneous mutation in red tabby Persians gave rise to the ''peke-faced Persian'', named after the flat-faced Pekingese dog. It was registered as a distinct breed in the CFA, but fell out of favor by the mid-1990's due to serious health issues; only 98 were registered between 1958 and 1995. Despite this, breeders took a liking to the look and started breeding towards the peke-face look. The over-accentuation of the breed's characteristics by selective breeding (called extreme-typing or ultra-typing) produced results similar to the peke-faced Persians. The term peke-face has been used to refer to the ultra-typed Persian but it is properly used only to refer to red tabby Persians bearing the mutation. Many fanciers and CFA judges considered the shift in look ''a contribution to the breed''.
In 1958, breeder and author P. M. Soderberg wrote in the book Pedigree Cats, Their Varieties, breeding and Exhibition: ''Perhaps in recent times there has been a tendency to over-accentuate this type of short face, with the result that a few of the cats seen at shows have faces which present a peke-like appearance. This is a type of face which is definitely recognized in the United States, and helps to form a special group within the show classification for the [Persian] breed. There are certainly disadvantages when the face has become too short, for this exaggeration of type is inclined to produce a deformity of the tear ducts, and running eyes may be the result. A cat with running eyes will never look at its best because in time the fur on each side of the nose becomes stained, and thus detracts from the general appearance [...] The nose should be short, but perhaps a plea may be made here that the nose is better if it is not too short and at the same time uptilted. A nose of this type creates an impression of grotesqueness which is not really attractive, and there is always a danger of running eyes''.
While the looks of the Persian changed, the Persian Breed Council's standard for the Persian had remained basically the same. The Persian breed standard is, by its nature, somewhat open-ended and focused on a rounded head, large, wide-spaced round eyes with the top of the nose in alignment with the bottom of the eyes. The standard calls for a short, cobby body with short, well-boned legs, a broad chest, and a round appearance, everything about the ideal Persian cat being ''round''. It was not until the late 1980's that standards were changed to limit the development of the extreme appearance. In 2004, the statement that muzzles should not be overly pronounced was added to the breed standard. The standards were altered yet again in 2007, this time to reflect the flat face, and it now states that the forehead, nose, and chin should be in vertical alignment.
In the UK, the standard was changed by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in the 1990s to disqualify Persians with the ''upper edge of the nose leather above the lower edge of the eye'' from Certificates or First Prizes in Kitten Open Classes.
While ultra-typed cats do better in the show ring, the public seems to prefer the less extreme, older ''doll-face'' types.
The Traditional Persian, or doll-face Persian, are somewhat recent names for what is essentially the original breed of Persian cat, without the development of extreme features. As many breeders in the United States, Germany, Italy, and other parts of the world started to interpret the Persian standard differently, they developed the flat-nosed ''peke-face'' or ''ultra-type'' over time, as the result of two genetic mutations, without changing the name of the breed from ''Persian''. Some organizations, including the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA), consider the peke-face type as their modern standard for the Persian breed. Thus the retronym Traditional Persian was created to refer to the original type, which is still bred, mirroring the renaming of the original-style Siamese cat as the Traditional Siamese or Thai, to distinguish it from the long-faced modern development which has taken over as simply ''The Siamese''.
Not all cat fancier groups recognize the Traditional Persian (at all, or as distinct), or give it that specific name. TICA has a very general standard that does not specify a flattened face.