In the main European associations, FIFe and IDP (Independent) bicolors are divided not into two, but into three groups, depending on the amount of white. Inbetween the regular bicolors and the vans, two color groups shared by all cat associations, FIFe and IDP adds a third, labelled "Harlequin".

Many are the CFA members I have spoken to that are confused about this, and sometimes we even get confused ourselves as the colors do overlap sometimes as the coat length of the persian causes the colored patches to be visually larger than they in reality are. So this is an attempt, using the official FIFe rules, to explain the difference

The Van Pattern (01):

Vans are harshly regulated in FIFe, only the most extreme of the CFA Vans would fit into this group, as the drawing below illustrated (adapted from official 2002 FIFe rule book)

Excerpt from the rulebook :
Two colour patches in the face, separated by a white blaze. One patch commences on the rump and ends at the tip of the tail. Chest and belly must be white. 3 small irregularly distributed color patches on the body and/or the legs are tolerated.

As you can see from this text, leg spots count.

The Harlequin Pattern (02):

The Harlequins are the middle ground between "ordinairy" bicolors and vans. Especially in longhairs this makes the pattern hard to define, again due to the effect of the long coat has on the spread of color.

Looking at the illustration below we can see that the first two cats on the left would easily fit in as classic bicolor (see description further below) whereas the cat to the far right is a very close to being a van. In fact, I personally would register the two leftmost cats as bicolors if Persian and as Harlequins if exotic.

Excerpt from the rulebook:
The solid colored patches must cover at least 1/4, but no more than 1/2 of the body's surface.

The BiColor Pattern (03):

The standard bicolor pattern goes from 25% to 50% white. Less than 25% is undermarked with severe point penalty, over 50% is Harlequin pattern.

Excerpts from the rulebook:
At least 1/2 must be coloured, but no more than 3/4, the rest is white. There must be white on the legs, on the chest, face and stomach.

To wrap things up, I have found that arguing with the rule book is normally not a fruitful way to act. In the past i have registered many cats that looked much like the two rightmost cats in the harkequin group as vans, only to have them penalized at shows at a later date. So now the simple rule of thumb I follow is "if in doubt of the color, register in the class which allows more colored patches".

I hope this can be of aid to any of you lost in the junge of bicolor patterns!

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