BOBTAILED AND TAILLESS CATS
The normal tail has 21 - 23 vertebrae on average with the normal range being 18 - 28 vertebrae. It is on average 25 cm (10 inches) long, but can range from 20 cm (8 inches) to 30 cm (12 inches) with a few exceptional specimens having 35 cm (14 inch) tails
There are various mutations affecting the tail and in 1940 American zoologist Ida Mellen wrote of oddities in cats' tails including kinked, bobbed, curled and even double tails. Curly tailed cats were known in China in the 12th Century (probably bobtails) and ringtail cats were known in the USA sometime prior to 1940. In 1868, Darwin wrote in The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication "Thropughout an immense area, namely the Malayan archipelago, Siam, Pegu, and Burmah, all the cats have truncated tails about half the proper length, often with a sort of knot at the end."
Tailless and cats have occurred periodically through random mutation. They have been reported in Bosnia, Burma, China, Crimea, Java, Malaya, Denmark, Nova Scotia and Thailand though some of these will have been bobtails. Bobtail cats occur throughout Asia and into Russia, with more recent mutations occurring in the USA. In a 1949 study, Searle found no kinked tails in London cats. He studied Singapore's cats in 1959 and eventually concluded that stubby-tailed cats were common in Singapore, but in general was rare in Europe except for the Manx breed where the tail was often completely absent. The Manx and the Asian bobtails are, it is now known, due to different mutations. The Asian bobtail mutation is also found in Russian breeds such as the Karel Bobtail and Kuril Island Bobtail (Curilsk).
Tailless cats occur spontaneously though random mutation. In 1809, a female cat in Edinburgh produced several litters of tailless kittens. The Edinburgh tailless cat line appears to have been lost. In the 1990s a tailless dwarf female cat occurred in Essex, England. It had poor bowel control as a result of lacking either the nerves which prompt defecation or possibly the muscles at the base of the tail which help empty the rectum.
The most famous tailless variety is the Manx. In 1837 a race of tailless cats was reported in Pendarvis, Cornwall and also in a village in Dorset. The Dorset cats were said to be from the same stock as the Cornwall cats. In 1909, this tailless variety was known variously as the Cornwall cat or Manx cat. This trait was apparently lost in Cornwall and Dorset but persisted on the Isle of Man due to genetic isolation from other cat populations. This allowed the gene for taillessness to become widespread on the island despite detrimental side-effects. In the mid-1800s, the superficial similarity between the Manx cat and the rabbit inspired writer Joseph Train of Castle Douglas, Galloway to include a description of it in his book "An Historical and Statistical Account of the Isle of Man" (1845). He stated that Manx cats were truly the product of matings between female cats and buck rabbits. This is now known to be a genetically impossible.
The Cymric is a semi-longhaired Manx, named after the Welsh name for Wales (Cymru) although it was developed in the US. It is known elsewhere as the Manx Longhair. The recessive gene for longhair has always been present and was regarded as undesirable until Canadian breeders in the 1960s decided to develop it as a breed in its own right. In the 1880s, some Manx had been crossed with Persians (mostly through curiosity) and this would also have contributed the recessive gene for long hair.
There is also a line of tailless cats in Denmark; these are believed to be Manx in origin, probably from ship's cats which jumped ship. The only places tailless cats are actually common is on the Isle of Man, in the Crimea and a self-perpetuating population of Manx-type cats on islands off at Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Although tailless cats that occur in the random-bred population are often called Manxes or Manx-types, a more appropriate term is "Domestic Tailess" since they may not have any true Manx ancestry.
The Cape Breton Bobtail is a local strain of Manx-type cats found on islands at the south end of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. As with the Manx, Japanese Bobtail and Kuril Bobtail, the closed gene pool of an island location has given rise to a self-perpetuating variety. The term "bobtail" is a misnomer since the cats do not have pom-pom tails. Fully tailed Cape Breton cats can apparently produce bobtailed kittens, indicating a recessive gene though this is not confirmed (the classic Manx mutation is dominant). The Cape Breton Bobtails are similar to Manx cats, either a recent mutation or having Manx ancestry from cats imported onto the island (in which case the the "fully-tailed" cats are actually Manx-type "longies"). They are not completely tailless nor is the tail kinked into a pom-pom. It is a rabbit-like scut which sticks upwards as seen in rumpy-riser or stumpy Manx cats. The conformation is Manx-like with regard to the longer hind-legs and the coat is soft and plush. The overall body shape and head shape are described as being less cobby and rounded than the Manx and with a more refined elegance like that of the Japanese Bobtail. So far, no-one has selectively bred this strain of bobtails and the island's cat population fluctuates. As long as there are plenty of cats on the island, the recessive gene should remain in the population, but if the strain is to be bred, conserved or studied (or even used to expand existing gene pools) it would be wise to do it sooner rather than later.
In September 2002, I had an email from Sandra Norman of "Amazing Grace" cattery (Desert Lynx and Savannahs). She had read of the "Minx". Minx is not a breed, but is a term often used to describe a miniature Manx-type cat and sometimes confused with Manx. Sandra sent a photo of her miniature tailless cat "Cupcake". Cupcake is a perfectly formed miniature, not a dwarf. She produced two litters of kittens before being spayed. Unfortunately she has poor bathroom habits - a defect sometimes associated with the lack of tail: the muscles at the base of the tail are also involved in controlling the rectum.
In 2008, the Kernow was suggested as a truly Cornish cat combining two mutations indigenous to Cornwall. Tailless cats occurred in Pendarvis, Cornwall in 1837 and the variety was known as the Cornwall Cat until 1909 when tailless cats all became known as the Manx. The Cornish Rex occurred in Bodmin, Cornwall in 1950. The Kernow would combine both of these "Cornish" traits and would essentially be a tailless British-style Cornish Rex in both shorthair and longhair versions. The Oriental conformation of the American Cornish Rex and the Siamese/Burmese colours or patterns are not allowed. Blue-eyed or odd-eyed whites/bicolours are not allowed because of deafness. Kernow is the Cornish word for Cornwall.
EARLY HISTORY OF THE MANX
There are numerous legends surrounding the Manx. The most widespread is that it is a cross between a cat and a rabbit. According to another, the Manx was tardy in boarding the Ark and Noah slammed the Ark doors, severing the dawdling cat's tail. In yet another, ancient warriors cut off the tail to use it decoratively and mother cats, to save their kittens from this treatment, bit off the tails of their kittens at birth. According to Rose Tenent in her book "Pedigree Cats" (1955): "Another view put forward is that the Phoenicians may have brought tailless cats westward from Japan in the grain-boats to keep down the rats and mice. As we have evidence of tailless cats in Japan, this is certainly a more probable theory, except that there are absolutely no traces of the. migrations over those ancient trade-routes of the world which they would have passed." The Manx was first noted in print in 1810 in a reference to tailless cats from the Isle of Man owned by the great English painter, Turner. In 1834, the Magazine of Natural History noted that the author had seen several tailless cats belonging to peasants living among the mountains between Ramsey and Peel; he was told they had come from a wreck of a vessel from Prussia or some Baltic port many years previously. The cats were also known as "Stubbin", an English word; according to some historians this suggests the tailless cats arrived on the Island some time after 1750, since up to 1750 the main language was Manx. Cregeen's Manx Dictionary of 1835 defines "Stubbin" as "a cat without a tail".
In Mrs Jane Hellman's paper researching the history of Manx cats, the author noted that there had been stories of tailless cats in the Crimea, but Dr Kerruish (who established a famous Manx cattery on the Isle of Man) believed that the mutation in the domestic shorthair that produced the tailless cat occurred circa 1730, basing this belief on the fact that the Manx language fell into disuse at that time and that there was no Manx word for the tailless cats (if there was no need to have a word for tailless cats, they must not have existed).
In his 1845, "An Historical and Statistical Account of the Isle of Man," Joseph Train wrote "According, to my friend, Mr. Forbes, the only quadruped peculiar to the Island, of which it can boast, is the tail-less cat, called in Manks, "Stubbin," and in English, "a Rumpy." This is, he thinks, an accidental variety of the common species felis catus, frequently showing, no traces of caudal vertebrae, and others merely a rudimental substitute for it. There is a tradition still current in the Is land, that the first rumpy cat seen there was cast on shore from a foreign vessel that was wrecked on the rocks at Spanish Head, but at what period no one pretends to say. A modern author speaks with more certainty by affirming that the rumpy is the genuine aboriginal cat of the Island. As a mouser, the rumpy is preferred to all others of its kind. Formerly when cats were scarce in Europe, the rumpy would have brought a high price. In Wales the value of a cat was fixed by law, and the same regulation extended to the Isle of Man, when-under the rule of the Cambrian Princes. The Manks rumpy resembles some what in appearance the cats said by Sir Stamford Raffles to be peculiar to the Malayan Archipelago. Of late years, many rumpies have been carried out of the Island as curiosities by visitors. I have had one in my possession for upwards of four years-a circumstance which has afforded me an opportunity of observing the habits of the animal.'
My observations on the structure and habits of the specimen in my possession, leave little doubt on my mind of its being a mule, or crosses between the female cat and the buck rabbit. In August, 1837, I procured a female rumpy kitten, direct from the Island. Both in its appearance and habits it differs much from the common house cat: the head is smaller in proportion, and the body is short ; a fud or brush like that of a rabbit, about an inch in length, extending from the lower vertebra, is the only indication it has of a tail. The hind legs are considerably longer than those of the common cat, and, in comparison with the fore legs, bear a marked similarity in proportion to those of the rabbit. Like this animal too, when about to fight, it springs from the ground and strikes with its fore and hind feet at the same time. The common cat strikes only with its fore paws, standing on its hind legs. The rumpy discharges its urine in a standing posture, like'a rabbit, and can be carried by the ears apparently without pain. Like every species of the felince, it is carniverous and fond of fish, and is an implacable enemy to rats and mice. My little oddity was six months old before it saw a mouse, but when a dead one was exhibited, it instantly displayed all the characteristics of a practised mouser. It has never had any offspring, although the common cat propagates its species when about twelve months' old. Indeed, on this subject, although I have made many inquiries, I have not been able to establish a single instance in which a female rumpy was known to produce young. My opinion, as to the origin of the rumpy, has been strengthened by a coincident circumstance connected with this district. A few years ago, John Cunningham, Esq., of Hensol, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, stocked a piece of waste land on his estate with rabbits, which multiplied rapidly. In the immediate neighourhood of this warren rumpy cats are now plentiful, although previously altogether unknown in the locality. Not a doubt seems to exist as to the nature of their origin. I am afraid the known facilities which exist in the Isle of Man, for giving effect to this opinion as to the origin of the rumpy, may go far to dissipate the cherished belief of the Islanders, in its being a distinct genus. At the same time I am far from wishing my statements to be understood as settling the question. My opportunities of observation have induced this general opinion of their origin, but, as it is possible many local objections may be taken to its reception, I would willingly avail myself of any authenticated communication on this head, before the final publication of my work. I have no wish, apart from the discovery of truth, to deprive the Island of this, or any of its peculiarities.'
According to the “Illustrated Natural History” by the Rev JG Wood (1853, 1874): The Manx Cat is a curious variety, on account of the entire absence of tail, the place of which member is only indicated by a rather wide protuberance. This want of the usual caudal appendage is most conspicuous when the animal, after the manner of domestic Cats, clambers on the tops of houses, and walks along the parapets. How this singular variation of form came to be perpetuated is extremely doubtful, and at present is an enigma to which a correct answer has yet to be given. It is by no means a pretty animal, for it has an unpleasant weird-like aspect about it, and by reason of its tailless condition is wanting in that undulating grace of movement which is so fascinating in the feline race. A black Manx Cat, with its glaring eyes and its stump of a tail, is a most unearthly looking beast, which would find a more appropriate resting place at Kirk Alloway or the Blocksberg, than at the fireside of a respectable household. Or it might fitly be the quadrupedal form in which the ancient sorcerers were wont to clothe themselves on their nocturnal excursions.
Far from losing their tails to the Ark's doors or to warriors or being a mule (hybrid) of cat and rabbit, the trait is due to a gene mutation. In his book "Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication" Charles Darwin referred to the Manx "The Manx cat is tailless and has long hind legs; Dr. Wilson crossed a male Manx with common cats, and, out of twenty-three kittens, seventeen were destitute of tails; but when the female Manx was crossed by common male cats all the kittens had tails, though they were generally short and imperfect.".
Harrison Weir, founding father of the cat fancy and organiser of the first formal cat show (also writer of the first standards for pedigree cats), wrote about the Manx in "Our Cats" in 1889. He also acknowledged the existence of a breed of tailless cats in Cornwall. Weir wrote that the Manx was well known and by no means uncommon. Wholly tailless cats were preferred and he noted that the hind legs should be thicker and rather longer, particularly in the thighs. He even hinted that it was ungainly in motion: "It runs more like a hare than a cat, the action of the legs being awkward, nor does it seem to turn itself so readily, or with such rapidity and ease."
Weir examined a number of specimens sent for exhibition at the Crystal Palace and other cat shows, and noted that some had very short, thin, twisted tails while others had "a mere excrescence" and yet others had "an appendage more like a knob" These he took to have been fakes (fakery being common at early cat shows) where the cat had been operated upon when young to remove the tail. With little understanding of the genetics of taillessness, he went on to say "But this may not be the case, as Mr. St. George Mivart in his very valuable book on the cat, mentions a case where a female cat had her tail so injured by the passage of a cart-wheel over it, that her master judged it best to have it cut off near the base. Since then she has had two litters of kittens, and in each litter one or more of the kittens had a stump of tail, while their brothers and sisters had tails of the usual length. But were there no Manx cats in the neighbourhood, is a query. This case is analogous to the statement that the short-tailed sheep-dog was produced from parents that had had their tails amputated ; and yet this is now an established breed. Also a small black breed of dogs from the Netherlands, which is now very fashionable. They are called "Chipperkes," and have no tails, at least when exhibited."
The belief that amputation could cause hereditary taillessness was not uncommon. To his credit, Weir was sceptical. A certain Mr. Bartlett had reported to him that, in the Isle of Man, the cats had tails of different lengths, from tailless through to ten inches. Though he had been told that Fox Terrier dogs with docked tails sometimes had short-tailed puppies, he had already noted that sheep - which were also routinely docked - did not have short-tailed or tailless lambs!
Weir wrote that cross-breeding Manx with other cats often resulted in tailless offspring. As proof, he cited the case of Mr. Herbert Young of Harrogate, who owned "a very fine red female long-haired tailless cat, that was bred between the Manx and a Persian". Another case which showed the strong prepotency of the Manx was Mr. Hodgkin of Eridge whose Manx female produced tailless cats when crossed with an ordinary domestic cat, and whose offspring themselves produced some tailless kittens.
In Weir's time, the Japanese Bobtail was not known although the mutation had been described by travellers. With no concrete information to go on, Weir wondered if the Manx was somehow related to those cats since Weir had seen cats with precisely the kinds of tail described in books by Darwin and Mivart. In 'The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication", Darwin had written "throughout an immense area, namely, the Malayan Archipelago, Siam, Pequan, and Burmah, all the cats have truncated tails about half the proper length, often with a sort of knob at the end. […] The Madagascar cat is said to have a twisted tail." Mivart had corroborated the statement regarding the Malay cat, of which he said the tail "is only half the ordinary length, and often contorted into a sort of knot, so that it cannot be straightened […] Its contortion is due to deformity of the bones of the tail," and added that there was a tailless breed of cats in the Crimea. There was certainly confusion between the Manx and the Japanese and Malayan bobtails, for in "Our Cats" in 1900, H C Brooke wrote of a "recent farce" when a cat won in succession as a Manx and then as a Japanese cat. Originally, stated to be of Manx parentage, it was later shown as a Japanese because some 'connoisseurs of foreign cats' declared it must be a Jap because it had a kink in its tail!
Not all writers of that era liked the Manx. According to R S Huidekoper in his book, The Cat (1895), "The Manx Cat really can be classed as a monstrosity, having been developed probably by the interbreeding of some freak of nature in the form of a cat which inhabited the Isle of Man at an early period. An ordinary cat can easily be rendered tailless if operated on at a young age [...] especial attention should be paid to see that the absent tail is natural and that there is no scar as evidence of operative interference, or, as such things are called in dog shows, “faking”."
Jean Bungartz described the Manx or Stub-tail cat (Felis maniculata domestica ecaudatus) in his 1896 book "Die Hauskatze, ihre Rassen und Varietäten" (Housecats, Their Races and Varieties) in " Illustriertes Katzenbuch" (An Illustrated Book of Cats). He noted that Cellar described it in a feline supplement of the animal stock exchange. Cellar had described it as coming from Cornwall and the Isle of Man and forming a distinct race. As well as tailless cats, Cellar noted part-tailed cats that presumable took after the father. Bungartz wrote that the missing tail, strong hindquarters and long hindlegs allowed the Manx to make great jumps from branch to branch so it was an excellent tree-cat and a danger to birds.
Frances Simpson, in "The Book of the Cat" (1903) mentioned some of the theories about the breed's origins, including contributions from residents of the Isle of Man, breeders and others.
"A lady friend of mine, who was brought up in the Isle of Man, has told me that she always understood that Manx cats came from a cross with a rabbit, but if this supposition is correct it seems too strange to be true that cats and rabbits should only form matrimonial alliance in the little island off our coast! It would appear more probably, therefore, that a foreign breed of cat was brought to the island, and the following article from the pen of Mr Gambier Bolton gives his ideas on the subject:-
'In the Isle of Man today we find a rock named the Spanish Rock, which stands close into the shore, and tradition states that here one of the vessels of the Spanish Armada went down in the memorable year of 1558, and that among the rescued were some tailless cats which had been procured during one of the vessel's voyages to the Far East. The cats first swam to the rock, and then made their way to the shore at low tide; and from these have sprung all the so-called Manx cats which are now to be found in many parts of Great Britain, Europe, and America. The tale seems a bit 'tall' and yet the writer feels so satisfied of its truth that he would welcome any change in the name of this peculiar variety of the domestic cat to sweep away the idea that they sprang from the Isle of Man originally.
Any traveller in the Far East - Japan, China, Siam, and the Malay region - who is a lover of animals must have noticed how rarely one meets with a really long-tailed cat in these regions, for instead one meets with the kink-tailed (i.e. those with a bend or screw at the tip of the tail), the short kink-tailed (i.e. those with a screw like tail like the bull-dogs), the forked-tailed (i.e. those having tails which start quite straight, but near the tip branch out into two forks) and finally the tailless (or miscalled Manx) cats; and the naturalist Kæmpfer states definitely that the specimens of this breed now so common in parts of Russia all come originally from Japan. Again, anyone who breeds these tailless cats, and keeps the breed quite pure, must have noticed how they differ in appearance and habits from the short-haired cats. They are, and should be, much smaller in size; the coat should be longer and more 'rabbity'; the 'call' is much nearer that of the jungle cat of the East than that of the ordinary cat; and their habits, like those of Siamese cats, are much more dog-like. In all these points they keep closely to what the writer firmly believes to be their original type, the domesticated cats of the Far East. […] Kink-tailed, screw-tailed, fork-tailed and absolutely tailless cats have all be exhibited at British shows of recent years.' "
A letter from an anonymous Isle of Man resident to "Our Cats" (June 30th, 1900) said "When I was a boy there was a kind of tradition that the tailless cat was brought here by the Spanish Armada. We have a headland called 'Spanish Rock' where it has been believed that some tailless cats escaped and took refuge here, and that from such cats all the so-called Manx have been derived. During my life I have frequently met persons who have travelled in Spain, and I think I have always asked from such persons if they had ever met with tailless cats there, but I never met anyone who had seen them. I never heard any other (traditional) origin of the Manx cat alleged. They are very common here, but not so common as cats with tails. Both cats with and cats without tails associate together."
A letter from another Isle of Man resident in the same issue was equally dubious of the shipwrecked cats theory and wrote: "Certainly we have cats with tails - the rumpy being the rare form. Perhaps one in a litter, and one or two of them with half tails. As to what they are supposed to be, I have of course heard the Spanish Armada story. My own belief is that they have originated in a sport [a mutation], e.g. as we find in dogs and fowls, and have been perpetuated as curiosities, and in modern times on account of their commercial value. […] The height of the hind legs is perhaps more apparent than real, caused by the abrupt ending, without the falling tail as in ordinary cats. Professor Owen made a preparation, which may be seen at the British Museum, showing the bones (if any) of the tail. I think in a perfect specimen there should be no bones. Of course, there are all degrees of stumps."
In his contribution to "The Book of the Cat", renowned breeder (of several breeds, including the Manx) and cat fancier, Mr H C Brooke gave credence to a theory of inheritance which stated that amputation of an animal's tail would cause it to have tailless offspring: "What is the origin of the Manx? That is a question which in all probability will never be answered. The theory that it originated from a cat (or cats) having lost its tail by accident I do not consider worth a moment's considerations. Such a cat might well have tailless progeny, but that would have nothing to do with the abnormal length of the hind legs, which in good specimens is patent to the most superficial observer, and which makes the gambols of a couple of Manx a comical sight calculated to excite laughter in the most mournfully disposed person. Quaint is the old versified explanation, which I remember hearing some years ago. It ran, if I remember rightly, somewhat like this:-
Noah, sailing o'er the seas,
Ran high and dry on Ararat.
His dog then made a spring, and took
The tail from off a pussy cat.
Puss through the window quick did fly,
And bravely through the waters swam,
Nor ever stopped, till, high and dry,
She landed on the Isle of Man.
Thus tailless puss earned Mona's thanks,
And ever after was called Manx.
The most feasible explanation, in my opinion, though of course it can be but a theory, is that these cats were originally imported from the East. Asiatic cats of domestic varieties show remarkable variety in the shape of their tails, as witness the kinks often found in the tail of the Siamese cat, and the knot tails of other varieties."
According to Katharine L Simms in "They Walked Beside Me" (1954): "An old Manx newspaper of 1808 described Manx cats as 'Rumpy cats'. In build he is higher in the rump than the ordinary cat, for his hind legs are longer than his forelegs. For this reason the Manx is sometimes called the Kangaroo cat, for he has the hopping gait of a kangaroo and a rabbit. This started the absurd story that he is the result of mating between a domestic cat and a rabbit. Such a cross between two entirely different species is, of course, impossible. He has, however, yet another likeness to the rabbit in the quality of his fur; a double coat, fine and loose above, and a very thick soft undercoat ....Bob-tailed cats have long been known in the Far East. Crosbie Garstin in his 'Dragon and Lotus' about the East says, 'at the ferry on piles - each dwelling had its chocolate babies - and its bob-tailed cat ...' Or the Manx of today may be a descendent of the Kimono cats of Japan who have very short triangular tails. It seems no-one knows whence the Manx came, or for how long he has been resident on the island in the Irish Sea" It was common to confuse the two types at the time. Ms Simms believed Manx cats arrived on the island from Annam, Burma, Siam, Malaya, or the East Indies, brought by traders in the 18th century."
In his book “Just Cats” (1957), French cat-fancier Fernand Mery wrote “Then there is that other scientific fantasy according to which the Manx cat is descended from an astounding match between a female cat and a rabbit.”
Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald "Cats" (1958) noted that Darwin's observation of stump-tailed and tailless cats in Malaya caused some writers to state that the common cat of Malaya was tailless. He adds that this was not the case in the 1950s and he doubted it ever was the case. He could find tailless cats particularly mentioned in the works of any of the early explorers or in the writings of the Victorian missionaries (missionaries gave very exact descriptions of their surroundings). While acknowledging that tailless cats occurred in Malaya he considered it ridiculous to suggest that the Manx derives from Malayan cats. Tailless cats also occurred in China, "for which we have the authority of both Père Huc (who knew a great deal about cats) and Pére David for this. But neither of these reverend gentlemen ever suggested that these tailless cats were the common cats of any particular region of China: they were noted not because they were common, but because theywere uncommon." He added, flippantly, that nobody had suggested that Manx derived from those tailless Chinese cats! He also noted tailless cats existing in Russia and being particularly common in the Crimea as they were mentioned in the writings of both English and French soldiers of the Crimean war. Vesy-Fitzgerald's thoughts were that tailless cats might possibly have spread along the Mediterranean in merchant ships trading out of the Black Sea, and also that they might have been carried in Viking longships from northern Russia.
At a Feline Fantasy staged by the Silvergate Cat Club of San Diego, USA. in 1952, a "Sianx" cat was exhibited. This was a Siamese-Manx cross with Seal Point colour and type, sans tail. However, the Western province Cat Club of Cape Town claimed precedence in Sia-Manx breeding. The late Father Fowler's Sia-Manx was exhibited at their show during 1952, some months before the cat at the San Diego show, and resembled a Siamese Seal Point with definitely high hind quarters and complete absence of tail. He was described as a very charming person by Miss P. Ashby-Spilhaus, the Registrar of the South African Cat Union.
Manx taillessness is varied in expression, ranging from the highly desirable rumpy (no tailed) which may have a dimple at the base of the spine, the rumpy-riser (one or two vertebrae), the stumpy (a bit longer and often knobbly) and the longy (full-tailed though this is often shorter than that of a non-Manx). The longy is the rarest of these. In 1902, six types of Manx were described, these varied as to the length of the back, the slant of the back and the tail type (rumpy or stumpy only).
Weir had already reported that Manx cats, when bred to Persians and other, produced Manx kittens. One of the earliest studies into Manx inheritance appeared in "Our Cats" in March 1900; the article being a translation of an article in the German paper "Mutter Erde". Although it knew nothing of the actual genetics, it was clear that Manx cats produced both Manx and tailed offspring.
"The Progeny of a Tailless Cat of the Isle of Man. A cat brought from the Idle of Man (felis catus anura) to S. Germaine en Laye, of which the pedigree is unknown, was mated with ordinary long-tailed cats, and among twenty-four kittens, the four following kinds appeared:
I - Kittens with ordinary long tails.
II - Kittens with short and stump tails.
III - Kittens without tails, like the mother.
IV - Kittens without the least sign of a tail.
The comparison between the influence of the sire and that of the dam on the young is interesting:-
1 litter - 1 kitten like the mother.
2 litter - 6 kittens, 5 like the mother, 1 like the father.
3 litter - 5 kittens, 3 like the mother, 2 like the father.
4 litter - 3 kittens, 1 like the mother, 2 like the father.
5 litter - 4 kittens, 1 like the mother, 3 like the father.
6 litter - 5 kittens, 3 like the mother, 2 like the father.
It will be seen that the influence of the mother predominates."
According to Albert C Jude (geneticist) writing in 1955 ("Cat Genetics"), the tailless or almost tailless Manx were the homozygotes while the tailed Manx were heterozygous. The true "lethal" nature of the gene in homozygotes was not then known. "Mendelism" (genetics) was then a new discipline and traits tended to be viewed in terms of simple dominant/recessive terms. The lethal nature of homozygous Manx was not then understood.
The genetics of the Manx is interesting. The trait is genetically an incomplete dominant and is classed as semi-lethal or sub-lethal i.e. it is not lethal in heterozygotes (cats which inherit one copy of the gene for taillessness) but it is fully lethal in homozygotes (those which inherit two copies of the gene). The various types of tail and the degree to which other defects are present indicate that it is an incomplete dominant and that other genes interact, hence the trait is variable. All surviving Manx cats carry the gene for a full tail. Kittens homozygous for the Manx trait are either reabsorbed during pregnancy or are stillborn. This means that Manx litters average 25% fewer kittens than non-Manx litters. It also means that there are no pure-breeding Manx. Manx litters contain an abnormally high proportion of female kittens, suggesting that male kittens are less likely to survive. Stillborn Manx kittens and cats which die young reveal a greater number of skeletal and organ abnormalities than those which survive beyond 12 months. Autopsy has found spina bifida in a number of these and Manx cats have been used as laboratory models for studies into neural tube defects.
The influence of the Manx gene(s) affects the entire vertebral column, not just the tail (though some breeders dispute this). The vertebrae at the top end of the spine (the front end of the cat) tend to be shorter than usual. Those at the lower end (back end of the cat) are fewer in number and may be fused together leading to reduced mobility. The pelvic and sacral bones maybe malformed and/or fused. The pelvic opening may be so narrow that the cat cannot defecate easily. To prevent chronic constipation, surgical correction is needed e.g. to insert wedges into the pelvis to enlarge the opening. The vertebral column contains the spinal cord (the main highway of the nervous system). One side effected linked to the gene for taillessness is that the spinal cord may terminate somewhere along the spine and not reach the end of it. This affects certain organs, can lead to lack of bladder/bowel control and affect the control of the hind legs. Homozygous Manx kitten foetuses have been detected as being abnormal at 5 weeks gestation, are undersized and have grossly malformed central nervous systems.
The problems of breeding Manx had been noted in the 1950s. In her book "Pedigree Cats" (1955), Rose Tenent included the observations of Mr NS Twining, Hon. Secretary of the Isle of Man Manx Cat Association in the early 1950s. Twining had observed may matings - both deliberate and accidental - and had found that when two good rumpies were mated, the progeny was often poor. A rumpy queen of complete Manx ancestry was always mated to good rumpy toms, yet only on one occasion did she produce a good Manx kitten, and it only lived for three days (Twining referred to tailled Manx as "tailled cats of Manx ancestry rather than true Manx cats).
Breeders are careful to breed only from cats without obvious spinal defects although vets have to surgically correct some problems. Reputable breeders have worked hard to eradicate these faults or to reduce the incidence of abnormalities. The number of defects has dropped considerably due to selective breeding, but it is dangerous to deny (as some Manx breeders do) the existence of such abnormalities since there is a wealth of scientific documentation. The existence of abnormalities was recognised by the GCCF in Britain and in 1968, the GCCF dropped mention of the "hoppity gait" from the Manx standard; the gait once considered proper to the breed being caused by a defect that makes it difficult for the cat to move its hind legs independently. It is also considered inadvisable to breed tailless cats together as there is a greater risk of abnormal foetuses or small litter sizes due to resorption of foetuses.
In the 1970s and 1980s there was much debate over whether the Manx gene caused other abnormalities as claimed by some researchers (Roy Robinson's "Genetics for Cat Breeders", still the most important text on the subject, was first published in 1971 and would have documented the Manx effect). In "The British, European and American Shorthair Cat" in 1981, Phyllis Lauder wrote that FIFE (Federation Internationale Feline d’Europe), in Sweden, had banned Manx, saying it was wrong to perpetuate a defective breed, "the taillessness being a distressing congenital defect bred purely for showing which means misery and death for many of the cats"’. (This parallels a recent European directive that bans defective breeds). Manx expert Jane Hellman had written that the "hoppity", rabbit-like gait once valued in Manx, was due to an undesirable defect; however their long hind legs meant that Manx cats could run like hares. Lauder noted that rumpy-to-rumpy matings for more than one generation supposedly resulted in infertility and fading kittens, but Hellman claimed this to be untrue if the parents were healthy. Lauder summarised, unfortunately with a red herring, that Manx taillessness could not be a defect since humans were also tailless!
Hellman's paper claimed it was absurd to suggest that one gene was responsible for lack of tail, shortness of back, length of hind legs and softness of the double coat in Manx cats. Lauder wrote: "This of course cannot be seriously entertained. Pairs of genes govern all the characters in an organism, and every gene is affected by the action of every other gene; characters may be modified by such action, but it can never be maintained that the same allelomorph is responsible for - as an example - length of hind legs AND softness of coat." Though the long hind legs/ soft coat example is a poor one, it turns out that one gene can have multiple effects as a gene encodes for a protein which can be used in different parts of the organism and can influence multiple traits. Lauder added that the Si-Manx bred in Australia would demonstrate that there was no lethal factor and claimed " it must be frustrating for their breeders that ‘To investigate the mechanics of Manx inheritance the scientists have generally used abnormal cats in their experiments. Through this they produced more deformed cats’. Common sense suggests that this is like arranging a marriage between two deaf-mutes and then claiming that mankind suffers from a congenital defect."
Had the mutation occurred in recent times, many cat fancies would have refused to recognise it because of these defects and problems in the same way that those are currently refusing to recognise Scottish Folds, Munchkins or polydactyl cats (polydactyly being non-detrimental and having existed for as long as, or longer than, the Manx). Because the mutation is associated with detrimental side-effects, the cross-breeding of Manx to other breeds to create tailless varieties is discouraged. There are several informal Manx hybrids such as the Manxkin (a Munchkin/Manx cross with short legs) and Mynx (Manx/Sphynx hybrid i.e. hairless Manx) which are not encouraged. The Manxamese or Si-Manx is a colourpoint version of the Manx. There are (or were) plans to introduce Manxes into the Poodle Cat breeding program to create tailless, fold-eared, curly-furred cats. In Australia, a wandering Siamese stud and a Manx female were responsible for the arrival of a ‘Si-Manx’. Phyllis Lauder (1981) considered this as not particularly desirable since standards did not permit the look. Lauder also wrote of news from Australia of regarding the crossing of Manx with Scottish Folds (the latter not yet recognised and its skeletal problems not fully understood). Lauder wrote that the idea was born of a desire to meddle since a Manx/Fold cross would not only produce a freakish-looking cat, it would be a tragedy for the cats - the two breeds had enough to contend with in refuting charges of deformity.
"The Manx gene’s effect often fuses vertebrae and the pelvis, and sometimes varying degrees of spina bifida are seen. Only the fact that the Manx is a historic breed stops us being as critical of this dangerous gene as of other more recent selected abnormalities." (CATS - The Rise of the Cat, Roger Tabor, 1991)
The bobtailed mutation is not related to the Manx mutation. It has occurred independently in various geographic areas. It is widespread in Asia and parts of Russia. An Abyssinian Bobtail has been reported in non-pedigree Abyssinian-type cats (location not specified). A Spanish bobtail has also been reported. Cats with knotted, shortened, kinked and pom-pom tails are relatively common in Tenerife and the Canary Islands, the mutation apparently having become established due to the isolation of the gene pool (tourists frequently mistake the trait for breakage). Similar mutation have occurred spontaneously in the USA. There are also purported Bobcat hybrids that have inherited the short tail from the wild parent. According to leading feline geneticists, the genes governing tail conformation are located on a mutation hotspot.
According to an earlir anatomist, Sir Richard Owen, and to Professor H N Moseley, the kink in the Siamese's tail (a mild form of the bobtailed trait) was the relic of a prehensile tail, possibly inherited from civet ancestors (though neither civets nor genets had prehensile tails)! Others asserted that the kink was due to intercrossing the Siamese with the "common strain" however Lilian J Veley wrote in 1926 that this could be discounted since there was no other cat known in Siam, "common" or otherwise that had ever possessed an original kink, making it a folly to try to eradicate the trait. Presumably Ms Veley had not encountered the numerous bobtailed and kink-tailed street cats in Thailand. In "Our Cats" of May 1901 there was information on the Siamese's tail from interviews with the King of Siam and his Private Secretary. While the cats in the Royal Palace apparently had no kinks in their tails, occasionally a "tramp cat of Malay origin" strayed in and the resultant crossbred cats had kinked tails.
In 1783, Willian Marsden, Fellow of the Royal Society and late Secretary to the President and Council of Fort Marlborough wrote in "The History of Sumatra" of the Malay Cat: "All their tails imperfect and knobbed at the end." In 'The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication", Darwin wrote "throughout an immense area, namely, the Malayan Archipelago, Siam, Pequan, and Burmah, all the cats have truncated tails about half the proper length, often with a sort of knob at the end. […] The Madagascar cat is said to have a twisted tail." Another writer and traveller, Mivart, had corroborated the statement regarding the Malay cat, of which he said the tail "is only half the ordinary length, and often contorted into a sort of knot, so that it cannot be straightened […] Its contortion is due to deformity of the bones of the tail". Joseph Train had also mentioned th Malayan cats, comparing them with the Manx: "The Manks rumpy resembles some what in appearance the cats said by Sir Stamford Raffles to be peculiar to the Malayan Archipelago." Sir Stamford Raffles' name is closely associated with Singapore.
HC Brooke reported seeing three spotted tabby Malay cats in Holland in the 1880s and some very similar specimens at the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris around the same time. "The tails of these [Paris] cats, about three or four inches long, were tightly screwed, or at least the tail formed three complete revolutions. The 'screw' tail, as also the spotted type of colouration, appear to be becoming very rare." In 1889, Mr O Gould had apparently taken four Siamese to Ceylon and soon Ceylon was "overspread" with their progeny, known as "Gould's Cats" and many had kinked tails in spite of there being no Malay cats for them to interbreed with. Lilian J Veley wondered if the Malay cat's kink had come from the Siamese rather than the other way round (she considered the Siamese to be the older type). She also implicated the Korat "a blue variant of the Siamese, to which our 'blue-pointed' freaks are due."
Jean Bungartz described several bobtailed cats in his 1896 book "Die Hauskatze, ihre Rassen und Varietäten" (Housecats, Their Races and Varieties) in " Illustriertes Katzenbuch" (An Illustrated Book of Cats). He noted that according to Brehm Martens, on the Sunda Isles and in Japan there were cats with different lengths of tail. Kessel had told Weinland that there were short-tailed cats on Sumatra. Bungartz added that the cats of Cochinchina had only a short, curled tail and the Madagascar cat had a turned, knotted tail.
R Shelford, former Curator of the Sarawak Museum wrote in his book "A Naturalist in Borneo" "It may be mentioned here that the domestic cat of the Malays is quite a distinct variety [...] it is a very small tabby with large ears and a body and hind-legs so long that it lacks all grace. The tail is either an absurd twisted knot or else very short and terminating in a knob; this knotting of the tail is caused by a natural dislocation of the vertebrae so that they join onto each other at all sorts of angles." The length of hind-leg was a trait shared by the Manx, leading some cat-fanciers to believe that the two were related.
Miss Lowndes, daughter of the novelist Mrs Belloc Lowndes described a Malay kitten that she had acquired. It had recently arrived, along with its mother, from the Straits Settlements. "It has a triple-kinked tail. It is, unfortunately, not of the spotted kind, but these seem to be very rare nowadays." More information was provided by Mr Boden Kloss, Director of the Raffles Museum and Library at Singapore "The tail which distinguishes these cats may be clubbed or kinked, very short or of medium length, and the animals themselves of many colours - plain, piebald, or patterned." He also wrote "A fair proportion of the cats of Singapore seen in native villages are short-tailed animals with a kinked tail. There would [be], I should say, three or four kinks. In colour they may be tabby, or boldly black and white. As a point of interest it may be noted that Felis planiceps [Flat-Headed Cat], one of the wild species of the peninsula, tends to resemble the domestic Malay cat in the matter of tail." The cat writer HC Brooke, who had an interest in the Malay cat, wrote that F planiceps and the domestic cat were unlikely to be inter-fertile.
Mr H O Forbes had exhibited a bobtailed Malay cat to the Liverpool Biological Society and shown the cause of the knotting to be the development of wedge-shaped cartilages between the tail vertebrae. Forbes attempted to link the Malay bobtails to the bobtailed cats found in part of Portugal. In the 1920s, Forbes wrote "My remarks referred to the interest I had in exhibiting the creature's skin from the occurrence in the East of what I had noted as extremely common in the cats of Portugal when I lived there about 1876. The kink, I was told was then believed to have become hereditary, from a custom long practised by the Portuguese of pinching or breaking the tails of the new-born kittens, and it would be of special interest if it could be established that the kink in the Malayan cats' tails had been communicated to them through those imported by the early Portuguese into the East. If I can trust my memory the tail of this cat, though short and kinked had the full number of vertebrae, some of them reduced and wedge shaped." Others disputed his theory as the trait had been reported in the Malay cat since at least 1783 and no amount of tail-pinching would cause the trait to become hereditary!
Kuantan, Malaysia. Feral male with perfect pom-pom tail.
From Lake Chini, Kuantan area, local domestic male with bobtail and extra toes (not visible). His offspring ranged from bobtail, kinked tail to two-thirds normal length tail.
The bobtail trait ranges from a normal-length tail with a distinct kink, through to a short twisted pom-pom and just about anything between those two extremes. The degree of kink is variable and the vertebrae are affected so that the tail cannot be straightened. It is often possible to feel a bony knot inside the kink where vertebrae have fused. The bobtail mutation is widespread throughout Asia, extending as far as Russia. It is well know that early Siamese cats had kinked full-length tails and this is still seen in Siamese-type cats in Thailand, but has been bred out of pedigree Siamese cats. Colourpointed cats were kept by Thai royalty and legend has it that a princess entrusted her rings to a palace cat while she bathed. She threaded them on the cat's tail and the cat knotted its tail so the rings did not fall off. The kink therefore marks where it knotted its tail. Unlike the Manx mutation, there appear to be no detrimental effects.
The Madura or Buso cats are a closed colony of bobtailed blue cats with green eyes which live on the tiny and isolated island of Ra'as off the coast of the Indonesian island of Madura (it is a 6 hour ferry ride from Madura to Ra'as). There are reckoned to be less than 100 of these cats and they are in danger of extinction, in part due to local beliefs that prevent the exportation of fertile cats. The Madura breed and its decline have been documented by Dr Ronny Rachman Noor (Faculty of Animal Science, Bogor Agricultural Universtity). The cats are known to the islanders as "Kucing Buso" (grey cat) and the true Madura cat is blue self, suggesting they may have come from Korat stock taken to the island on trading ships. There is some mythology surrounding the breed, just as there was about the "Royal Siamese". The true Madura cat, originating from Ra'as, may only be kept by high-ranking people such as religious leaders, high rank government officials and informal leaders. Anyone attempting to smuggle a cat from Ra'as will find their boat sinking. The cats' posture and the triangular facial shape are similar to the wild cat and leopard. The cats are large with a medium length tail with a visible bend or kink at the end. The fur is relatively thick. The true Madura cat is solid grey known as "buso" often with lavender nose leather. A few so-called Madura cats on Madura can be found with the brown sepia, mink and colourpoint patterns as well as blue bicolours due to matings with local cats. A brown mink "Madura cat" exhibited at a cat show in Surabaya was of Japanese Bobtail type. The declining numbers appear due to people trying to export the cat out of the island and to a high mortality rate among breeding cats, both on Ra'as and on Madura, indicating either a lethal gene or a high degree of inbreeding. Cats brought out from Ra'as are castrated due a local belief that the fertile Buso cat may only be kept at the Ra'as island (castration in itself may pose dangers of infection). To preserve this cat as a distinct type and avoid extinction, breeders would need to establish breeding lines which would mean obtaining unneutered cats. The restriction on who may own a true Madura cat also limits ownership and controlled breeding.
There are various tales associated with the Asian bobtailed cats. The Siamese tail kink, for example, was supposedly due to a princess threading her rings on the cats' tails for safekeeping and the loyal cats kinked their tails to keep the rings in place. Siamese were also believed to be royal palace cats. Likewise Madura cats may only be owned by people of high status. A Malaysia belief is that if a kittens tail is cut off and buried under the doorstep, the cat will not stray from home. Another is that monks cut the tails off of cats so that the cats do not go to heaven. A cat with a stumpy tail is not perfect and imperfect creatures cannot go to heaven. I examined a tabby cat brought back from Japan whose owner claimed that its tail had been cut off by monks during kittenhood. I found evidence of knots and kinks in the remnant of tail which told me it was a natural bobtail. Also, the tail ended quite normally in a black tip. This was a perfectly normal genetic bobtail, though the owner preferred to think she had rescued an abused cat.
In 1988, the Cat Association of Britain finalised the standard for the "Oriental Bobtail"; a cat of oriental (or foreign) conformation and coat, but with a bobbed tail. Since then, little or nothing has been heard of this breed.
The most famous bobtailed breed is the Japanese Bobtail found in both shorthair and semi-longhair varieties. This is due to a recessive gene. It has appeared in ancient Japanese art and has evidently existed back as far as the 6th century. It is claimed that it was introduced into Japan from China at that time, which corresponds to Ida Mellen's account of curly tailed cats in China. Once the pet of Japanese nobles, it eventually spread to the general population but was not considered anything more than a common moggy. It attracted the interest of American breeders in 1968 and was recognised in the US in 1978. The longhaired version had always existed (longhair is due to a recessive gene) but was not given breed status until 1991.
In a study comparing the genetics of several breeds (Lipinski MJ, et al., The ascent of cat breeds: genetic evaluations of breeds and worldwide random-bred populations, Genomics (2007), the Japanese Bobtail was found to be more closely related to Western cats than to Asian cats, though the breed showed some Asian genetic influence. Cats are not indigenous to Japan, but reached the islands along Asian trade routes hundreds of years ago. However, the Japanese Bobtail was imported into the USA in 1968 and developed as a breed in the USA. As a result, their gene pool was largely influenced by European/American cats rather than by Asian cats. It would have been interesting to compare the Japanese Bobtail to the indigenous Russian Kuril and Karel bobtails which (visually) are of Western European, rather than Asian, type.
Distinguished by its bobtail and high-cheekboned triangular face. Close-lying, silky short hair. The tail is 10-13 cm in length if fully extended, but due to the kinked structure it appears only 4-7 cm long. The tail hair often grows straight out in all directions, giving it a rabbit-like fluff-ball or pom-pom appearance. In Japan it is found in all colours including agouti (Abyssinian pattern) and colourpoint though these are not accepted in the Western fancy.
In 2001 a Singapura Bobtail was reported in a breeding programme. The bobtail kitten appeared in a Singapura litter, tracing back to a part-tailed foundation cat. Inbreeding can cause recessive genes to reappear. The kitten initially appeared to be tailless, but proved to have a stumpy tail similar to that of the Japanese Bobtail. This is not surprising since there are numerous bobtails in Singapore.
Street cats from Singapore and Johor Bahru (the town at Malaysian end of causeway to Singapore) showing the typical bobbed or kinked tail of local felines.
The bobtail trait is also widespread in parts of Russia (probably the same recessive gene mutation as the Japanese Bobtail though this is unconfirmed) and following the break with communism, a cat fancy developed in Russia and several bobtailed breeds are under development.
The Karel Bobtail (Karellian) is a shorthaired/semi-longhaired breed which occurs naturally along the coasts and islands of Lake Ladoga. The mutation is claimed to be identical to the Japanese Bobtail. These are elegant, svelte cats with lifted rumps and short pompom tails (4-13 cm). The Kuril Bobtail (Curilsk) is smallish, compact and cobby with a short (5-13 cm) "bob" or "pompon" tail . It has shorthair and semi-longhair forms. The Thai-Bob (Thai Bobtail) is a medium-sized Russian breed resembling the Traditional style (Apple- or Round-head) Siamese in all non-mitted colorpoint varieties. The tail is short (3-11 cm), bobbed and its outline is smoothed by the coat. The Toy-Bob or Toy Bobtail (1986) is a Russian miniature breed, no larger than a normal 3-4 month kitten. Toybobs have short, solid bodies and excellent muscles, with short straight or curved tail-remnant (3-7 cm), straight or corkscrewed, covered with fur in a "pompon" or "brush" effect. All of these were recognised in the 1990s, but apart from the Toy-Bob have existed for far longer.
Confusingly, there is another variety known as a Thai Bobtail. It is a naturally occurring bobtailed variety of Oriental/Burmese type. These are mostly, but not exclusively, colourpointed and are found in Thailand and Malaysia. The Malay Cat reported in the Malaysian peninsula in 1881 and found throughout Malaysia is similar to Japanese Bobtail, but has not been adopted as a formal breed.
The second officially recognised bobtail breed is the American Bobtail bred from a foundation cat discovered in the 1960s in Arizona. This is a dominant gene mutation. It occurs in shorthair and semi-longhair varieties and has a powder puff tail up to one third normal length. It was reputed to have bobcat blood (based on purely circumstantial evidence), but it may be a Manx-type mutation since some lines produce a range of tailless, rumpy, stumpy, longy and kink-tail cats. To avoid mixing up different mutations, the American Bobtail is never bred with either the Manx or the Japanese Bobtail. This is the official American Bobtail breed, however the trait has evidently occurred independently several times. The Sno-Bob is a colour variety of American Bobtail. It apparently resembles the Alaskan Bobcat being pale in colour with darker ear tips and darker bob-tail.
In 1940, American zoologist Ida Mellen wrote "The American Domestic Bobtail Cat of the New England and Middle Atlantic States (called the Rabbit Cat) traces its ancestry to the Manx cat, but the distribution of tailless cats is wide, covering the Crimea and other parts of Russia, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Malayan Archipelago, Burma and Siam" However nothing more has been said about the purported American Domestic Bobtail and it may have been no more than a few isolated Manx cats. The cats from Malaya, Burma and Siam are related to the Japanese Bobtail rather than the Manx.
There have been claims of an American Bobtail cat breed which resulted from bobcat/domestic cat crosses in the late 1970s. The breeder indicated that bobcats will mate with female Siamese cats because the scent of a Siamese female in season resembles that of a sexually receptive female bobcat. Bobcats can and do mate with domestic cats to produce at least some fertile offspring.
The Si-Bob (Si-Bobtail) is not a formal breed. It is the colloquial name for colourpointed cats of Japanese Bobtail or American Bobtail type. These are not recognised as part of the main breeds and their breeding is not actively encouraged, but they are attractive crossbreds not unlike the Thai Bobtails. Si-Bobtails occur naturally in Japan.
The PixieBob (1995) was, and sometimes still is, reputed to be derived from natural bobcat/domestic hybrids and to have inherited its tail from the bobcat. It is a polydactyl (extra-toed) breed derived from "Legend Cats" and in some respects it resembles a bobcat. The presence of bobcat genes has not been confirmed though the cat certainly resembles the wild species in several respects. On the one hand there is a persistent tale of "Legend Cats" - cats that are the result of natural cross-breeding between the two species. On the other hand there are cat fancies that refuse to recognise hybrid breeds. This leaves a few PixieBob enthusiasts both promoting the Bobcat influence (some claiming 25% bobcat blood) and simultaneously playing it down! Apparently genetic markers for the Bobcat do not show up in modern PixieBobs, although this may be due to the genes being diluted by several generations of backcrossing to domestic cats.
There is an unconfirmed version known as the Munch-Bob which is a Munchkin/PixieBob cross to produce a short-legged bobtail. In theory, any of the bobtailed or tailless breeds could be used to produce bobtailed/tailless Munchkins.
Not to be confused with the PixieBob is the Poly-Bob (1998) which is linked to the infamous Twisty Cats (cats bred for detrimental deformities). Poly-Bobs are not a recognised breed. They are bobtailed polydactyls which carry the harmful form of polydactyly which also causes gross deformities of the foreleg and front paws, including vestigial, absent or deformed leg bones and flipper-like forelimbs. No attempt has yet been made to eliminate these harmful effects and they represent the darker side of cat breeding (See Polydactyl Cats). Occasional tailless cats suggest a Manx-type mutation in which case the breeding line contains semi-lethal genes as well as genes for gross deformity.
The current trend to developing hybrid domestic breeds by crossing domestic cats to wild species may have contributed the bobtailed trait to one or two American cat breeds. In the American Bobtail the evidence is anecdotal and based purely on the cat's appearance, in the PixieBob it is unconfirmed. In the following, the hybridization is deliberate.
The next group of bobtails are the "Lynx" group of bobcat hybrids developed during the 1990s. Although it is speculated that the Desert Lynx breed group (American Lynx, Desert Lynx, Highland Lynx, Alpine Lynx and Mohave Bob) is derived from bobcat crosses DNA testing has not confirmed bobcat ancestry. The American Lynx is a bobtailed spotted shorthair originally claimed to be derived from bobcat/domestic crosses. The Desert Lynx is speculatively a Manx/bobcat hybrid (some early advertisements stated Abyssinian/bobcat) which once claimed 12.5% bobcat (i.e. bobcat within last 3 generations) and the tail types range from absent, through rumpy-riser to hock length. The Desert Lynx comes in shorthaired and semi-longhaired varieties. The Highland Lynx was said to be a hybrid of Jungle cat hybrids and bobcats. The Alpine Lynx is a white version of the Highland Lynx. The Mohave Bob breed is a rexed Desert Lynx developed by crossing Desert Lynx with Selkirk Rex to introduced the rexed coat type. Mohave Bobs, Highland Lynx, Desert Lynx, and Alpine Lynx may be bred together, with offspring registered according to their appearance. Solid white offspring with either straight or curled coats and either straight or curled ears are considered Alpine Lynx. Non-white kittens with rexed coats are considered Mohave Bobs. Non-white kittens with straight coats and straight ears are considered Desert Lynx. Non-white kittens with straight coats and curled ears are considered Highland Lynx.
In spite of their bobcatty appearance, DNA testing of cats within the Desert Lynx grouping has not found bobcat markers and these cats are considered to be wholly domestic cats by registries.
The Jungle Bob is a mix of F chaus (Jungle Cat) and PixieBob producing Jungle Cat type cat with a bobbed tail. There are also alleged Bengal/Bobcat hybrids in existence.
As well as the main groupings of bobtailed cats, the trait crops up elsewhere through random mutation. In the 1980s a "Spanish Bobtail" was reported, though the exact location in Spain was not given. In 2004 I received information on a localised strain of bobtailed cats in one part of Spain. According to Russell Meyers, a bobtail mutation has become fixed in cats around the Spanish villages of La Drova and Barx in the mountains in the Gandia area near Valencia. There he encountered two kittens with deformed tails. one, a male called Stitch, had a half-length tail that bent back upon itself. The other, Milo, had a knobbly bit at the end of her tail. The trait is known in the area as "Barx tail", Barx being a neighbouring village. Meyers came across a large number of cats in the area with similar tails. The most likely scenario is that a tomcat carrying the mutation fathered most of the kittens during one or more breeding seasons. He was not necessarily the cat in whom the mutation originally occurred, but by fathering the majority of kittens his genes - including the mutation - would have become widespread and the trait would have shown up in later generations through inbreeding.
In 2006, TICA proposed to clamp down on certain breeding trends including new bobtailed breeds created by crossing existing breeds together. Their Genetics Committee report stated: "The Committee proposes that TICA does not accept any proposed breeds for Registration Only status that do not exhibit novel mutations. The current mutations would be reserved for currently recognized breeds exclusively. This would end the seemingly endless applications for "munchkinized" new breeds, and then deter the inevitable introduction of "rexed", "Bob-tailed" and Poly-ed" everything else."
A bobtail breed in development is the Tennessee Bobtail. A description of its origins and type is provided by Patty Shane. Scattered throughout the Southern USA are a variety of bobtailed cats. The more common type is the Manx-type with tails ranging from rumpy to full and bodies ranging from the cobbier high-rumped Manx-type to a more svelte build as a result of random breeding. Some have ear tufts. The less common type is the Oriental (Japanese) Bobtail type. These lose the distinctive bobbed tails when out-crossed to other cats, although the kittens may have kinks or curves in the tail. The bobtail shows up when they are bred to each other. They are long, tall cats with more Oriental features and conformation and level backs in spite of their long back legs. When bred together, these create a long, tall cat, with some individuals having a broader, heavier frame and others leaning towards one or other of the parental types. The goal is a long, tall 6lb - 15 lb cat with the high, angled hind-legs of the Oriental type. The head should be apple or pear shaped, the ears straight and moderate sized (with tufts permitted) and the eyes almond (preferred) or lemon shaped in any colour. Tails range from tailless to full tailed and included bobs and single or multiple kinks or curves. A natural bobtail with kink(s) and/or curve(s) is preferred over tailless or long-tailed cats (the standard prohibits the docking of long tailed kittens). They come in any fur-length, colour and pattern with tabby/spotted preferred. Hairless, curly or wirehair is not allowed.
Two Tennessee Bobtails - Siam and Miss Hissy. Although tabby/spotted is preferred, the colourpoint pattern also occurs. Photos copyright Patty Shane.
At present, foundation Tennessee Bobtails are being registered with REFR. These are random-bred natural bobtail cats that meet the desired type. Cats meeting the Tennessee Bobtail type and belonging to a known bobtailed breed are being used to help establish bloodlines. Where a Manx-type cat is used, it is outcrossed to another type of bobtail to prevent Manx syndrome (skeletal and neural tube defects) as a result of Manx-Manx matings. I don't yet know how this breed will be visibly distinct from the American Bobtail.
The Mekong Bobtail, developed from a local variety, is a colourpoint cat or moderate conformation with a bobbed tail. The tail has at least 3 vertebrae and is kinked and/or curved.
In 2007, Vasilis Lekkas from Athens (who is deeply involved in the recently formed Greek network for the preservation of domestic livestock including cats) reported One complete bobtail and four cases of shortened tails, about half the normal size, where the tail ends were blunt and thick rather than tapering as in regular cats.
In 2011 a colony in Canada was report to have a short-tailed gene not passed on as a dominant. Some lines of Bengal have had issues with both spina bifida and with spontaneously producing bobtailed/corkscrew-tailed kittens accompanied by other defects including still-born kittens with intestines outside the body. Less affected cats tended to have a lump or bump at the base of the tail. Whether this defect is akin to recessive gene found in the colony in Canada, or to an incomplete dominant,had not been established.
CURLY TAILED CATS
Curly tailed cats have occurred throughout history and around the world though only recently has any interest been shown in perpetuating the trait in the form of the Ringtailed Sing-a-Ling (which became the American Ringtail in 2004). Many of the 1990s reports of curious tails confuse curly tails with bobtails. Some suggested that the cats are "longtailed bobtails" i.e. have a kinked section of tail close to the body, combined with a full-length tail with normal vertebrae beyond the kinked section; the kink would lift the tail upwards and the normal section would hang over the back or flank. In "Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication" Charles Darwin wrote: " I have seen a cat which always carried its tail flat on its back when pleased."
Although judges examining the early American Ringtails had reported the trait to be very rare, this is not strictly correct. Judges see pedigree cats and pedigree cats are bred for uniformity and adherence to a standard. This means rogue genes have been eliminated generations ago. The genes for curly tails would have been weeded out of pedigree lines. In addition, a curly tail would be a deviation from the standard (and might be considered a sign of genetic impurity in the breed) hence the cats would not be entered in shows, except possibly in household pet classes. The trait is found with greater frequency in random breeding cats but until recently was seen as no more than a charming oddity. I was surprised to be told that the trait is so rare as I had already encountered several curly tailed cats and kittens (nicknamed pigtailed kittens) in Chelmsford, Essex, England. Their curly tails were quite distinct from the kink found in bobtails.
In the Jan/Feb 1998 issue of the Cats Protection League magazine "The Cat" there is an account of further curly tailed kittens from Basildon, a town only about 13 miles from Chelmsford:- "At the time of writing, our latest little problems are four nine-week old kittens who have curly tails. Our vet has advised us that their tails are deformed and not growing properly and will have to be removed when the kittens are a little bit older. Our vets have said that once their tails are removed, they will be able to live perfectly normal lives, although they will look like little Manx cats."
The report would have been written in November/December 1997 to make the Jan/Feb 1998 edition. The accompanying photo showed the kittens sitting on a cushion; their curled tails were not visible. A follow up report in a later issue merely noted that the kittens' tails had been removed and the kittens had found homes. The only other recorded case of a whole litter of curly tailed kittens was a case reported to Sue Manley (who is establishing a curly tailed breed) and was a litter born to a barn cat in Oregon.
Ida Mellen's 1940 discourse on oddities in cats included a picture of a curly tailed cat from Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. This ginger and white cat's long tail clearly forms a tight spiral. Phyllis Lauder, writing in 1981 about Shorthaired cats, noted that an ACA directive stressed that the tail shall not be carried over the back: "This last is not a common fault, but it certainly looks strange when it occurs; there is a Siamese neutered pet who carries his tail as would a Pekinese dog, and the effect is to make people laugh!" Several curly tailed cats have been reported in random-bred cats in Britain in the 1990s and early 2000s. A curly-tailed tabby and white male cat was reported in Perthshire, Scotland in 1986. The degree of curl ranges from loose through to a tight corkscrew. In one case, the tail curled at the base and for the rest of its length lay flat along the spine.
In the 1980's, Katrina Lee of Washington, DC, vacationed on the island of Guadeloupe . In a small restaurant on the lower island she saw about half a dozen various colored cats with corkscrew tails. The tails were not looped over, but stuck out from the body like a normal cat's tail while looking like they'd been wrapped around something to make them spiral!
In Britain, one curly-tailed cat has achieved fame with South Ribble Pet Cat Club. Raffles is a white semi-longhair born in June 1998 and homed via a cat shelter in Oldham. When sitting, his tail forms a curl behind him. Another British curly tail is Sprocket found at Spaghetti Junction (Gravelly Hill motorway interchange in the Midlands). She was taken to Erdington Cat Rescue and it seemed that some prospective adopters didn't want her because she had a curly tail and it was perceived as a deformity or health problem.
Since the breeding programme for the American Ringtail began, reports of curly tailed cats have come in from around the world, indicating that it is not as rare as previously claimed and that there might be several different genes involved. It is now believed to be a polygenic trait i.e. several genes interact to dictate the type of curl and the degree of curling. Though the trait seems to be polygenic, some curly tailed males pass the trait onto more than 50% of the offspring while females seem to pass it on to a lesser degree. This suggests sex-linkage. There might be several different gene mutations producing a visually similar effect.
Unlike the bobtail where the vertebrae are fused into permanent kink and motion is limited, curly tailed cats have mobile tails and no fusion of vertebrae. The trait is hereditary, possibly as a result of several interacting genes which govern the type and degree of curl, and not a birth defect as once thought. Generally, the tail curls up and over in an arc or full circle, coming to lie against one or other flank as the cat walks. Owners of curly-tailed cats are often intrigued as to whether similar cats are "left-handed" (the tail tip on the left flank) or "right-handed". Sue Manley, breeder of American Ringtails (formerly Ringtailed Sing-a-Lings) produced another unusual tail alongside the normal ringtails. She described it as "baboon tail". The cat holds it curled up in a compete ring underneath him while he stalks around or hunts his toys. He then brings it up over his back when he is petted.
One peculiar curly tail was seen in a cat brought to a cat shelter in Chelmsford, Essex, England in 1999 or 2000. This was a black female cat whose tail curled up over her back and then lay flat along her spine. It gave her the appearance of a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog. The tail was mobile, but returned to that position when she was at rest. Over the years several "pig-tailed" kittens have turned up in the area, either as spontaneous mutations or due to genes in local feral colonies. The occurrence of several curly-tailed cats and pig-tailed kittens around the Chelmsford and Basildon areas in a six year time frame suggests a curly-tail hotspot in that part of Essex.
Between 2000 and 2002 there were intermittent reports of curly-tailed cats and also of people seeking curly-tailed cats as companions for, to replace, an earlier curly-tailed cat. Most reports came from the USA (sadly from unidentified locations). These included a grey tabby female with a curly tail, and a grey shorthair female with a tail that curled over to rest on her back. The latter cat's tail was described as spring-loaded, quickly returning to its curled position if the tail is straightened by hand during petting. This led to a suggestion that the trait was associated with grey cats.
A red tabby male from Missouri was reported to have a cute pigtail generally held curled up and over his back in a large perfect loop. His littermates had normal tails. His tail sometimes unwound to lie flat on his back or was held in a more conventional unwound posture during play. As the cat aged, the tail was held curled more often, suggesting a gradual loss of flexibility. The owner stressed that this caused the cat no discomfort. A cream tabby female developed her curly tail relatively late in life. She apparently had a near normal tail until she reached 8 or 9 months old, after which it became progressively more curled, forming an up-and-over curl with the tip resting on her left flank. This again suggested a loss of flexibility as the cat aged.
The majority of curly-tailed cats are random-bred cats since purebred cats have necessarily lost a degree of genetic diversity in order to produce consistent conformation. In 1997/98 a curly-tailed Turkish Van was reported. A Singapura with an unusual tail was reported in 2002. The tail was described as very flexible and he could curl it round. It is not like American Ringtails, as it does not curl as much, nor does it curl up and over. It is held low and curled in a loop at his side. An American Keuda with a similar tail ("Curlietail") was reported at around the same time. She double curled the tail when she sat down, but at 5 months old she does not curl it as much. Again, it would appear that flexibility is lost as the cat matures. Since the establishment of a breeding programme, it seems that curly tails of varying degrees are more frequent that initially suspected. What was once seen as a fault now has a serious following. Curled tails have also turned up in Russian Blues, Siamese/Orientals, Ocicats, Persians, Ragdolls, Scottish Fold, Devon Rex and Bengals (interestingly, several of those breeds have Siamese blood in their ancestry).
The photos above, very clearly showing the curly tail trait, are of Barbara Clark's 4 year old curly-tailed cat "Bunzy". His brother has a normal straight tail. Bunzy and his brother were adopted from a cat shelter in Utah, USA at 8 weeks old so nothing is known of their family history. Bunzy's tail clearly loops over to rest on his left flank with the tail tip pointing outwards.
A gallery of curly-tailed cats sent in by visitors to Messybeast can be seen at Curly Tailed Cats (a separate page has been created to improve loading times).
It should be noted that historical reports of the "White Ringtail" cat refer to the Turkish Van with its ringed or banded tail, not to a race of curly tailed cats. Some early mentions of curly tailed cats will have referred to the bobtailed cats common in parts of Asia. Also, very obese cats may hold their tails in a curled tail position for the simple fact that rolls of fat at the base of the tail prevent it from reaching any point below horizontal.