THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE BOMBAY
The Bombay breeding programme began in the USA in the 1950s using black American Shorthairs and American Burmese to create a copper-eyed, jet black Burmese that resembled a miniature panther. It was recognised in the USA in the 1970s. Outside of North America, the Bombay conforms to European Burmese standards and is part of the Asian Self grouping (solid colour cats of the European Burmese type).
In 1945, Nikki Horner (then Nikki Shuttleworth, nee Necolia Willoughby Slobodian) set up Shawnee cattery and bred some very successful American Shorthairs from carefully selected stock and many breeders used Shawnee lines. Shawnee cattery produced huge numbers of cats in a number of breeds: American Shorthairs, Burmese, Exotic Shorthairs, Himalayans, Persians and Siamese. It was here that the Bombay originated from a cross between a black American Shorthair and a Brown (Sable) Burmese. Horner’s first (possibly accidental) litter of Burmese x non-pedigreed black domestic shorthairs in the 1950s was disappointing as the kittens resembled poor American Shorthairs.
In 1953 she had bred a non-pedigreed black Domestic Shorthair to a Sable (i.e. Brown) Burmese. The kittens developed thick coats and looked like poor-quality American Shorthairs. Eventually she mated a female black American Shorthair, Shawnee Obsidian to Brown Burmese male Shawnee Cassius Clay and produced black Burmese-type kittens.
We find the background of the Bombay in the August 1965 issue of Cats Magazine when Shawnee was the prefix of Bill and Nikki Horner of Kentucky. The double page spread gave the real reason that a Black Domestic was crossed to the American Burmese and it was not to create a “fireside panther” – it was to counter inbreeding depression in the American Burmese. What is interesting is the almost throwaway comment that the cross had been done before, but had not been made public knowledge. There had indeed been an accidental mating between a Black American Shorthair and an American Burmese. As well as expanding the Burmese gene pool, the black Burmese hybrids were attractive and marketable in their own right as “miniature black panthers.”
Here is the text from the August 1965 Cats Magazine advert:
“Burmese hybrids - BLACKS 3 Males, 2 Females, Born: 24 March 65 by Cassius [Grand Ch. Shawnee Cassius Clay] x Shawnee Eva – 3rd generation black hybrid.
1 Sable Female – 1 Black Male hybrids Born: 7 June 65. Cassius x Shawnee Delilah (daughter of Eva). The maternal Granddam was one of my Black Copper-Eyed stud book American Shorthairs. All other cats in my black hybrids breedings are Burmese. The purpose of these breedings is to breed a Burmese as the standard calls for and at the same time increase fecundity and offset lethal genes so evident in today's inbred Burmese. This has been done before to improve the Burmese shown today. I do not recall reading that it has been made public knowledge.
2 Black Proven Hybrid Females for Sale.”
Shawnee Delilah’s sire is not listed in databases. Her dam, Shawnee Eva, a 3rd generation black hybrid, may have been registered as American Shorthair, but I can’t find her ancestry.
Between 1966 and 1972, Horner bred 27 litters, starting with a good quality black American Shorthair females and a good quality brown (sable) Burmese male and inbreeding to get the Burmese conformation. Because of that inbreeding, Herb and Suzanne Zwecker started the “Road to Fame” line (1970s) using a non-pedigreed black domestic shorthair male and a brown (sable) Burmese female.
The American Bombay was founded on the following sable (Brown) Burmese studs: Shawnee Cassius Clay, Shawnee Little Brown Jug and Shawnee Col. Casey (grandfather, father and son), and on the following black American Shorthairs studs: David Copperfield and Shawnee Shot in the Dark. The American Shorthair queens included Esquire Escapade, David's Black Onyx and Shawnee Obsidian.
Esquire Escapade has a Persian great-grandmother on the mother’s side. Escapade’s mother was David’s Black Onyx. Black Onyx’s mother was Pampas After Six whose mother was After Midnight (Black Persian born 8-Apr-1960). After Midnight is Rockhaven Black Nite x Happy Firecracker.
Other Bombay lines were started to ensure diversity and it’s likely that some offspring went into either the Burmese gene pool or the American Shorthair gene pool (it had an open studbook to accept foundation cats of supposedly “unknown” ancestry) depending on which they most closely resembled. The American Shorthair open studbook means that other undeclared breeds have contributed to the Bombay breed.
Some older breeders recall details not made public, such as the Persian genes that entered the Bombay gene pool via the American Shorthair. One such contributor is said to have been Vel-Vene's Voo Doo of Silva-Wyte, a black Persian male, born 2-Jul-1956 (his ancestors are blue Persians, or black carrying blue) who was bred to at least one Shawnee Persian female and whose offspring include Shawnee Persians.
It is written elsewhere that Nikki Horner (then Nikki Shuttleworth) began breeding American Shorthairs with the purchase of silver tabby stud "Katnip Korner Romeo” whom she renamed "Shawnee Startler". She searched the country for suitable female silver tabbies from the best pedigrees she could find. Later on, she worked with solid blacks, using a black female that appeared in one of her silver tabby litters. She mated this female to Karabee Dark Nite and they became the founders of the Shawnee black American Shorthair programme. Two of Karabee Dark Nite’s daughters became founding queens in her Bombay breeding programme.
However, Katnip Korner Romeo (born 20 Jun 1947) is listed as a Chinchilla Persian son of Babe Le Roy of Beverly-Serrano (sire) and Duchess Doreen (dam), both Chinchilla Persians, but Shawnee Startler (born 16 June 1954) is listed as son of Kute Silver of Katnip Korner (sire) and Katnip Korner Snicklefritz (dam). So the dates of birth and the pedigrees of Katnip Korner Romeo and Shawnee Startler do not correspond.
4th Generation Experiments
The larger size and muscular build of some modern American Bombays comes from Horner’s 4th generation "experiments" that started with an unusually large silver-furred, Sable [Brown] Burmese female between 1983 - 86.
The origins of the British Bombay are different because neither the American Burmese not the American Shorthair were present in Britain. The American Burmese (and consequently the American Bombay) was not permitted by the UK’s GCCF because of the lethal gene introduced when breeding American Bombays for a more domed head. British Burmese have a more foreign type and the British Bombay/Self Black Asian adheres to that conformation.
HOW THE BOMBAY BREED CAME TO BE. - The Philadelphia Inquirer, 4th July 1993
Despite its exotic name, the Bombay, one of the rarest feline breeds, was developed in Louisville, Ky., by a breeder who crossed the black American shorthair with the sable Burmese to get a Burmese-shaped cat with a glossy black coat and glowing, copper-colored eyes. Nikki Horner says she called the breed Bombay because it seemed “a tiny version of its distant cousin, the black Indian panther.” Coats of adult specimens are so shiny that they’re sometimes referred to as “the patent-leather kids with new-penny eyes.”
Beginning in the late 1950s, Horner mated champion black shorthairs and Burmese until the offspring were breeding true. That was in 1958, but for 18 years feline- breed registries refused to accept the Bombay, mostly because of opposition from Burmese fanciers. They didn't regard it as a new breed at all, merely as a Burmese with a coat of a “non-allowed color.”
The Cat Fanciers Association (CFA), the largest U.S. feline registry, finally granted championship status to Bombays in 1976. It was soon followed by all the other cat registries. Suzanne Zwecker, secretary of the International Bombay Association, estimates the number of specimens at “a few hundred in the United States and Canada, plus a handful shipped to other countries.” Bombay breeders are few and widely scattered.
Characteristics of the Bombay include a rounded head; chubby cheeks; short, strong muzzle, and wide-set ears that tilt forward from the base. The 6- to 10-pound body is compact and muscular. The large, round, wide-set eyes, in shades from gold to the preferred copper, glow dramatically against the intensely black, shiny coat. Well-bred Bombays bonded to humans in early infancy are enormously affectionate, intelligent, curious, hardy and long-lived. They adore their owners. Grooming is little more than a thorough, twice-weekly brushing.
There is no literature devoted entirely to this breed except a CFA pamphlet, which can be obtained from the Cat Fanciers Association, 1805 Atlantic Ave., Manasquan, NJ. 08738. The Bombay association has no literature, but Zwecker says she will answer questions and direct people to Bombay breeders. Send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Suzanne Zwecker, International Bombay Association, 5782 Dalton Dr., Farmington, N.Y. 14425.