LOST BREEDS - AMERICAN MANX
The modern American Bobtail was developed in the late 1960s, but back in the 1920s there was a variety called the American Bob-Tail or American Manx reported from new York state.
It was reported and discussed in the British "Cat Gossip" magazine during June and July 1927, starting with an article entitled "The American Bob-Tail Mystery. Is It Identical to the Manx>?" The editor (Mr H.C. Brooke) reports "The American Bob-Tail cat is by no means to be confounded with the “bobcat,” often mentioned in Western literature, including, if I remember rightly, in one of Mark Twain’s inimitable stories. The latter is the little American lynx, and very frequently tamed. The American bob-tail cat appears to be something of a mystery. It will be observed that one of the legends explanatory of its presence attributes it to the escape from a shipwreck of two Manx cats. Now, one of the theories which have been propounded to explain the existence of the Manx cat, was that they were the descendants of some cats which escaped from a Spanish ship, wrecked on “Spanish Rock,” after the destruction of the Armada. These progenitors of the Manx might well have been descendants of the Malay cat; and in my article in January, on this curious animal, the cousin of the lordly Siamese, I mentioned a theory which has been advanced to account for its caudal abnormalities. It does, however, to my mind, seem rather improbable that America should owe its tailless cats to shipwrecked Manx, and the Isle of Man owe its tailless cats to shipwrecked Malays! Once this might be quite feasible, but hardly twice, the coincidence seems to me too remarkable.
Miss Helen Brown, former editor of The Cat Review,” has kindly collected for me some correspondence bearing on the subject, which, I think, may well be quoted in extenso.
From “Cat Review,” January, 1925: "A curious and interesting case of American bobtail or, if we may apply the name, American Manx cats, has been under our observation for twenty years. No one knows how the first one, a large tabby and white cat, came to be without a tail. Some people insisted that it had been hurt in a door, but its home family said, not so. Others said that it had Manx blood, but no-one knew of any Manx cat having been in that part of the country. Others said that its mother must have mated with a rabbit, and certainly there were plenty of rabbits around, but this is thought to be impossible. The cat had many litters of kittens, some with tails, some with half tails, and some with none; a mixture in each litter, but never a male without a tail. After some years a very beautifully shaped blue was selected as the one to keep for a second pet. This one also had many litters such as her mother had, and after a while another good blue was selected to keep, as the original tailless one had died, and this last has had many mixed litters, but she has given birth to some males without tails.
We have seen a tailless cat from an entirely different locality, fifty miles away on a straight line from the first place, with the Hudson River between. It would be impossible for the cats to have had anything to do with each other unless one had been taken from the first place to the second, and we have not heard of this being done. At one of the New York shows a year ago, a family of “American Tailless” kittens, as they were called, was exhibited, but they were not catalogued, and we do not know where they came from. Does anyone know of such cats appearing in other parts of the country? We hope that some fanciers, who have the space, will undertake to perpetuate these cats and to give us American Manx cats with no blood from the well-known Manx cats from the Isle of Man. We have been disappointed not to see any of the beautiful Australian wharf cats at recent shows. It seems wonderful that the Manx characteristic is so persistent when the Persian cats lose most of their distinctive feature of long hair in the first generation of breeding with a short-haired cat, though the long hair is occasionally inherited for several generations.”
The magazine editors noted the similarity in folklore about the Manx and the American tailless cats. Many years ago Manx cats werereported or exhibited as supposed hybrids between a rabbit and a cat. In “The British Traveller," May, 1823, the author wrote "There is in the possession of Mr. Henley, at Chatham, a cat which has littered a kitten and four rabbits." H.C. Brooke, editor of Cat Gossip, noted "It is very singular how the shipwreck origin idea clings to the tailless cat. In addition to the legends noted above, we have yet a third, which I have never seen quoted anywhere. The long hind legs so characteristic of the typical Manx — look, for instance, at Miss Hill-Shaw’s Kelpie! — seem to prove that the mere propagation of a taillessness resulting either from an injury or a freak of nature does not supply a sufficient explanation of this curious form. In Fennell’s “Natural History of Quadrupeds,” 1843, we find the following:— 'A hereditary variety or breed of tailless cats is very abundant in the Isle of Man, especially in that part called the Calf of Man.' "
The collection of reports from the Cat Review is rounded off by a letter from March, 1925: "That the descendants of this couple of Manx cats should have been carried to New York would not be unlikely, as many kittens are brought into that city by excursionists every year. Odd tailless cats would make exceptionally attractive pets. In time it would be natural for their tailless offspring to drift up the Hudson River, and these would continue to multiply by the very reason of their rabbit-like appearance. The date of that wreck would be all of sixty years ago, and might easily be seventy-five years.” - L. D. B." Miss Brown, Cat Review's editor added a note "We are much pleased to have the letter by L. D. B. to print for our readers this month. It seems to give the solution of the heretofore unaccountable appearance of tailless cats in different places near New York City. Cragsmoor, New York, where we first noticed these cats twenty years ago, is a hundred miles from the city, by rail, but its population in the summer is drawn mostly from the city and the mountain natives have often blamed the summer sojourners for going off and leaving their cats behind. One of these may have been the ancestors of the tailless cats of which we wrote. This is the only cat family on the mountain which produces them. The next question to be answered is: Have these bobtail cats appeared in any other parts of our country or Canada, and if they have, can their origin be traced? Do not fail to give us any information that you have."