2016, S Hartwell


This “breed” was reported in the New York Journal in early April 1900 and re-reported in a number of other newspapers. It was also mentioned in an article in the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette in June 1903. The reports referred to “a breed of cats that has taken prizes at the show every year since the establishment of the institution.” A half-starved cat was rescued from being tormented by street boys who had tied a tin can to her tail and thrown stones to make herit run. Politician, and great cat-lover, John Mulqueen rescued the cat from abuse and though her tail had to be amputated, she recovered and became devoted to him. Mulqueen was known for rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming cats, but he kept Whyo.

Mulqueen named the cat Whyo [misspelled Whylo in a later report] after a notorious lower East Side gang that had defied the police for years. In 1895 Whyo, by then an old cat, was entered in the cat show in Madison Square Garden where she won a prize in her class. Every year since then (i.e. 1895 – 1900) the Whyo breed (i.e. her offspring) was represented, and every year it was a prize winner, though the report did not mention which class.

According to the report in 1903, “He did not know then that the name and breed of this wretched feline would exist long after the Whyo gang was a thing of the past” (the last member of the Whyo gang was caught in 1901). I can find no reports of a Whyo cat breed, but there was a description in the 1900 report, which was repeated in the later report.

The Whyo cat was described as a large tiger-striped cat. The original Whyo weighed fourteen pounds, but the size had been so developed that a good Whyo in 1900 weighed sixteen pounds. It was heavy in the front, with a wide chest “like a bulldog,” bowed front legs are bowed and a rather flat face with a broad mouth. Four white stockings were a breed characteristic. The ears were lynx-like, with heavy fuzzy hair at the edges rising high, and with a tuft at the ear-tip.

No apparent effort was made to develop the breed in any organised manner and wherever the Whyo was crossed with any other type of cat, the breed deteriorated. Crosses were made with Maltese (a term then used for any domestic shorthair, not just grey shorthairs) and other breeds, but only where the Whyo was pure was it at its best.

Assuming this was not an April Fool joke, Whyo was an alley cat, possibly with Maine Coon influence - broad-chested and with tufted ears which means it was likely semi-longhaired. It’s evident that Whyo had kittens, but I can find no mention of the tail of any of Whyo’s descendants. It sounds to me that Whyo’s kittens were dubbed Whyo cats when Mulqueen found them homes, making this "a breed that never was.”


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