MR BROOKE'S RED SELF SHORTHAIR
In 1928, cat collector, breeder and judge HC Brooke reported an unusual red self shorthair. Because of the way the red gene and non-agouti gene interact, cats that are genetically solid red still show tabby markings. Brooke was familiar with red tabbies and he bred Abyssinians, so when he reported a solid red shorthair cat it is worth taking note. He alluded to his Red Self Shorthair in "Cat Gossip,"5th December: "Mr House created a mild sensation at the Palace when he 'wrong classed' the Red Self Amberette which took the challenge certificate as a Red Self at Newbury." Evidently Amberette had visible tabby markings. Brooke then went on to say "We own what we think is the only existing Red Self without the tiniest vestige of "tabby"even on legs and tail." He doesn't describe it as an Abyssinian, and the photo does not look like an Abyssinian.
He expanded on this comment in "Cat Gossip" on 19th December 1928, "We forgot to mention that our Self-Red, referred to last week [actually 2 weeks ago], is a S.H. Mahogany red all through, not the vestige of shading or striping, not a white hair; but oh! what a heart-breaking cat; will anything on this earth ever get him into condition?"
In "Cat Gossip," 6th February 1929, Brooke wrote "We mentioned recently that we had a dark red or squirrel-coloured S.H. cat, without one white hair, and not showing the very slightest trace of tabby markings anywhere. If any S.H. breeder would like to experiment with this cat we will allow him to be used for a fee of 12s. 6d., plus carriage. The cat is an absolutely unique specimen. When his coat dies it fades to a rich cream or straw colour. Possibly, suitably mated, he might breed creams?"
Then, in "Cat Gossip," 1th May 1929,we learn "Mr. Brooke is looking forward with interest to the shortly expected litter of a tortoise queen by his extraordinary red S.H. cat, which appears to be an absolutely unique specimen, for inquiries in many countries have failed to elicit tidings of the existence of such a cat. Were it not for the quarantine it had been intended to exhibit him at a Continental Show to see if any scientist could account for his origin. Although a full-grown tom, he barely weighs 6lbs; his legs and paws are very delicate and slender. His colour is exactly that of a squirrel, a dark sorrel red all over, oven to his whiskers. In his ways he is unlike any ordinary cat; for hours at a time he paces to and fro in his enclosure at a quick trot, just as do some of the animals at the Zoo. All naturalists are puzzled by him."
On October 23rd, 1929, Brooke reported "I once mated a tortoiseshell S.H. queen to my self red S.H. male, and obtained one black male, one tortoise[shell] female, and one tortoise[shell] male - that is unless the last named proves to be a hermaphrodite, as to which I am not yet quite clear."
This cat was exhibited at Crystal Palace and "Cat Gossip" (20th November 1929( reported "Even the Press reporters were duly impressed by Mr. Brooke’s unique cat, and there were several notes about him in the papers next morning. He attracted a great deal of attention, and his pen was visited by nearly everyone who came to the Show."
And in "Cat Gossip," 13th November, 1929 (no longer edited by HC Brooke, under the title "The Unique Red S.H." it is reported "Is it exaggeration to call this the most remarkable Cat in existence? Perhaps not, for it would appear to be the only one on record. Enquiries all over the world have not shown that such a cat has ever been recorded. Many, it is hoped, have by now seen him at Croydon. For those who have not — he is all over, from and including whiskers to tail tip, a dark red colour, without any lighter shades, even on chin, and with no sign of tabby stripes even on legs, tail, or cheeks. His legs are very slender and graceful; an adult male, he only scales 7lbs. In the autumn the old hair becomes straw-yellow, the tail being always last to moult. He does not look such a “Struwwelpeter” as in the photo, when he was bristling at sight of a stranger, also the loose old hair was coming through. Possibly he would be useful to breed S.H. Creams. He rarely “sits about” as do most cats, but paces or trots continually to and fro, and must walk miles daily. Nature appears in one step here to have produced what years of Fancy breeding have not yet obtained in L.H. — a perfectly sound unmarked Red Self. It is remarkable that the only other recorded Red S.H. were shown thirty years ago by his owner, Mr. H. Brooke, but as can be seen from the coloured plate in Cassell's “Hook of the Cat,” these Indians were not nearly so sound in colour, though they created much sensation at the time."
Is it possible that this cat was mahogany red because of the non-extension gene? If so, it would be genetically black. The non-extension gene would explain the red whiskers and absence of any shading or markings, and possibly also the fading of the coat. As an Abyssinian breeder, Brooke would have noticed a red-ticked coat.