SHORTHAIRED CATS OF THE 19TH CENTURY - BRITISH SHORTHAIRS (HARRISON WEIR)
The Shorthairs (Harrison Weir, Our Cats and All About Them, 1889)
The Tortoiseshell Cat
I now come to the section of the short-haired domestic cat, a variety possessing sub-varieties. Whether these all came from the same origin is doubtful, although in breeding many of the different colours will breed back to the striped or tabby colour, and, per contra, white whole-coloured cats are often got from striped or spotted parents, and vice versā. Those that have had any experience of breeding domesticated animals or bird, know perfectly well how difficult it is to keep certain peculiarities gained by years of perseverance of breeding for such points of variation, or what is termed excellence. Place a few fancy pigeons, for instance, in the country and let them match how they like, and one would be quite surprised, unless he were a naturalist, to note the great changes that occur in a few years, and the unmistakable signs of reversion towards their ancestral stock - that of the Rock pigeon. But with the cat this is somewhat different, as little or no attempts have been made, as far as I know of, until cat shows were instituted, to improve any particular breed either in form or colour. Nor has it even yet, with the exception of the long-haired cats. Why this is so I am at a loss to understand, but the fact remains. Good well-developed cats of certain colours fetch large prices, and arer, if I may use the term, perpetual prize-winners.
I will take as an instance the tortoiseshell tom, he, or male cat as one of the most scarce, and the red or yellow tabby she-cat as the next ; and yet the possessor of either, with proper care and attention, I have little or no doubt, has it in his power to produce either variety ad libitum. It is now many years since I remember the first "tortoiseshell tom-cat ;" nor can I now at this distance of time quite call to mind whether or not it was not a tortoiseshell-and-white, and not a tortoiseshell pure and simple. It was exhibited in Piccadilly. If I remember rightly, I made a drawing of it, but as it is about forty years ago, of this I am not certain, although I have lately been told that I did, and that the price asked for the cat was 100 guineas.
This supposed scarcity was rudely put aside by the appearance, at the Crystal Palace Show of 1871, of no less than one tortoiseshell he-cat (exhibited by Mr. Smith) and three tortoiseshell-and-white he-cats, but it will be observed there was really but only one tortoiseshell he-cat, the others having white. On referring to the catalogues of the succeeding shows, no other pure tortoiseshell has been exhibited, and he ceased to appear after 1873 ; but tortoiseshell-and-white have been shown from 1871, varying in number from five to three until 1885. One of these, a tortoiseshell-and-white belonging to Mr. Hurry, gained no fewer than nine first prizes at the Crystan Palace, besides several firsts at other shows ; this maintains my statement, that a really good scarce variety of cats is a valuable investment, Mr. Hurry's cat Totty keeping up his price of £100 till the end.
As may have been gathered from the foregoing remarks, the points of the tortoiseshell he-cat are, black-red and yellow in patches, but no white. The colouring should be in broad, well-defined blotches and solid in colour, not mealy or tabby-like in the marking, but clear, sharp, and distinct, and the richer and deeper the colours the better. When this is so the animal presents a very handsome appearance. The eyes should be orange, the tail long and thick towards the base, the form slim, graceful, and elegant, and not too short on the leg, to which this breed has a tendency. Coming then to the actual tortoiseshell he, or male cat without white, I have never seen but one at the Shows, and that was exhibited by Mr. Smith. It does not appear that Mr. Smith bred any from it, nor do I know whether he took any precautions to do so ; but if not, I am still of the opinion that more might have been produced. In Cassell's "Natural History," it is stated that the tortoiseshell cat is quite common in Egypt and in the south of Europe. This I can readily believe, as I think that it comes from a different stock than the usual short-haired cat, the texture of the hair being different, the form of tail also. I should much like to know whether in that country, where the variety is so common, there exists any number of tortoiseshell he-cats. In England the he-kittens are almost invariably red-tabby or red-tabby-and-white ; the red-tabby she-cats are almost as scarce as tortoiseshell-and-white he-cats. Yet if red-tabby she-cats can be produced, I am of the opinion that tortoiseshell he-cats could also. I had one of the former, a great beauty, and hoped to perpetuate the breed, but it unfortunately fell a victim to wires set by poachers for game. Again returning to the tortoiseshell, I have noted that, in drawings made by the Japanese, the cats are always of this colour ; that being so, it leads one to suppose that in that country tortoiseshell he-cats must be plentiful. Though the drawings are strong evidence, they are not absolute proof. I have asked several travelling friends questions as regards the Japanese cats, but in no case have I found them to have taken sufficient notice for their testimony to be anything else than worthless. I shall be very thankful for any information on this subject, for to myself, and doubtless also to many others, it is exceedingly interesting. Any one wishing to breed rich brown tabbies, should use a tortoiseshell she-cat with a very brown and black-banded he-cat. They are not so good from the spotted tabby, often producing merely tortoiseshell tabbies instead of brown tabbies, or true tortoiseshells. My remarks as to the colouring of the tortoiseshell he-cats are equally applicable to the she-cat, which should not have any white. Of the tortoiseshell-and-white hereafter.
To breed tortoiseshell he-cats, I should use males of a whole colour, such as either white, black, or blue ; and on no account any tabby, no matter the colour. What is wanted is patches of colour, not tiny streaks or spots ; and I feel certain that, for those who persevere, there will be successful results.
The Tortoiseshell-And-White Cat
This is a more common mixture of colouring than the tortoiseshell pure and simple without white, and seems to be widely spread over different parts of the world. It is the opinion of some that this colour and the pure tortoiseshell is the original domestic cat, and that the other varieties of marking and colours are but deviations produced by crossing with wild varieties. My brother, John Jenner Weir, F.L.S., F.Z.S., holds somewhat to this opinion ; but, to me, it is rather difficult to arrive at this conclusion. In fact, I can scarcely realise the ground on which the theory is based - at the same time, I do not mean to ignore it entirely. And yet, if this be so, from what starting-point was the original domestic cat derived, and by what means were the rich and varied markings obtained? I am fully aware that by selection cats with large patches of colour may be obtained ; still, there remain the peculiar markings of the tortoiseshell. Nor is this by any means an uncommon colour, not only in this country, but in many others, and there also appears to be a peculiar fixedness of this, especially in the female, but why it is not so in the male I am at loss to understand, the males almost invariably coming either red-tabby or red-tabby-and-white. One would suppose that black or white would be equally likely ; but, as far as my observations take me, this is not so, though I have seen both pure white, yellow, red, and black in litters of kittens, but this might be different were the he parent tortoiseshell.
Some years ago I was out with a shooting party not far from Snowdon, in Wales, when turning past a large rock I came on a sheltered nook, and there in a nest made of dry grasses laid six tortoiseshell-and-white kittens about eight to ten days old. I was much surprised at this, as I did not know of any house near, therefore these must have been the offspring of some cat or cats that were leading a roving or wild life, and yet it had no effect as to the deviation of the colour. I left them there, and without observing the sex. I was afterwards sorry, as it is just possible, though scarcely probable, that one or more of the six, being all of the same colour, might have proved to be a male. As I left the neighbourhood a few days after I saw no more of them, nor have I since heard of any being there ; so conclude they in some way were destroyed.
I have observed in the breed of tortoiseshell or tortoiseshell-and-white that the hair is of a coarser texture than the ordinary domestic cat, and that the tail is generally thicker especially at the base, though some few are thin-tailed ; yet I prefer the thick and tapering form. Some are very much so, and of good length ; the legs are generally somewhat short ; I do not ever remember seeing a really long-legged tortoiseshell, though when this is so if not too long it adds much to its grace of action. I give a drawing of what I consider to be a GOOD tortoiseshell-and-white tom or he-cat. It will be observed that there is more white on the chest, belly, and hind legs than is allowable in the blacl-and-white cat. This I deem necessary for artistic beauty, when the colour is laid on in patches, although it should be even, clear, and distinct in its outline ; the larger space of white adds brilliancy to the red, yellow, and black colouring. The face is one of the parts which should have some uniformity of colour, and yet not so, but a mere balancing of colour ; that is to say, that there should be a relief in black, with the yellow and red on each side, and so in the body and tail. The nose should be white, the eyes orange, and the whole colouring rich and varied without the least Tabbyness, either brown or gray or an approach to it, such being highly detrimental to its beauty.
I have received a welcome letter from Mr. Herbert Young, of James Street, Harrogate, informing me of the existence of what is said to be a tortoiseshell tom or he-cat somewhere in Yorkshire, and the price is fifty guineas ; but he, unfortunately, has forgotten the exact address. He also kindly favours me with the further information of a tortoiseshell-and-white he-cat. He describes it as "splendid," and "extra good in colour," and it is at present in the vicinity of Harrogate. And still further, Mr. Herbert Young says, "I am breeding from a dark colour cat and two tortoiseshell females," and he hopes, by careful selection, to succeed in "breeding the other colour out." This, I deem, is by no means an unlikely thing to happen, and, by careful management, may not take very long to accomplish ; but much depends on the ancestry, or rather the pedigree of both sides. I for one most heartily wish Mr. Herbert Young success, and it will be most gratifying should he arrive at the height of his expectations. Failing the producing of the desired colour in the he-cats by the legitimate method of tortoiseshell with tortoiseshell, I would advise the trial of some whole colours, such as solid black and white. This may prove a better way than the other, as we pigeon fanciers go an apparently roundabout way often to obtain what we want to attain in colour, and yet there is almost a certainty in the method.
As regards the tortoiseshell cat, there is a distinct variety known to us cat fanciers as the tortoiseshell-tabby. This must not be confounded with the true variety, as it consists only of a variegation in colour of the yellow, the red, and the dark tabby, and is more in lines than patches, or patches of lines or spots. These are by no means ugly, and a well-marked, richly-coloured specimen is really very handsome. They may also be intermixed with white, and should be marked the same as the true tortoiseshell ; but in competition with the real tortoiseshell they would stand no chance whatever, and ought in my opinion to be disqualified as being wrong class, and be put in that for "any other colour."
The Brown Tabby Cat.
The tabby cat is doubtless one of, if not the most common of colours, and numbers many almost endless varieties of both tint and markings. Of these those with very broad bands of black, or narrow bands of black, on nearly a black ground, are usually called black tabby, and if the bands are divided into spots instead of being in continuous lines, then it is a spotted black tabby; but I purpose in this paper to deal mostly with the brown tabby-that is to say, a tabby, whose ground colour is of a very rich, orangey, dark brown ground, without any white, and that is evenly, proportionably, and not too broadly but elegantly marked on the face, head, breast, sides, back, belly, legs, and tail with bands of solid, deep, shining black. The front part of the head or face and legs, breast, and belly should have a more rich red orange tint than the back, but which should be nearly if not equal in depth of colour, though somewhat browner; the markings should be graceful in curve, sharply, well, and clearly defined, with fine deep black edges, so that the brown and black are clear and distinct the one from the other, not blurred in any way. The banded tabby should not be spotted in any way, excepting those few that nearly always occur on the face and sometimes on the fore-legs. The clearer, redder, and brighter the brown the better. The nose should be deep red, bordered with black; the eyes an orange colour, slightly diffused with green; in form the head should not be large, nor too wide, being rather longer than broad, so as not to give too round or clumsy an apperance; ears not large nor small, but of moderate size, and of good form; legs medium length, rather long than short, so as not to lose grace of action; body long, narrow, and deep towards the fore part. Tail long, and gradually tapering towards the point; feet round, with black claws, and black pads; yellowish-white around the black lips and brown whiskers are allowable, but orange.tinted are far preferable, and pure white should disqualify. A cat of this description is now somewhat rare. What are generally shown as brown tabbies are not sufficiently orange-brown, but mostly of a dark, brownish-gray. This is simply the ordinary tabby, and not the brown tabby proper.
As I stated in my notes on the Tortoiseshell cat, the best parents to obtain a good brown tabby from is to have a strongly marked, not too broad-banded tabby he-cat and a tortoiseshell she-cat with little black, or red tabby she-cat, the produce being, when tabby, generally of a rich brown, or sometimes what is termed black tabby, and also red tabby. The picture illustrating these notes is from one so bred, and is a particularly handsome specimen. There were two he-cats in the litter, one the dark-brown tabby just mentioned, which I named Aaron, and the other, a very fine red tabby, Moses. This last was even a finer animal than Aaron, being very beautiful in colour and very large in size; but he, alas! Like many others, was caught in wires set by poachers, and was found dead.
His handsome brother still survives, though no longer my property. The banded red tabby should be marked precisely the same as the brown tabby, only the bands should be of deep red on an orange ground, the deeper in colour the better; almost a chocolate on orange se very fine. The nose deep pink, as also the pads of the feet. The ordinary dark tabby the same way as the brown, and so also the blue or silver, only the ground colour should be of a pale, soft, blue colour - not the slightest tint of brown in it. The clearer, the lighter, and brighter the blue the better, bearing in mind always that the bands should be of a jet black, sharply and very clearly defined.
The word tabby was derived from a kind of taffeta, or ribbed silk, which when calendered or what is now termed 'watered', is by that process covered with wavy lines. This stuff, in bygone times, was often called 'tabby:' hence the cat with lines or markings on its fur was called a 'tabby' cat. But it might also, one would suppose, with as much justice, be called a taffety cat, unless the calendering of 'taffety' caused it to become 'tabby.' Certain it is that the word tabby only referred to the mark-ing or stripes, not to the absolute colour, for in 'Wit and Drollery' (1682), p. 343, is the following:-
'Her petticoat of satin,
Her gown of crimson tabby.'
Be that as it may, I think there is little doubt that the foregoing was the origin of the term. Yet it was also called the brinded cat, or the brindled cat, also tiger cat, with some the gray cat, graymalkin; but I was rather unprepared to learn that in Norfolk and Suffolk it is called a Cyprus cat. 'Why Cyprus cat?' quoth I. 'I do not know,' said my informant. 'All I know is, that such is the case.'
So I referred to my Bailey's Dictionary of 1730, and there, 'sure enough,' was the elucidation; for I found that Cyprus was a kind of cloth made of silk and hair, showing wavy lines on it, and coming from Cyprus; therefore this somewhat strengthens the argument in favour of 'taffeta,' or 'tabby,' but it is still curious that the Norfolk and Suffolk people should have adopted a kind of cloth as that representing the markings and colour of the cat, and that of a different name from that in use for the cat-one or more counties calling it a 'tabby cat,' as regards colour, and the other naming the same as 'Cyprus'. I take this to be exceedingly interesting. How or when such naming took place I am at present unable to get the least clue, though I think form what I gather from one of the Crystal Palace Cat Show catalogues, that it must have been after 1597, as the excerpt shows that at that time the shape and colour was like a leopard's, which, of course, is spotted, and is always called the spotted leopard. (Since this I have learned that the domestic cat is said to have been brought from Cyprus by merchants, as also was the tortoiseshell. Cyprus is a colour, a sort of reddish-yellow tabby.)
However, I find Holloway, in his 'Dictionary of Provincialisms' (1839), gives the following:-
'Calimanco Cat, s. (calimanco, a glossy stuff), a tortoiseshell cat, Norfolk.'
Salmon, in 'The Compleat English Physician,' 1693, p. 326, writing of the cat, says: 'It is a neat and cleanly creature, often licking itself to keep it fair and clean, and washing its face with its fore feet; the best are such as of a fair and large kind and of an exquisite tabby color called Cyprus cats'.
The Spotted Tabby.
I have thought it best to give two illustrations of the peculiar markings of the spotted tabby, or leopard cat of some, as showing its distinctness from the ordinary and banded Tabby, one of my reasons being that I have, when judging at cat shows, often found excellent specimens of both entered in the 'wrong class', thereby losing all chance of a prize, though, if rightly entered, either might very possibly have taken honours. I therefore wish to direct particular attention to the spotted character of the markings of the variety called the 'spotted tabby'. It will be observed that there are no lines, but what are lines in other tabbies are broken up into a number of spots, and the more these spots prevail, to the exclusion of lines or bands, the better the specimen is considered to be. The varieties of the ground colour or tint on which these markings or spots are placed constitutes the name, such as black-spotted tabby or yellow-spotted tabby in she-cats being by far the most scarce. These should be marked with spots instead of bands, on the same ground colour as the red or yellow-banded tabby cat. In the former the ground colour should be a rich red, with spots of a deep, almost chocolate colour, while that of the yellow tabby may be a deep yellow cream, with yellowish-brown spots. Both are very scarce, and are extremely pretty. Any admixture of white is not allowable in teh class for yellow or red tabbies; such exhibit must be put into the class (should there be one, which is usually the case at large shows) for red or yellow and white tabies. This exhibitors will do well to make a note of.
There is a rich-coloured brown tabby hybrid to be seen at the Zoological Society Gardens in Regent's Park, between the wild cat of Bengal and a tabby she-cat. It is handsome, but very wild. These hybrids, I am told, will breed again with tame variety, or with others.
In the brown-spotted tabby, the dark gray-spotted tabby, the black-spotted tabby, the gray or the blue-spotted tabby, the eyes are best yellow or orange tinted, with the less of the green the better. The nose should be of a dark red, edged with black or dark brown, in the dark colours, or somewhat lighter colour in the gray or blue tabbies. The pads of the feet in all instances must be black. In the yellow and the red tabby the nose and the pads of the feet are to be pink. As regards the tail, that should have large spots on the upper and lower sides instead of being annulated, but this is difficult to obtain. It has always occurred to me that the spotted tabby is a much nearer approach to the wild English cat and some other wild cats in the way of colour than the ordinary broad-banded tabby. Those specimens of the crosses, said to be between the wild and domestic cat, that I have seen, have had a tendency to be spotted tabbies.
And these crosses were not infrequent in bygone times when the wild cats were more numerous than at present, as is stated to be the case by that reliable authority, Thomas Bewick. In the year 1873, there was a specimen shown at the Crystal Palace Cat Show, and also the last year or two there has been exhibited at the same place a most beautiful hybrid between the East Indian wild cat and the domestic cat. It was shown in the spotted tabby class, and won the first prize. The ground colour was a deep blackish-brown, with well-defined black spots, black pads to the feet, rich in colour, and very strong and powerfully made, and not by any means a sweet temper. It was a he-cat, ant though I have made inquiry, I have not been able to ascertain that any progeny has been reared from it, yet I have been informed that such hybrids between the Indian wild cat and the domestic cat breed freely.
I now come to the last variety of the tabby cat, and this can scarcely be called a tabby proper, as it is nearly destitute of markings, excepting sometimes on the legs and a broad black band along the back. It is mostly of a deep brown, ticked with black, somewhat resembling the back of a wild (only not so gray) rabbit. Along the centre of the back, from the nape of the neck to the tip of the tail, there is a band of black, very slightly interspersed with dark brown hairs. The inner sides of the legs and belly are more of a rufous-orange tint than the body, and are marked in some cases with a few dark patches; but they are best without these marks, and in the exhibition pens it is a point lost. The eyes are deep yellow, tinted with green; nose dark red, black-edged; ears rather small, dark brown, with black edges and tips; the pads of the feet are black. Altogether, it is a pretty and interesting variety. It has been shown under a variety of names, such as Russian, Spanish, Abyssinian, Hare cat. Rabbit cat, and some have gone so far as to maintain that it is a cross between the latter and a cat, proving very unmistakably there is nothing, however absurd or impossible, in animal or everyday life, that some people are not ready to credit and believe. A hybrid between the English wild cat and the domestic much resembles it, and I do not consider it different in any way, with the exception of its colour, from the ordinary tabby cat, from which I have seen kittens and adults bearing almost the same appearance. Some years ago when out rabbit-shooting on the South Downs, not far from Eastbourne, one of our party shot a cat of this colour in a copse not far from the village of Eastdean. He mistook it at first for a rabbit as it dashed into the underwood. It proved not to be wild, but belonged to one of the villagers, and was bred in the village. When the ground colour is light gray or blue, it is generally called chinchilla, to the fur of which animal the coat has a general resemblance. I have but little inclination to place it as a distinct, though often it is of foreign breed; such may be, though ours is merely a variety - and a very interesting one - of the ordinary tabby, with which its form, habits, temper, etc., seem fully to correspond; still several have been imported from Abyssinia all of which were precisely similar, and it is stated that this is the origin of the Egyptian cat that was worshipped so many centuries ago. The mummies of the cats I have seen in no case had any hair left, so that it was impossible to determine what colour they were. The imported cats are of stouter build than the English and less marked. These bred with an English tabby often give a result of nearly black, the back band extending very much down the sides, and the brown ticks almost disappearing, producing a rich and beautiful colouring.
I find there is yet another tint or colour of the tabby proper which I have not mentioned, that is to say, a cat marked with light wavy lines, and an exceedingly pretty one it is. It is very rare ; in fact, so much so that it has never had a class appropriated to it, and therefore is only admissible to or likely to win in the class "For Any Other Colour," in which class usually a number of very beautiful varieties are to be found, some of which I shall have occasion to notice further on. The colour, however, that I now refer to is often called the silver tabby, for want of a better name. It is this. The whole of the ground colour is of a most delicate silver-gray, clear and firm in tone, slightly blue if anything apart from the gray, and the markings thereon are but a little darker, with a tinge of lilac in them making the fur to look like an evening sky, rayed with light clouds. The eyes are orange-yellow, and when large and full make a fine contrast to the colour of the fur. The nose is red, edged with a lilac tint, and the pads of the feet and claws are black, or nearly so. The hair is generally very fine, short, and soft. Altogether it is most lovely, and well worthy of attention, forming, as it does, a beautiful contrast to the red, the yellow, or even the brown tabby. A turquoise ribbon about its neck will show to great advantage the delicate lilac tints of its coat, or, if a contrast is preferred, a light orange scarlet, or what is often called geranium colour, will perhaps give a brighter and more pleasing effect.
This is by no means so uncommon a colour in the long-haired cats, some of which are exquisite, and are certainly the acme of beauty in the way of cat colouring; but I must here remark that there is a vast difference in the way of disposition between these two light varieties, that of the former being far more gentle. In fact, I am of opinion that the short-haired cat in general is of a more genial temperament, more "cossetty," more observant, more quick in adapting itself to its surroundings and circumstances than its long-haired brother, and, as a rule, it is also more cleanly in its habits. Though at the same time I am willing to admit that some of these peculiarities being set aside, the long-haired cat is charmingly beautiful, and at the same time has a large degree of intelligence - in fact, much more than most animals that I know, not even setting aside the dog, and I have come to this conclusion after much long, careful, and mature consideration.
This of all, as it depends entirely on its comeliness, should be graceful and elegant in the outline of its form and also action, the head small, not too round nor thick, for this gives a clumsy, heavy apperance, but broad on the forehead, and gently tapering towards the muzzle, the nose small, tip even and pink, the ears rather small than large, and not too pointed, the neck slender, shoulders narrow and sloping backwards, loin full and long, legs of moderate length, tail well set on, long, broad at the base, and gradually tapering towards the end; the white should be the yellow-white, that is, the white of the colours, such as tortoiseshell, red tabby or blues, not the gray-white bred from the black, as these are coarser in the quality of the furs. The eye should be large, round, full, and blue. I noted this peculiarity of white when breeding white Cochins many years ago: those chickens that were black when hatched were a colder and harder white than those which were hatched buff. This colouring of white should be fully borne in mind when crossing colours in breeding, as the results are widely different from the two varieties. The whole colour yellow-white will not do to match with blue or gray, as it will assuredly give the wrong tinge or colour.
The eyes should be blue; green is a great defect; bright yellow is allowable, or what in horses is called 'wall eyes'. Orange gives a heavy appearance; but yellow will harmonise and look well with a gray-white. White cats with blue eyes are hardy. Mr. Timbs, in 'Things Not Generally Known', relates that even they are not so likely to be deaf as is suppsed, and mentions one of seventeen years old which retained its hearing faculties perfectly. Some specimens I have seen with one yellow eye and one blue; this is a most singular freak of nature, and to the best of my knowledge is not to be found among any of the other colours.
It is stated that one of the white horses recently presented by the Shah of Persia to the Emperor of Russia has blue eyes. I can scarcely credit this, but think it must be a true albino, with the gray-pink coloured eyes they generally have, or possibly the blue eye is that peculiar to the albino cat and horse, as I have never seen an albino horse or cat with pink eyes but a kind of opalesque colour, or what is termed 'wall eye'. No doubt many of my readers have observed the differences in the white of our horses, they mostly being the gray-white, with dark skin; but the purer white has a pink skin, and is much softer and elegant in appearance. It is the same with our white cats.
The Black Cat
It is often said "What's in a name?" the object, whatever it is, by any other would be the same, and yet there is much in a name; but this is not the question at issue, which is that of colour. Why should a black cat be thought so widely different from all others by the foolish, unthinking, and ignorant? Why, simply on account of its colour being black, should it have ascribed to it a numberless variety of bad omens, besides having certain necromantic power? In Germany, for instance, black cats are kept away from children as omens of evil, and if a black cat appeared in the room of one lying ill it was said to portend death. To meet a black cat in the twilight was held unlucky. In the "good old times" a black cat was generally the only colour that was favoured by men reported to be wizards, and also were said to be the constant companions of reputed witches, and in such horror and detestation were they then held that when the unfortunate creatures were illtreated, drowned, or even burned, very frequently we are told that their cats suffered martyrdom at the same time. It is possible that one of the reasons for such wild, savage superstition may have arisen from the fact of the larger amount of electricity to be found by friction in the coat of the black cat to any other; experiments prove there is but very little either in that of the white or the red tabby cat. Be this as it may, still the fact remains that, for some reason or other, the black cat is held by the prejudiced ignorant as an animal most foul and detestable, and wonderful stories are related of their actions in the dead of the night during thunderstorms and windy nights. Yet, as far as I can discover, there appears little difference either of temper or habit in the black cat distinct from that of any other colour, though it is maintained by many even to this day that black cats are far more vicious and spiteful and of higher courage, and this last I admit. Still, when a black cat is enraged and its coat and tail are well "set up," its form swollen, its round, bright, orange-yellow eye distended and all aglow with anger, it certainly presents to even the most impartial observer, to say the least of it, a most "uncanny" appearance. But, for all this, their admirers are by no means few; and, to my thinking, a jet-black cat, fine and glossy in fur and elegantly formed, certainly has its attractions; but I will refer to the superstitions connected with the black cat further on.
A black cat for show purposes should be of a uniform, intense black; a brown-black is richer than a blue-black. I mean by this that when the hair is parted it should show in the division a dark brown-black in preference to any tint of blue whatever. The coat or fur should be short, velvety, and very glossy. The eyes round and full, and of a deep orange colour; nose black, and also the pads of the feet; tail long, wide at the base, and tapering gradually towards the end. A long thin tail is a great fault, and detracts much from the merits it may otherwise possess. A good, deep, rich-coloured black cat is not so common as many may at first suppose, as often those that are said to be black show tabby markings under certain conditions of light; and, again, others want depth and richness of colour, some being only a very dark gray. In form it is the same as other short-haired cats, such as I have described in the white, and this brings me to the variety called "blue."
The Blue Cat
This is shown often under a number of names. It was at first shown as the Archangel cat, then Russian blue, Spanish blue, Chartreuse blue, and, lastly, and I know not why, the American blue. It is not, in my belief, a distinct breed, but merely a light-coloured form of the black cat. In fact, I have ascertained that one shown at the Crystal Palace, and which won many prizes on account of its beautiful blue colour slightly tinged with purple, was the offspring of a tabby and white she-cat and a black-and-white he-cat, and I have seen the same colour occur when bred from the cats usually kept about a farmhouse as a protection from rats and mice, though none of the parents had any blue colour.
Being so beautiful, and as it is possible in some places abroad it may be bred in numbers, I deemed it advisable, when making out the prize schedule, to give special prizes for this colour ; the fur being used for various purposes on account of its hue. A fine specimen should be even in colour, of a bluish-lilac tint, with no sootiness or black, and though light be firm and rich in tone, the nose and pads dark, and the eyes orange-yellow. If of a very light blue-gray, the nose and pads may be of a deep chocolate colour and the eyes deep yellow, not green. If it is a foreign variety, I can only say that I see no distinction in form, temper, or habit ; and, as I have before mentioned, it is sometimes bred here in England from cats bearing no resemblance to the bluish-lilac colour, nor of foreign extraction or pedigree. I feel bound, however, to admit that those that came from Archangel were of a deeper, purer tint than the English cross-breeds; and on reference to my notes, I find they had larger ears and eyes, and were larger and longer in the head and legs, also the coat or fur was excessively short, rather inclined to woolliness, but bright and glossy, the hair inside the ears being shorter than is usual in the English cat.
The Black-And-White Cat
This is distinct from the white-and-black cat, the ground colour being black, marked with white; while the other is white, marked with black. The chief points of excellence for show purposes are a dense bright brown-black, evenly marked with white. Of this I give an illustration, showing the most approved way in which the white should be distributed, coming to a point between the eyes. The feet should be white, and the chest, the nose, and the pads white. No black on the lips or nose, whiskers white, eyes of orange yellow. Any black on the white portions is highly detrimental to its beauty and its chance of a prize.
The same markings are applicable to the brown tabby and white, the dark tabby and white, the red tabby and white, the yellow tabby and white, the blue or silver tabby and white, and the blue and white. One great point is to obtain a perfectly clear and distinct gracefully-curved outline of colour, and this to be maintained throughout; the blaze on the forehead to be central. It is stated that if a dog has white anywhere, he is sure to have a white tip to his tail, and I think, on observation, it will be found usually the case, although this is not so in the cat, for I cannot call to mind a single instance where a black-and-white had a white tip to its tail; but taking the various colours of the domestic cat into consideration I think it will be found that there is a larger number with some white about them than those of entirely one colour, without even a few white hairs, which if they appear at all are mostly to be found on the chest, though they often are exceedingly few in number.
The White-And-Black Cat
This differs entirely from the black-and-white cat, as just explained, and is the opposite as regards colour, the ground being white instead of black, and the markings black on white. For exhibition purposes and points of excellence, no particular rule exists beyond that the exhibit shall be evenly marked, with the colour distributed so as to balance, as, for example:-If a cat has a black patch just under one eye with a little above, the balance of colour would be maintained if the other eye had a preponderance of colour above instead of below, and so with the nose, shoulders, or back, but it would be far better if the patches of colour were the same size and shape, and equal in position. It might be that a cat evenly marked on the head had a mark on the left shoulder with more on the right, with a rather larger patch on the right side of the loin, or a black tail would help considerably to produce what is termed "balance," though a cat of this description would lose if competing against one of entirely uniform markings.
I have seen several that have been marked in a very singular way. One was entirely white, with black ears. Another white, with a black tail only. This had orange eyes, and was very pretty. Another had a black blaze up the nose, the rest of the animal being white. This had blue eyes, and was deaf. Another had the two front feet black, all else being white; the eyes were yellow-tinted green. All these, it will be observed, were perfect in the way they were marked.
I give an illustration of a cat belonging to Mr. S. Lyon, of Crewe. It is remarkable in more ways than one, and in all probability, had it been born in "the dark ages" a vast degree of importance would have been attached to it, not only on account of the peculiar distribution of the colour and its form, but also as to the singular coincidence of its birth. The head is white, with a black mark over the eyes and ears which, when looked at from above, presents the appearance of a fleur-de-lis. The body is white, with a distinct black cross on the right side, or, rather, more on the back than side. The cross resembles that known as Maltese in form, and is clearly defined. The tail is black, the legs and feet white. Nor does the cat's claim to notice entirely end here, for, marvellous to relate, it was born on Easter Sunday, A.D. 1886. Now, what would have been said of such a coincidence had this peculiar development of Nature occurred in bygone times? There is just the possibility that the credulous would have "flocked" to see the wondrous animal from far and near; and even now, in these enlightened times, I learn from Mr. Lyon that the cat is not by any means devoid of interest and attraction, for, as he tells me, a number of persons have been to see it, some of whom predict that "luck" will follow, and that he and his household will, in consequence, doubtless enjoy many blessings, and that all things will prosper with him accordingly.
Although my remarks are directed to "the white-and-black" cat, the same will apply to the "white-and-red, white-and-yellow, white-and-tabby, white-and-blue, or dun colour;" all these, and the foregoing, will most probably have to be exhibited in the "Any Other Colour" class, as there is seldom one at even the largest shows for peculiar markings with white as the ground or principal colour.