DOMESTIC HYBRIDS WITH BOBCAT AND LYNX
The Bobcat (F Rufus) will mate with domestic cats and there are several breeds that have claimed to be descended from such matings; none have stood the scrutiny of genetic testing. Although the two species may mate they do not seem to be interfertile. As the pure bobcat isn't amenable to being kept as a domestic pet so owners have been tempted by cats that claim to combine the bobcat appearance with the domestic cat temperament.
In a detailed study of the wild bobcat published in 1958, Stanley Young wrote of an apparently successful mating between a male Bobcat and a domestic cat at Sandy Creek, Texas during 1949. The offspring were observed by several persons in the area.
Young also mentioned a similar occurrence in 1954 in South Dakota where a black female domestic cat mated with a wild male Bobcat. In June 1954 she produced seven kittens as a result of this mating. Three kittens had bobtails, large feet, tufted ears and were light grey in colour, speckled with black dots on the belly, legs and sides. The ears were larger than usual, and hard and stiff with quarter inch ear tufts. Unfortunately on 27th June they were killed by a marauding domestic tomcat when less than a month old. The details of this 2nd case do not stand up to modern scrutiny. 4 of the alleged hybrid kittens were black and resembled domestic kittens except for having larger feet. As solid black is a recessive trait not found in bobcats, these kittens had to have been wholly domestic and not hybrids.
JS Gashwiler, WL Robinette and OW Morris (1961) described a litter of 5 kittens where 2 resembled domestic cats and 3 resembled bobcats. The bobcat-like kittens were shorthaired with tufted ears and white bellies with black spots. All 5 kittens were very wild. As adults, the alleged hybrids resembled dark coloured bobcats, but were little bigger than domestic tomcats.
The Long Island Ocelot Club newsletter of September 1966 mentioned that cross breeding between lynx rufus and F catus was not new its members and that Richard and Jeanne English of Emporia, Kansas (and later of Los Angeles) had a 9.5 year old male part-bobcat called Gabby. Gabby was mentioned again in 1970.
In his book "A Cat Is Watching", Roger Caras documented a case of a presumed bobcat hybrid. The cat's personality quirks included a liking for licking gold (e.g. Mrs Caras's wedding ring). The cat was obtained as a stray and it was believed that someone in the region was mating bobcats to domestics to produce bobtailed cats. In a volume on cat breeds, American Bobtail breeder Rose Estes was quoted as saying that bobcats were more likely to mate with oestrus Siamese females than with other breeds. At the time of those accounts (1980s), the American Bobtail was claimed to be a bobcat hybrid.
Lex Cooper in Seattle, Washington, believes she had two bobcat/domestic hybrids in the late 1980's through the 1990's although this is based on observation and no DNA analyses were available at the time. She acquired the cats from a woman on Vashon Island who owned had a female bobcat that have been found as a 5 week old kitten. She contacted the State Wildlife office and was advised that she could rear and keep it so she raised it as a pet and called it "Bobbie". Bobbie was quite tame, but it was still necessary to be careful around her as she retained bobcat instincts and behaviours despite being raised as a pet. Her fur had the "flat" feeling of a wild bobcat and she resembled a feline jack rabbit with her very long back legs. Bobbie was large, probably around 25 to 30 lbs in weight. Lex's first kitten, Baby, (from Bobbie and, one presumes, a domestic cat male) looked like a tabby, had a regular tail and very long back legs. She was very sweet-natured and loved fruit. She made bobcat-like chattering sounds in response to be talked to. Baby died in 1999 from kidney problems. Lex's second apparent hybrid from Bobbie was a grey tabby male named Duke. Duke was huge with very muscular back legs and a slightly curled bobbed tail. Sadly he was killed by a car aged only 6 years. There is no further information on the males that sired Bobbie's kittens or on any other kittens.
In March 2011, Rex Trulove claimed that bobcats and domestic cats could hybridize. He cited Dr. McFadden, DMV, "There is no physical reason bobcats and house cats can't breed, except maybe size. Distribution to produce the opportunity, though, may be a different matter." This ignored the number of observed (arranged) matings between bobcats and domestic cats in captivity and the resulting lack of offspring. Domestic cats have hybridized with much larger wild species – the serval and caracal – producing offspring. Oregon Fish and Wildlife had a number of documented cases of alleged cross breeding in their files. The operative word is alleged – these were based on the appearance of the cats or kittens and the presence of bobcats in the area. One such case was that of George Woodley who discovered a small, grey tiger-striped cat under his porch. Despite its wildness, Woodley managed to take the six to nine week-old kitten indoors. Based on two characteristics - long ear tufts at the tips of the ears and a very short Manx-like tail – it bore some resemblance to a bobcat. At six months old, “Tiger” was taken to the vet for vaccinations and the (unnamed) vet allegedly took one look at Tiger and proclaimed him to be a three month old bobcat mix. The vet claimed to have treated many bobcat-house cat mixed breeds from the same area. While Woodley’s vets would have been highly skilled at treating cats, he fell into the trap of identifying a purported hybrid based on looks alone. Tiger grew into a large, muscular cat, the size of a medium-sized dog (no measurements appear to exist defining exactly what a medium-sized dog was).
One particular point in this account does not withstand scrutiny. Woodley took in the kitten at around 2 – 2.5 months old. He took him for neutering at a supposed 6 months old which would have meant Tiger had spent 3.5 months as a pet, yet the vet said he was 3 months old. In the 1980s, when Tiger had developed rectal cancer, tests apparently proved him to be half-bobcat. Secondly, at that time, DNA testing was not sufficiently well-developed to detect bobcat markers; it would take another 10+ years for tests to be refined to specicially detect bobcat genes. The fact that bobcat-domestic hybrids are only rarely produced, despite observed matings, suggests that some mechanism prevents bobcat sperm from fertilizing a domestic cat egg. Perhaps the proteins on the coating of the egg do not allow the bobcat sperm to penetrate into the nucleus to fertilize it. The PixieBob, has an extremely bobcatty appearance despite having no bobcat heritage – it has the ear tufts, the short tail and the mutton-chop whiskers. Until DNA testing was performed, it was believed to be a natural bobcat hybrid, and this may well have been the case with Tiger. In the absence of modern genetic testing, Tiger remains an unconfirmed hybrid and it still remains the case that there have been no confirmed bobcat-domestic hybrids.
The alleged bobcat hybrid breeds are the "American Lynx" (and related "Lynx" breeds), "American Bobtail" and the polydactylous "Pixie-Bob" (no genetic evidence of hybridization). The American Bobtail started with a male bobtail kitten found in Arizona in the 1960's. Bobcat ancestry was suspected because of the tail and the overall look. American bobtails bred to the TICA standard generally resemble a Maine Coon/Siamese mix with longer hind legs, raised rump and a bobtail that is variable in length. The CFA standard for the American Bobtail (2000) resembles the previously established TICA standard for the Pixie-Bob in requiring a wild-looking spotted cat. American Bobtails from different breed-lines have diverged along a CFA/TICA split. Early on, some Pixie-Bob and American Bobtail breeders shared their breeding cats resulting in long-term bad feeling between Bobtail breeders and the founder of the Pixie-Bob. In general, American Bobtails are unmistakably domestic cats and come in a range of domestic cat colours.
The Long Island Ocelot Club Newsletter May/June 1997 carried the following letter, which assumed the breed and the "legend Cats" really were bobcat hybrids: The primary reason for endangerment of the European Wildcat and the Scottish wildcat is hybridization with domestic cats, i.e., with each of these subspecies, their wild genes are being diluted when they hybridize with free-ranging domestics. These hybrids further compete with the true subspecies representatives, accelerating the spiral to extinction. This is especially relevant to one article you sent me on pixiebobs. The "breed" is depicted as a "natural hybridization" which is an incorrect label. Domestic cats were introduced into North America by humans and so are not a naturally occurring species. Thus, the occasional bobcat x domestic cross is in no way natural, but instead a very real cause of population decline in some species. However, with feral cats outnumbering bobcats by 75:1 and reports of 25 lb ferals, the wild father of "Legend Cats" (supposed natural bobcat hybrids) is more likely to be a feral that has survived by dint of size and strength. So far no-one has successfully crossed a bobcat and a domestic in captivity. Even when a mating happened there were no offspring. If it was feasible in the wild, the bobcat gene pool would be hopelessly mongrelised with domestic cat genes by now, just as is happening with the Scottish Wildcat.
In the 1980's, Carol Ann Brewer in rural Washington claims to have come across natural bobcat/domestic hybrids known as Legend Cats. The story was along the lines that a bobcat was seen loitering in the area and 65 days later one of the doemstic female cats produced kittens with a passing resemblance to a bobcat. The name came from a female called Pixie that produced such a litter. The extra toes came from polydactyl foundation females. The shaggy fur and muscular build added to the bobcatty look.
Two of Brewer's early "hybrids" tested positive for "wild genes", something reflected in early advertising. However the early genetic tests were notoriously unreliable and recent tests have failed to find any bobcat markers in the breed. The rest of Brewer's alleged hybrids showed no wild genes. Jungle cat hybrids were introduced into the breed early on and it may have been their genes, not bobcat genes, picked up by the early tests. Brewer's claims of the cats being hybrids is at odds with their registration as wholly domestic breeds, but though her Pixie-Bob website makes frequent mention of bobcats, it is careful not to claim they are part bobcat. Brewer admits that a Pixie-bob breeder in Alaska, and some others, used Bengals in the mix. After After TICA initially recognized the PixieBob, there was an open registry and Jungle cat hybrids (with short tails!), Bengals, American Bobtails, Japanese Bobtails, part-tailed Manx and even Maine Coons may have been registered as PixieBobs along with Legend Cats of unknown ancestry. A Jungle Cat cat hybrid called, El Gato del Oro, became a hugely prizewinning Pixie-Bob. The developing PixieBob breed was said to be a convenient way for some Chausie breeders to register or offload their spotted variants.
The bobcat heritage of both the American Bobtail and the Pixie-Bob is anecdotal and based on their appearance; genetic analysis has thus far failed to find any bobcat genes and these are classed as wholly domestic cats. American Bobtail breeders no longer had sole claim to the bobcat myth once the shaggy, spotted PixieBobs and the trademarked of Legend Cats came along. However the PixieBob still didn't look enough like a bobcat in colour or size, nor did the CFA's spotted interpretation of the American Bobtail or the multicoloured TICA equivalent. Consumers wanted something big, spotted, bobcatty and domestic. Along came the Desert Lynx which were larger and even closer in looks to the bobcat. In early advertising, the American Lynx claimed up to 25% bobcat blood (i.e. quarter bobcat) and the Desert Lynx 12.5% (Bobcat within 3 generations), but bobcat markers have not been identified in its genes and these, and related breeds, are classed as wholly domestic. Bobcat blood, if it was ever present at all, is now too dilute to be detected.
Although it was speculated that the Desert Lynx breed group (American Lynx, Desert Lynx, Highland Lynx, Alpine Lynx and Mohave Bob) was derived from bobcat crosses DNA testing has not confirmed bobcat ancestry. These cats are therefore considered wholly domestic by registries. Some early claims for the breeds suggested the percentage of bobcat blood. American Lynx were derived from supposed bobcat hybrids bred in Arizona. Desert Lynx have the addition of short-tailed domestic cats. Highland Lynx are derived from Desert Lynx and Jungle Curl crosses and are curl-eared versions of the Desert Lynx and have Jungle cat genes. Some Desert Lynx breeders introduced Jungle Cats or Bengals to ensure a spotted breed. Maine Coons, with their size, rugged look, shaggy fur and tufted ears, enhanced the lynx-like look. The genetic mix included Legend Cats, PixieBobs, American Bobtails and Manx, all of which have short or bobbed tails.
The Alpine Lynx is a white variety that traces back to two kittens born to a silver-and-white barn cat in the Turtle Mountains, North Dakota near the Manitoba border. The kittens were larger and wilder than normal and there were no pure white male domestic cats in the area. There was a white bobcat known as Witte Wolk ("White Cloud" in Dutch). These were bred to Highland Lynx and therefore can have curled ears as well as polydactyl paws. The cats are not albino, but carry the dominant white gene (properly termed epistatic white). Sceptics have noted that the dominant white gene can only have come from a free-roaming white domestic cat as all white bobcats examined have been albinos (a recessive gene).
The Mohave Bob breed is a rexed Desert Lynx developed by crossing Desert Lynx with Selkirk Rex to introduced the rexed coat type. Both longhaired and shorthaired varieities exist. The conformation is essentially that of the Desert Lynx: intelligent, large-boned, muscular cats with longer hind legs, tufted ears and possibly tufted toes. It has large, wide-set ears on a broad head with a broad, pronounced muzzle and wide-set eyes with heavy brows. The tail varies from absent, as in the Manx cat, to a hock-length bobtail. A natural short tail is preferred. The preferred patterns are tawny (ticked tabby with tabby pencillings on face, barring on legs and tail and sometimes necklaces), leopard (spotted/rosetted), and clouded leopard (a marbled pattern) although solids and classic or mackerel tabbies also occur. Silver series, sepias (Burmese colour restriction), minks (Tonkinese colour restriction) and snows (colourpoints) also occur and the eye colour matches the colour. The patterns occur in all colours except for tortoiseshell or bicolour. There may be a faint spotted pattern on tawny (ticked) individuals.
Mohave Bobs, Highland Lynx, Desert Lynx, and Alpine Lynx may be bred together, with offspring registered according to their appearance. Solid white offspring with either straight or curled coats and either straight or curled ears are considered Alpine Lynx. Non-white kittens with rexed coats are considered Mohave Bobs. Non-white kittens with straight coats and straight ears are considered Desert Lynx. Non-white kittens with straight coats and curled ears are considered Highland Lynx. As curled ears and white colour are both dominant traits, there is no danger of these occurtring as unwanted recessive traits in other Lynx varieties within the Desert Lynx grouping.
Until recently there has been no definitive genetic test for bobcat genes in a domestic cat. Dr Joy Halverson at Zoogen Labs is now conducting genetic testing for bobcat genes in domestic cats. Although hybrids of domestic cats with other small cats have been proven through captive breeding and upheld by testing the offspring for the markers of the two parents, bobcat hybrids seem to rely on anecdotal evidence as the bobcat parent is generally wild-roaming or the mating was several generations previously. Though there are claims of captive breeding and a few photos showing captive bobcats apparently mating with domestics, there is no firm evidence. Cats ovulate following mating and may mate with multiple males during oestrus. Where kittens have resulted these may have been sired not by the observed bobcat mating, but by subsequent domestic tomcats. Because the speculated first generation hybrids come from domestic females mated with bobcats, the mitochondrial DNA is wholly domestic (it is inherited from the mother only).
On the other hand, bobcat-hybrid breeders can still claim benefit of the doubt because current genetic tests can only prove a kitten is the offspring of two known cats rather than simply detecting wildcat genes (for example, even in known chaus hybrids, chaus genetic markers could not be identified). If bobcat hybrids occurred naturally, the bobcat would lose its distinctive looks due to interbreeding with the more numerous feral cat in just the same way the Scottish Wildcat is becoming increasingly mongrelized. Mapping of the feline genome and more refined genetic testing will eventually answer the question. Meanwhile, bobcat hybrids may be possible but very, very rare compared to other hybrids, and domestic cats that resemble bobcats appear to be due to natural selection among feral cats or artificial selection by breeders.
The looks of the North American Bobcat has tempted some people into keeping it as a pet. On the one hand they are playful and curious, but on the other they are aggressive towards other animals and frequently spray foul-smelling urine (on people as well as its territory) as well as being prone to biting and scratching the handler. In the USA in 2008 a shopping mall Santa posing with people's pets was mauled by a pet bobcat. The owner then claimed it was a PixieBob and half-Bobcat, half-housecat (a claim printed by NBC) while TV news referred to it as 90% bobcat. Given the lack of substantiated bobcat hybrids, this was probably an illegally owned bobcat (hybrids being legal in the state).
In cryptozoological circles, alien big cat writer Nigel Brierly incorrectly suggested that the Maine Coon breed of domestic cat is a hybrid between domestic cats and the Lynx (native to North America). This is incorrect and is unnecessarily alarming. The Maine Coon's size, build and shaggy appearance are due to natural selection for a rugged build and protective coat by fierce New England winters. There are no confirmed hybrids between the Lynx and domestic cats and there would almost certainly be a similar size difference/gestation period difference to that encountered in serval hybrids. There is only anecdotal data on lynx hybrids.
The Maine Coon is a naturally occurring domestic cat descended from cats imported by colonists. Despite myths about its origins, it is not a hybrid with either the lynx or the bobcat any more than it is a cat/racoon hybrid. Claims regarding its size are frequently exaggerated by journalists. Some males can reach 25 lb, but most do not exceed 18 lb (except for obese individuals). In general, Maine Coons have gentle temperaments. Brierly's concerns included the danger to the Brown Hare in the UK. The Maine Coon is probably less of a threat to hares than are hare-coursing (with greyhounds) and hunting with hounds (with beagles or harriers). Brierly's sources were a lady from Maine whose Maine Coon had been destroyed after it had badly bitten her young child, and a Maine Coon in a multi-cat household where it bullied the other cats. Having read that they can grow to over 20 lbs he concluded they were not ideal pets. In the former case, the owner had passed on one of the Maine Coon myths and the child possibly provoked the cat once too many times (behavioural problems are a major cause of euthanasia in the USA). In the latter case, the "vicious" Maine Coon may be reacting to overcrowding. His views were, therefore, based on two cats and a myth rather than on more detailed research into the breed, its traits and its origins.
To breed a cat/lynx hybrid, the two would need to be raised together otherwise the lynx would view the smaller domestic cat as prey. Gestational mismatch would present similar problems to those encountered by Savannah breeders (see Fertility Issues. Even if a lynx had mated with a cat in the early days of the Maine Coon, this would have been more than 200 years ago and generations of selective breeding would have eradicated any of the lynx's wild temperament (Maine Coons were well established by the 1800s and exhibited at cat shows as early as 1861). The Maine Coon is not a hybrid and is no more dangerous to humans or wildlife than any other domestic cat.
K Ackerman (1898) wrote that hybridization between the domestic cat and European Lynx (F lynx) has been alleged. All reported Lynx hybrids have been based on circumstantial evidence.
The Domestic Lynx breed claims to be a cross of domestic cats with Bobcats and Canadian lynxes developed in the USA in the 1980s. There are no autheticated cases of Bobcat-domestic hybrids or of Lynx-domesic-hybrids. It is a domestic cat resembling the Bobcat or Canadian Lynx or Jungle Cat (Felis chaus). It is described as a large cat with high cheekbones, an angular muzzle, broad nose, strong chin and powerful jaws. It has hind legs slightly longer than forelegs and tufts of hair between the paw pads. The tail ranges from 10 cm to hock-length. Coat is short to semilong; longer on the belly and thighs, and is thick and silky with a heavy, water-resistant undercoat. A ruff or beard is preferred. Bred in all eumelanistic colors (black, blue, cinnamon, fawn, chocolate, lilac - including colourpoint versions of these) including combination with the silver factor for spotted and ticked patterns only. The legs are striped or spotted. Well-defined belly spots. The tail is ringed with a black tip. Red, cream and tortoiseshell are not accepted. The snow version is colourpointed with blue eyes and a light, spotted body. White markings are not acceptable.
Although there are adverts for such cats, it is not listed by any registry, including the Rare & Exotic Feline Registry (REFR) where the "Lynx" breeds of cats are registered. The description and colour varieties are akin to the American Bobtail.
In 2002 I was contacted by someone who had a acquired a Bengal x Canadian Lynx (i.e. wild Lynx) hybrid from a breeder who was using a Canadian Lynx sire on female Bengals. So far, I have no confirmation that the cat, a male, is a genuine lynx hybrid although it is described as having lynx-like features and to be temperamental and liable to claw its owner. Disturbingly the cat was sold as a domestic pet. If this pet is a genuine first generation Lynx/Bengal hybrid then it is irresponsible of the breeder to sell it as a pet to an owner who was unprepared for its non-domestic temperament. First generation wild/domestic crosses do not generally have domestic temperaments and are rarely suitable as domestic pets.
In December 2004, I received information about another claimed lynx x domestic cat hybrid born in July 2004. The sire was allegedly a full-blood Canadian Lynx and her dam a Bengal mix. Information from several other sources and further investigations disputed her ancestry, claiming that the supposed sire had been deceased for over a year prior to the cat's birth and had also been neutered. Independent sources, and the supposed hybrid's own appearance, indicate that the true sire was a jungle cat (hence the wild look). DNA testing for lynx markers was not available and the cat has since been spayed.In January 2004, I received an email from Crystal Feier regarding an apparent domestic/Lynx hybrid owned by her family when she was younger. Though the ancestry of the cat cannot be confirmed, the account is interesting. Crystal's father was given a very unusual kitten ("Pedro") by a friend whose Persian female was believed to have mated with a Lynx or other wildcat common to the North Carolina Appalachian Mountain region. The owner had taken the Persian with him to a mountain cabin and the cat had come on heat. He had let her outside, believing nothing could breed with her, there being no other domestic cats apparent in the area. However, the cat became pregnant and produced two male kittens. Unfortunately the female died while kittening because the kittens were large and caused haemorrhaging. Crystal's father hand-reared Pedro, while the owner of the Persian hand-reared the other kitten. Pedro survived, but the other cat died at around 4 months old, possibly from problems related to hybrid origins. Although no mating was witnessed, the kittens' father was believed to have been a Northern Lynx, these being relatively common in the Appalachians, or possibly a Bobcat (see section above).
The only photo of Pedro has been in Crystal's father's wallet for over 20 years and is in poor shape. Crystal writes: "It is kind of hard to tell Pedro's size from the picture - until you take a regular housecat and put them around your shoulders that way, or compare a human's head size to a reguar housecat's. You can also see some of his coloration, although not that well - in the winter he was white but in the summer he developed different markings. You can't see the ear tufts here either, but he did have them. "
Pedro was huge for a cat. When he stretched out to sleep on windowsills, his hindquarters were barely supported on one end and his head hung off the other. His colouring changed in the winter when he grew his winter coat. He had a fierce temperament and was possessive of Crystal's father (not unusual for a hand-reared kitten). He also reacted adversely to the colour black and once bit through Crystal's mother's toe one night when she wore a black night-gown to bed. Her mother left the nightgown in a corner when she went to hospital and Pedro urinated all over it. Apart from attacks provoked by black garments, Pedro was apparently devoted to his immediate family and tolerant of the children. If a baby was left on a blanket in the floor, Pedro would pace around the blanket and not allow anyone except the baby's parents to touch the child. He was extremely devoted to Crystal's father and allowed him to clip his claws and bathe him. Crystal remembers trying to climb on Pedro's back as a very small child; Pedro just lay down and waited until she got tired of the game.
Pedro was aggressive (probably territorial) towards dogs and neutered cats and would fight and kill both. He was attempted to mate any unneutered female he found. As a result of his antisocial and often vicious behaviour, the local police required him to be restrained or confined. Since Pedro had managed to break windows to get outside, he had to be tied to a cinderblock in the yard to slow him down enough that the other animals had a chance to escape. Although this sounds cruel, it was the only way to restrain a large cat that was capable of harming humans. Antisocial behaviour towards other cats can be related to hand-rearing, but in this case may have been inherited from a wildcat father. Certainly his size, strength and wildness are suggestive of a captive lynx and there were manageability problems comparable to those for a captive wild animal.
Interestingly for a supposed hybrid, Pedro was fertile. Crystal's grandmother owned a Persian named Booboo (who was a polydactyl due to inbreeding). Pedro and Booboo were mated, resulting in three litters. The maximum litter size was three kittens. Two litters were delivered naturally, but the third required a caeserian and Booboo was spayed at the same time. The kittens were intelligent, friendly and grew into abnormally large cats. There are no details of whether these kittens were bred and their presumed lynx genes spread further in the domestic cat population. Crystal remarked that many people are attracted to the notoriety of owning a first-cross hybrid cat, but it takes a lot of energy to tame and train such an animal as it largely takes after the wild parent. Pedro displayed more of his presumed wild genes than his domestic ones and could have been very dangerous if he had not been hand-reared. In many regions, first cross hybrids are classed as wild animals and must be housed and controlled as for a purebred wild animal.
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