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. No modern alleged Bobcat-domestic hybrid has been proven by DNA testing. The Pixie-Bob and the "Lynx" breeds registered with REFR have been proven to be 100% domestic cat (confirmed by DNA testing). There are numerous videos online that purport to be Bobcat hybrids, but are either REFR Lynx breeds, Pixie-Bob or even Maine Coons. A few claim to have submitted DNA to UC Davis or other universities confirming Bobcat genes, but independent enquiries with the universities say no Bobcat markers have been found in any alleged hybrids.
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.
I found this account of purported bobcat hybrids in CATS Magazine, USA, April 1960 “Stubby, The Part Bobcat by N. P. Kenoyer of Cupertino, California. I’ve taken the most relevant quotes from the original article and from a follow-up letter in the June 1960 issue of the same magazine.
“It was early evening when we heard the unmistakable howl of Tabbette, our dark, striped cat. We rushed outside to see what neighbor’s tomcat was courting our pet. We stopped short when we saw the two animals. It was not a neighbor’s tom. The two cats faced each other, snarling and howling. Tabbette hugged the ground, her ears laid back tight against her head and her lips pressed against her teeth. This attitude was not unusual for her during this period, but her new, determined, prospective mate was. He was a young Bobcat, long-legged, slim-bodied with a mixture of stripes and spots running down his legs. His short tail stood out straight with anger. Tabbette didn’t appear to be afraid. Then we watched this strange mating and afterwards Tabbette ran to the house and settled herself on the doorstep. The Bobcat started to follow, saw us, hesitated, and then turned and disappeared into the shrubs close by the house.
Two months later Tabbette had five dark, tabby, stubby-tailed kittens. Some were tinged with reddish fur running along the soft undersides of their bellies. The tails were of different lengths but all bobbed. Their hind legs were unusually long and powerful and it became more apparent when they were old enough to run about. They hopped like rabbits except when they ran. There were tiny tufts of hair at each ear tip. They froze in cautious stance when startled. But they were deeply affectionate and wanted to spend all their time with us. They acted more like dogs than cats. They didn’t even meow like a domestic cat. Their purr was heavy and deep-toned and they growled as they played. They began to hunt even before they lost their kitten roundness. We had no trouble finding homes for these little half-breeds. We kept a male kitten which we named Stubby.
Stubby grew fast. By the time he was a year old he stood fourteen inches high and weighed ten pounds. He had a daily routine which he followed like a time clock. He was early for breakfast, eating little but always consuming a full saucer of milk. He loved cookies and crackers and would leave meat if he heard the sound of the cookie jar lid. He was fond of our boxer dogs and they liked him. If the dogs napped he always found them and curled up close to their warm bodies. He would sleep all day but he wanted out at night. He ranged between our barn and that of our neighbor’s. He kept both places free of mice.
Stubby dispatched every tomcat who came within his boundaries. Our neighbor put food out for him but couldn’t come within twenty feet without Stubby’s racing away in the direction of home. Yet, he liked people, if they were in our house. Visitors could expect to find him on their laps as soon as they sat down. But, away from the house he would scream if cornered and his appearance was wild. However, the boys could pick him up anywhere. He chose our neighbor’s Persian cat for a mate and soon there was a litter of short-tailed kittens. Stubby influenced the kittens with his conformation and disposition. Everyone who saw Stubby wanted one of his kittens.
June 1960: One of Stubby’s daughters, a grey Longhair Persian with a stubby tail, just had five kittens sired by him. Two are very short-tailed and three have tails that will be about four or five inches in length when mature. Three of them are males and two of those are already sold. They are such marvelous mousers and such characters.”
Several factors point to the cats being bobtailed, but not bobcat-hybrids. Firstly they are perfect classic tabbies – a recessive pattern. This means both parents had to have carried the classic tabby pattern – therefore both parents were domestic cats. The second is that a male offspring sired kittens. Had he been a hybrid, he would have been infertile. Most likely, the supposed “young bobcat” that mated Tabbette was a bobtailed cat.
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.
The following is from “The merry Pet” column of The Idaho State Journal, Friday 27th June 1975. Although it describes an encounter of bobcat and an apparently free-roaming female cat, there was no definitive proof of the offspring being hybrids since the domestic cat could also have mated with domestic toms. As the “answer” says – cases needed to be scientifically documented.
Question; I am writing about one of your columns "Breeding Bobcat with House Cat a Wild Affair.” Your answer contained the statement that it had never been done. In the interest of science, I wish to correct it. Some eight years ago I was visiting my family in Quanah, Texas, and had taken my dachshund to my brother, a veterinarian, for an annual rabies shot. While holding the dog on the metal table a large “cat,” a bit larger than the dog (weight 19 pounds) jumped up on the table with the dog, exhibiting a playful intent. I looked at the "cat” and noticed tufts near the cars, markings similar to a bobcat, and a short, stubby tail. I remarked that the animal looked like a bobcat. My brother told me that it was one-half bobcat and one-half domestic cat.
A rancher had called my brother (from a ranch near Foard City or Truscott, Texas) and asked him if such a cross-breeding was possible since he had seen his cat with a bobcat. My brother told him that he had not heard of such cross-breeding but, if "kittens” resulted he would like a member of the litter. Some weeks later the rancher delivered the “cat” to my brother at his clinic in Quanah. The animal was quite popular and had grown to maturity when I first saw it. It was a male, I believe. My brother said that the “cat” was very playful but would thoroughly enjoy serious encounters with the dogs if the dogs wanted a fight. The next time I visited my brother he told me that the “cat” had disappeared. He felt that the animal had been stolen since it was quite tame but not given to lengthy absences.
Answer; Thank you and several others for interesting case histories. Wow if we could get a few documented and into the scientific literature, the entire matter would be solved. After all, they said a Liger couldn’t happen either until he was born in The Salt Lake City Zoo! All members of the family Felidae have 38 chromosomes except the ocelot and margay which have 36. Theoretically, hybrids of any of the family with like chromosomes are possible. Apparently hybrids of domestic cats and bobcats have occurred. I’m afraid even to rule out the margay and ocelot for fear someone will produce a ringtailed bocelot to rewrite medical history and another one of my columns!
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 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 2014 and 2015, an alleged bobcat hybrid hit the news. His story was documented in the Asbury Park Press. Rocky had been in the news regularly during the course of the previous year, especially since he was loose for 12 days from March to April. His disappearance then spawned questions about Rocky’s parentage and prompted Judge Murray to order a DNA test on the animal to determine the species of his father after officials with the Division of Fish and Wildlife went to him with their suspicions that the animal was pure bobcat and required a state permit to keep him. By July 2014, Rocky had escaped 4 times despite improvements to his enclosure. On at least one occasion he had to be darted to recapture him.
Rocky was owned by Ginny Fine of Stafford, lived in her house and had been declawed. He had been flown in to the Philadelphia airport aged 5 weeks. He came from Bitterroot Bobcat and Lynx (owned by Barbara Roe), Stevensville, Mont Roe, and this company’s annual reports to the state of Montana represent that it sells purebred bobcat and lynx, not hybrids. This company did not respond to investigators’ emails and ddi not have a telephone listing. The investigation uncovered the fact that the company had sold an animal in New York that it claimed was a hybrid, but which was a purebred bobcat. Fine produced documents showing the 3 year old, 38 pound cat to be part bobcat and part Maine Coon and therefore did not require a state permit. The blood test found that his mitochondrial DNA was bobcat, meaning his mother was pure bobcat. There were no precise tests for bobcat nuclear DNA so his father’s species was inconclusive. His appearance is pure bobcat.
Ginny Fine said that Barbara Roe, owner of Bitterroot Bobcat and Lynx of North Stevensville, Montana, told her that Rocky was a hybrid, not a purebred bobcat. Either Fine was mistaken or Roe was not being truthful. Some correspondents to the press were under the false impression Rocky had come from a breeder and was therefore a fifth generation domesticate hybrid. Firstly, there are no authenticated bobcat hybrids, but there are plenty of people willing to sell you an expensive cat (or bobcat) that they claim is a hybrid. Secondly, a fifth generation hybrid between a wild species and a domestic cat will be within the normal size parameters for a domestic cat and not be 38 pounds in weight. It will also resemble a domestic cat in most respects. Rocky had no domestic cat features and though tame (rather than domesticated), was following his wild instincts when he escaped.
In January 2015, the Asbury Park press reported that “Rocky the hybrid bobcat” had a new, permanent home at the Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey when his owner agreed to surrender him in a hearing in the municipal court before Judge Damian Murray. He had previously been boarded at the zoo, which is run by the Associated Humane Societies, while awaiting DNA test results. In addition to ordering the surrender of Rocky to the Popcorn Park Zoo, the judge also fined Fine $500 for the latest offense and ordered her to pay $560 in restitution to the zoo for his room and board. Rocky has been kept at the zoo since his last escape from Fine’s house on Oct. 21.
Bitterroot Bobcats and Lynx is a backyard breeder and has been condemned for its practises. According to one visitor there “I answered an ad in the paper for free kittens. Went out there and they had a beautiful big cat in a 4×8 cage by the driveway in their property which they later told me they never let out. They said they use a domestic cat and keep it constantly pregnant to wet nurse the bobcat and lynx kittens so they always have free kittens. The paper said their kittens were 7-8 weeks old, when I went out there they said the kittens were 5-6 weeks old. Our vet said the kitten was 3 weeks old.” They have been cited by the USDA (lack of veterinary care, inadequate housing, unsanitary conditions), but the animals were not confiscated. Roe also sold bobcat kittens to people living in areas where they were prohibited as pets. When one purchaser tried to return the bobcat kitten because it was illegal in his state, Roe refused to have it back.
ALLEGED BOBCAT HYBRID BREEDS
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 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 (which is unlikely), is now too dilute to be detected.
Back around 2010, “Jungle Mountain” cattery bred Jungle-Bobs (with F. chaus ancestry) before the PixieBob appeared on the scene. They were attractive cats, but ultimately lost out to the Pixie-bob and several Jungle-Bobs were registered as foundation Pixie-Bobs. The breeder claimed to have Bobcat-hybrids which he had been secretly working on for years with a PixieBob breeder who housed the Bobcat. The PixieBob breeder was not part of the main PixieBob breeding community. Back then, only a few PixieBob breeders still believed their breed had Bobcat ancestry, while most had distanced themselves from such claims. Jungle Mountain had videos of a Bobcat mating with a domestic cat and claimed to have hybrid offspring from the mating. The supposed F1 Bobcat hybrid looked real and Jungle Mountain claimed she had been tested, by UC Davis, but the University still stated that it had not found any genuine Bobcat hybrids at that point in time. It’s likely that the test was a parentage test and that the kitten was confirmed to be the offspring of the alleged parents, but that the alleged Bobcat parent was actually a Bobcatty-looking domestic – and by then selective breeding had produced some very convincing-looking PixieBobs. After that first litter, the cat never conceived again.
UC Davis has ruled out Bobcat ancestry in PixieBobs, American Lynx, Desert Lynx, Highland Lynx and Alpine Lynx (the “Lynx” breeds being REFR breeds). Researchers have also investigated whether Bobcats and domestic cats could produce progeny, but even in vitro they were unable to produce hybrids. If a fluke hybrid did occur it would be very big news. Given the unlikelihood of hybrids, it’s more likely that the Jungle Mountain “Bobcat” was a wild-looking domestic cat and that the owner mistakenly believed it to be pure Bobcat. Although the progeny of that cat were claimed to be F1, F2, F3 etc, they would have been domestic cats.
Another important factor is that female domestic cats mate multiple times, often with different males, so even if a female was filmed mating with a bobcat her kittens were likely sired by an earlier or later mating with a domestic male.
When looking at alleged Bobcat hybrids, it is important to remember that there is no reason for them to have curled ears or extra toes – those traits are domestic cat traits and detract from a Bobcatty look. Where there are claims of fertile “F3” Bobcat hybrid males, these are most likely F. chaus hybrids; hybrids of F. chaus x domestic can be fertile at the F3 generation. An F. chaus x PixieBob mix could easily produce large cats that look very Bobcatty. Some alleged F4 Bobcat hybrids advertised by Wild Domestics are identical to the REFR “Tigri” which is described as derived from Toygers, Bengals, Savannahs, Main Coons, Orientals and one American Curl.
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.
PIXIE-BOB (EARLY CLAIMS)
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.
Konnie Surmann, a PixieBob breeder of long-standing provided me with this copy of an old pedigree from June 2001. It had "bobcat" in the ancestry of a cat called “Stone Island Devlin”. The original article is at Pixiebob.org - The Pixie Bob is part Bobcat, right?
Back in 1994, Blackie, a domestic shorthair was supposedly bred to a bobcat. This resulted in the male “Conan of Lynxotics” who sired “Lynxotics Road Man of Legendary” on the female “Yoshi of Lynxotics.” The fact that he sired offspring shows that Conan of Lynxotics was not a bobcat hybrid. A first generation hybrid would be sterile (the only exceptions being European Wildcat x Domestic Cat, and Sand Cat x Domestic Cat – due to their very close genetic relationship). Male hybrids of an Old World cat species crossed to a New World Cat species are known to be sterile. Note the annotation “no proof of bobcat.” On current databases, Conan of Lynxotics is shown as a foundation cat with unknown ancestry. The fact that a bobcat was seen in the region is not evidence of bobcat ancestry. Conan of Lynxotics has the registration designation of A1T meaning that he was a shorthaired (T) first generation (1) Pixie Bob from a non-permissible outcross (A). The non-permissible outcross was the barn cat x barn cat breeding, not a barn cat x bobcat mating.
The claims of being a bobcat hybrid helped to sell a breed to the public, and some breeders really did believe in the hybrids. Unfortunately, claiming hybrid ancestry was potentially disastrous for the cats. Not all registries accept cats with wildcat ancestry, but this was a small inconvenience compared to the legalities of owning hybrids. F1, F2 and F3 generation hybrids are illegal to keep in many parts of the USA and in many places around the world unless they are licensed (USDA in the USA, DEFRA in the UK) and are kept in zoo-type housing i.e. they are not permitted as house-pets. If such a hybrid is imported without appropriate documentation, it will be seized and very likely destroyed.
THE DESERT LYNX BREED GROUP
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 (2017) 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 Zoogen Labs has closed, but Joy Halverson is on Linked In). 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.
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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