BREED PROFILE:
Getting to Know the American Bobtail

By Kathryn Sylvia
from The Cat Fanciers' Association Complete Cat Book

At first glance, you are sure that you have just seen a bobcat. You slowly turn and your gaze falls upon this magnificent and untamed-looking creature. It captivates you. Your eyes meet and you are drawn to a far away place where creatures run wild and free. The cat cleans its luxurious fur, blinks its eyes at you and begins to purr. You long to stroke its soft, thick fur and hold him in your arms, but do you dare? Tentatively you reach for the amazing animal. He stands up and stretches, allowing you to marvel at his substantial body and his natural short tail. He appears to be a thing of the wild. The cat saunters over to you, demanding attention. You cautiously pick him up and are amazed by his gentle personality. An American Bobtail has stolen your heart.

This breed with its above average intelligence was developed in nature so that it could survive primitive environments. It is a medium-to-large, naturally occurring, bobtailed cat; a noticeably athletic animal, well muscled, with the appearance of power. The body is moderately long and substantial, with a rectangular stance. The tail is clearly visible above the back when the cat is alert and does not exceed the hock in length. The optimum tail is articulate and nearly straight with the slightest of curves.

The American Bobtail gene is a dominant gene. It must be a natural short-tailed cat to produce short-tailed kittens. In addition to short-tailed kittens, it is not unusual for full-tailed kittens to be born in a litter. Unlike the Manx, however, they rarely produce kittens with no tail at all, which is referred to as a rumpy. With this breed, no two tails are exactly the same. The average length of the tail is one to four inches, however some tails may be shorter or longer.

The American Bobtail possesses a strong, broad modified wedge-shaped head, with a distinctive brow above large almost almond shaped eyes giving it a natural hunting gaze. The expression is one of intelligence and alertness. Ear furnishings and Lynx ear tipping are highly desirable features in this breed. Its unique coat comes in a shorthair variety with medium semi-dense hair and in a longhair variety with semi-longhair that is shaggy. The coat is resilient and resistant to water. The topcoat is hard with a downy undercoat that insulates the cat from extreme weather.

When in motion, it should exhibit a natural rolling gate giving the cat with all of its combined physical characteristics the look of a wild bobcat. This is a slow maturing breed taking two to three years to reach full adult type. The breed is noted for its wild look, which is in contrast with its gentle disposition and adaptability.

Their Personality

American Bobtail Shorthair

American Bobtails are loving, kind and incredibly intelligent cats. They are noted for their dog-like personalities and their devotion to their owners. They easily adapt to a busy or quiet environment.

American Bobtails bond with their families, like Golden Retriever dogs, which they resemble in personality and devotion. They get along well with most dogs and welcome newcomers, whether they are two-legged or four-legged. Long haul truck drivers have purchased them as cabin companions because they are known to be good travelers if introduced to it at a young age. Psychotherapists have also used them in their treatment programs because they have been found to be very well behaved and sensitive to people in distress.

They are excellent companions for children and do not mind being carried around like a sack of potatoes. They interact well with people of all ages and serve a great purpose in the home as a source of entertainment with their clown-like personalities. They also offer a warm, soft shoulder to cry on when needed. They are known for their love of games and can play fetch or hide-and-seek for hours . They will often try to initiate a game and become persistent until you play with them. They are vocally quiet cats , however they will make trill, chirp and clicking sounds when delighted. They are easily leash- trained and love to go for walks . Though technically they are not thieves, their love of shiny objects make it necessary to keep jewelry boxes closed and even locked. These are strong and healthy cats with no known genetic predisposition to health problems.

American Bobtails are extremely skillful hunters because their ancestry is from feral domestic stock. However, since it is unwise to allow cats to roam freely, their hunting instincts are satisfied in the home by catching flying insects in mid-air that may have made the fatal mistake of entering their domain. They also stalk their toys and carry them in their mouths like a freshly caught mouse. Many of them are able to open doors by standing on their back legs and turning the doorknob with their paws.

They make excellent parents and they nurture and share their offspring with their human families. Mothers of newborns happily trill to their kittens and are eager to show them to their human companions by rolling on their backs to display their new achievements. Many breeders have clientele return for one or two more additions to their American Bobtail family stating, "They are just like potato chips, one is just not enough." These are happy cats but are not overtly demanding despite their high intelligence. Their breeders receive many comments from new owners marveling at their incredible intellect and how they understand everything that is said to them.

In addition to their engaging personalities, they have coats that need little or no brushing even in the longhaired variety. An occasional bath and light brushing is all that is needed to keep their coats clean and beautiful.

Breed History

The arrival of a domestic breed of cat, carrying a short-tailed gene into the Americas cannot be disputed. History adds much to our understanding of how and when the domestic cat arrived on the North American Continent. Prior to the arrival of European explorers no known domestic cats existed on the North American Continent. However, there have been colonies of bobtailed cats for centuries on islands belonging to Spain and Portugal. Based on these facts, it is quite likely that the first bobtailed cats introduced onto this continent came from those Spanish and Portuguese islands and were brought here by ships exploring the North American Continent.

Cats were highly valued on ships because of their ability to control the ever-present rodent population. It is unfortunate that the captains of those ships did not consider the future and our desire to know the type of cats they had on board which were destined to populate the New World. The manifests of some old ships mention cats on board. Some manifests even mention how many cats were on board but that is the extent of the information. It is clear that cats were introduced into the Americas by ships from other Continents. As for the American Bobtail tail mutation, many researchers believe such cats came from those early voyages. Although we will never know exactly when they arrived, we at least know how they got here .

The American Bobtail is an excellent example of breed development through natural selection. It is a completely domestic cat with no wild strains in its background or pedigreed breeds used in their development. The foundation stock for this breed was feral, domestic cats possessing a natural bobtail.

Although the Bobtail has been in existence on this continent for many generations, the breed began its development, as we know it today in the late 1960's. A young couple discovered a bobtail brown tabby male kitten on an Indian Reservation in Southern Arizona. They fell in love with this unique cat and subsequently bred him to a long-tail female; the resulting offspring were born with bobtails. Such was the genesis of the American Bobtail as a breed.

Since that time breeders have used feral cats with natural bobtails as their foundation stock. The most conscientious breeders have only used cats that have sufficiently met the American Bobtail standard in type. Many American Bobtails now have a multi-generation pedigree with no feral cats in several generations.

The breed has been in the making for thirty years, and has become very popular in recent times. It is one of the most recent breeds to be accepted for registration by the Cat Fanciers' Association. February 2000 marks this recognition and confirms what breeders have known for many years, that the American Bobtail has earned its place in the world of pedigreed cats. It is one of America's own, a breed to be proud of. Its wildcat look combined with its full domesticity and pleasing personality is a credit to all the breeders who have devoted the time, effort and energy into shaping this remarkable breed. The American Bobtail can proudly claim the title "Born in the USA."

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