Every Woman's Encyclopaedia
This section is from "Every Woman's Encyclopaedia".
By Frances Simpson, Judge and Expert
Author of "The Book of the Cat" "Cats for Pleasure and Profit"
Quaint Ideas as to the Origin of the Breed - The Cat in the Ark - How to Know a Genuine Manx Cat - The points of the Breed - The Peculiar Characteristics - Some Fanciers
Manx cats are so quaint and interesting that they certainly deserve an article all to themselves.
What is the origin of the Manx breed ? That is a question which, in all probability, will never be answered quite satisfactorily. There is a legend that these cats came from a cross between the cat and the rabbit, but, in any case, it seems too strange to be true.
It would appear more probable that Manx cats were originally imported from some foreign land, and the following remarks from Mr. Gambier Bolton are worthy of attention :
"In the Isle of Man to-day we find a rock named Spanish Rock, which stands close in to the shore, and tradition states that here one of the vessels of the Spanish Armada went down, and that amongst the rescued were some tailless cats which had been procured during one of the vessel's journeys to the Far East. The cats first swam to the rock, and then made their way to the shore at low tide. The tale seems a bit 'tall' and yet the writer feels so satisfied of its truth that he would welcome any change in the name of this peculiar variety of the domestic cat to sweep away the idea that they sprang from the Isle of Man originally."
Miss Samuels typical black Manx cat, Kangaroo. This breed is one of the most quaint and interesting of the cat tribe. Good specimens are rare and command high prices. Photo, A. Hester
There is a quaint old versified explanation of the way in which pussy lost her tail :
Noah, sailing o'er the seas,
Ran high and dry on Ararat,
His dog then made a spring,
and took The tail from off a pussycat.
Puss through the window quick did fly
And bravely through the waters swam,
Nor ever stopped, till, high and dry,
She landed on the Isle of Man.
Thus tailless puss earned Mona's thanks,
And ever after was called Manx.
At one time, we may presume, the breed was kept pure in the Isle of Man ; but, alas! the natives, with an eye to the main chance, have been led into manufacturing a spurious article, and many more tailless cats and kittens than ever were born have been sold to tourists eager to carry home some souvenir of the island.
On some of the out-of-the-way farms a breed of tailless cats has been kept for generations, and some genuine specimens can thus be picked up.
Points, Characteristics, etc.
And now for the characteristic points of these quaint cats. A true Manx should have absolutely no tail, only a slight, boneless tuft of hair.
The point next in importance is the short cobby body with the great length of hind leg. With this should be coupled a round guinea-pig like rump - round as an apple - which, of course, can only be seen in a specimen which has absolutely no tail.
The fur of a Manx cat should be exactly the opposite to that of the ordinary domesticated, short-haired cat. A long and open outer coat, like that of a rabbit, with a soft, close under-coat, is the correct thing.
Then come other less essential points, such as roundness of skull, small ears, shortness of face, and, last of all, colour. The most common variety would seem to be tabbies, either silver, brown, or orange, and often these in a mixture of white. Self-colours are rarer, and perhaps more taking, than the parti-coloured breeds. A good black with orange eyes, or a snow-white Manx with deep blue eyes, are much sought after by our principal breeders.
It is only in recent years that any English fanciers have tried to breed true Manx cats. In 1901 a club was formed to encourage this breed, and to assist fanciers by giving guarantees and prizes at the larger shows. The efforts of this rather small body of fanciers have been substantially rewarded by the great improvement in the quantity and quality of the exhibits.
Judges also have come to the help of the fancier, and now award prizes to the correct specimens, whereas formerly it was no uncommon thing for a most indifferent cat, without the slightest claim to pure Manx blood, to be given a prize merely because it either had been skilfully docked or possessed but the vestige of a tail. Such a cat would be no winner nowadays.
Manx cats may be considered shy breeders, and constantly the litter will consist of one kitten only. A Manx fancier remarks, " They only care to have one family a year; many queens won't breed at all."
This peculiarity, however, is one that should be an asset in their favour to those who would like to keep a cat either as a pet or for the more utilitarian purpose of keeping down vermin. To the tenderhearted owner, the yearly or even more frequent problem of disposing of kittens is a truly painful one. It is not always an easy task to find good homes for them unless of pedigree stock; they are useless from a pecuniary point of view, and the abhorrent task of drowning them is one from which she shrinks.
Manx cats are generally very fearless of dogs, and are excellent ratters.
They are hardy animals, and can be treated as other household cats in all respects. Like all of their race, they enjoy and are all the better for a daily grooming. The difference between a well-groomed cat and one which is left entirely to Nature is apparent to the veriest novice. The small amount of time and labour involved is insignificant compared with the results attained.
Clencairn Manxie, a beautiful Manx cat, owned by Miss Livingstone. A white specimen of this breed with deep blue eyes is much valued by fanciers. Photo, Charles Reid
In feeding these cats the owner should be careful to impart as much variety as possible into their menu. In the case of the ordinary domestic puss this is not difficult to arrange, but where a cattery is maintained the matter is one requiring much careful forethought and consideration. Still, if the animals are to thrive and win honours in the show pen, their diet must be one that suits them in every respect.
Breeders of Manx cats are not numerous. Sir Claud and Lady Alexander have always possessed some fine specimens ; and Miss Samuel, who was one of the first to take up this variety, is still faithful to the tailless cats. Of late years Miss Clifton has made a special hobby of Manx, and has quite a number in her cattery at Farnham. This enthusiastic breeder has been a great supporter of Manx at our shows of recent years.