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    Place of origin

    Isle of Man, British Isles


    Tailless cats have occurred naturally in various parts of the world as a result of spontaneous mutation. In 1809, for example, a female cat in Edinburgh produced several litters of tailless kittens. In the mid-nineteenth century, a breed of Bibletailless cats existed in parts of Cornwall, Dorset, and on the Isle of Man. The breed was known variously as the Cornwall cat or the Manx cat until the early 1900s, when the Cornish and Dorset strains died out and only the Isle of Man cats remained. On the Isle of Man, geographic and genetic isolation from tailed cats allowed the tailless trait to become widespread.

    Numerous folktales were spun to explain the tailless (or near tailless) state of the Manx cats. According to one, the Manx were slow in boarding the Ark and their tails were cut off when Noah slammed the Ark doors shut; according to another, the defenders of the Isle of Man trimmed their war helmets with long fluffy cat tails. A variation on this mentions quick-thinking mother cats biting the tails off their own kittens to save them from becoming trophies; after many generations of this treatment, Manx kittens were born tailless. The Manx began to be mentioned in print in the early 1800s, when visitors to the isle saw them. In 1845, Joseph Train, who was supposedly not writing folktales, described the Manx cats in An Historical and Statistical Account of the Isle of Man but thought they were the result of female cats mating with buck rabbits.

    As visitors to the isle brought Manx cats back to England, cat fanciers began to develop the breed. They crossed the Manx to domestic cats, British Shorthairs, and even Persians. Crossing a Manx cat to a tailed cat resulted in mostly tailless or part-tailed offspring. As breeders discovered, Manx taillessness ranges from the rumpy (no tailed), which may have a dimple at the base of the spine, to the rumpy-riser (one or two vertebrae), to the stumpy (a bit longer and often knobbly), and to the rare longy (full tailed, although this is often shorter than that of a non-Manx).

    Harrison Weir, who penned the early breed standards, wrote that wholly tailless cats were preferred. He noted that some Manx cat exhibited at the Crystal Palace and other early cat shows had small stumps of tails, which some people took for signs of fakery. One of the earliest studies into Manx inheritance appeared in a German paper in 1900, and it was found that Manx cats produced both Manx and tailed offspring.

    Weir also wrote that Manx's the hind legs should be thicker and rather longer so that the cat ran more like a hare than a cat. In 1902, six types of Manx were described. The commonest, and worst, type was the long straight-backed cat. The short-backed cat with high hindquarters was considered the "correct" type and became the show-quality Manx. The remaining types were the long roach-backed cat, the long straight-backed cat with high hindquarters, the short straight-backed cat, and the short roach-backed cat. In all cases, only the "rumpy" or "stumpy" tail types were recognized as true Manx.

    Many of the Manx up until the early 1900s had no pedigree, and some were strays, believed to have been stolen from the Isle of Man by tourists. They were what modern breeders would term foundation cats-having the correct conformation to be declared Manx cats by judges. A few were fakes, manufactured by unscrupulous exhibitors. There was also confusion between the Manx and imported bobtailed cats. In 1900, a "stumpy" Manx won the Manx class, but was later exhibited-and won-as a Japanese cat because some "connoisseurs of foreign cats" declared the cat to be Japanese purely because there was a kink in the tail.

    The Manx seems to have reached North America as early as 1820, when the seafaring Hurley family of New Jersey brought back tailless cats from the Isle of Man. The cats were described as doglike and fierce hunters, and descendents of these cats were being bred many decades later. The pedigree Manx was recognized in North America in the 1920s and early 1930s.

    Historically, a rabbitlike (or even kangaroolike) hopping gait was an essential part of the Manx breed standard. This is now considered a fault but has already helped perpetuate the urban legend of a "cabbit"-a genetically impossible hybrid between a cat and a rabbit. To keep the breed genetically healthy, many registries allow outcrossing to the related British Shorthair, and some also permit outcrossing to the Persian and to nonpedigree tailless cats indigenous to the Isle of Man.

    The Manx gene is known as a sublethal gene. Embryos that inherit two copies of the gene generally die at an early stage of development or result in stillborn kittens. Hence, all surviving Manx kittens have the recessive gene for a full tail. The Manx mutation is also an "incomplete dominant" trait, meaning that it interacts with other genes to produce the variety of tail lengths. Embryos that inherit two copies of the Manx gene are often reabsorbed during pregnancy so that Manx litters tend to have fewer kittens than many other breeds. Stillborn kittens, and those who die early on, have been found to have a greater number of skeletal and organ abnormalities than those who survive beyond twelve months.

    The Manx gene affects the entire spine and can cause shortened, missing, malformed, or fused vertebrae. The pelvic opening may also be unusually narrow. In some Manx cats, the spinal cord does not extend the whole length of the backbone; this affects bowel and bladder control and control of the hind legs (sometimes resulting in a hopping gait). This is called the Manx Syndrome. Responsible breeders avoid breeding from any cats with obvious spinal defects, and the number of abnormalities has dropped considerably in the breed since the syndrome was first recognized. In 1968, the GCCF removed the "hoppity gait"-once a defining characteristic of the breed, but eventually recognized as symptomatic of a spinal defect- from the breed standard.

    The Council of Europe's Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals legislation effectively prohibits the Manx breed in those member nations that have signed the convention. This legislation aims to eliminate certain characteristics or potential genetic abnormalities-where necessary by discontinuing the breeding of animals in which the defining trait is a physical abnormality or the gene involved causes the death of some offspring. The legislation recommends a total ban on breeding Manx cats since offspring are likely to have pain, disease, defects (pelvic abnormalities, spina bifida), and/or locomotor problems and are deprived of a means of social communication. In Britain, the GCCF accepts the Manx (one of the earliest recognized breeds in the country) but will not recognize new breeds based on structural anomalies in the future. In Victoria, Australia, the Animals Legislation (Animal Care) Bill prohibits the breeding or selling of animals with heritable defects, but the list of defects does not include Manx taillessness. There is no comparable legislation in the United States.

    Physical description

    A medium-size, compact, muscular cat, similar in type to the British Shorthair and described by FIFe as "chubby." The Manx has the cobbiest body of all breeds, with a depth of flank and well-padded feel that adds to the impression of a substantial build. Males usually weigh range from 10 to 12 pounds (4.5–5.5 kg), females from 8 to 10 pounds (3.5–4.5 kg). The head Bibleis round, set on a short neck, with a short muzzle. The ears have a unique, slightly outward turning set that is described as being the shape of the rocker on a cradle. The rounded eyes give the Manx a sweet expression.

    The short back forms a continuous arch to the rounded rump. The hind legs are longer than the front legs, and the rump stands higher than the shoulders. The most prominent feature is the taillessness, which in top show specimens does not stop a hand as it proceeds down the back and around the rump. Manx can take up to five years to reach full maturity.

    The shorthaired Manx has a thick double coat that tends to obscure the dimple of a rumpy or stub tail of the rumpy-riser. Although only tailless (rumpy) Manx are considered exhibition quality, they are categorized into four tail lengths: rumpy, rumpy-riser, stumpy, and longy.

    Colors and varieties

    The Manx is accepted in all solid, tortoiseshell, particolor, and tabby colors, including silvers and smoke varieties. Not all registries recognize chocolate, and lilac (lavender) is not accepted because this color originally came from colorpointed cats; they may be found in Manx cats registered with organizations that permit outcrossing to Persians or British Shorthairs. Colorpoint Manx have occurred in Australia.


    Once reputed to be fierce hunters, the modern Manx is calm, even-tempered, and lovable. These cats enjoy the quiet comforts of a lap, but can be quite playful when the mood strikes them. The powerful hindquarters make Manx surprisingly good jumpers and give them fast acceleration (so good that when a British pub organized indoor cat racing, they banned the Manx from competing). They are intelligent cats and some enjoy games of fetch or can be trained to walk on a leash. Some like to bury their toys. Although some of them form a close bond with just one person, others give and receive attention from any available humans. Being people-oriented, they are tolerant of children.

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    Special needs

    Although some cat fanciers dispute the existence of Manx Syndrome, it is well documented in veterinary and heredity journals, and the appearance of spinal abnormalities in the breed has led to Manx-type cats being used in biomedical research into human spina bifida and other neural tube defects. Some completely tailless Manx may have elimination issues due to a disruption in the normal enervation of the bowel or bladder. Dietary management under the guidance of your veterinarian can help with bowel issues. Care should be taken when handling the rump because pressure where the tail should be can cause pain due to unprotected nerve endings.

    Ethical Manx breeders use tailed cats (Manx variants) in breeding programs and do not allow kittens to leave home until they have reached four months of age with no signs of abnormality. This ensures that the kittens they place in pet homes do not have any health issues resulting from the Manx gene. Breeders in the United States may dock kittens' tails at four to six days old to avoid another effect of the deferred lethal mutation. The tail vertebrae may become painfully ossified and arthritic, necessitating amputation. Tail docking is not allowed in all countries.


    Only cats descended from Isle of Man stock can be called Manx cats; random-bred tailless cats are domestic tailless because they cannot prove Manx ancestry. Longhaired Manx are known in some registries as Cymrics. The Tasman Manx is a curly-coated Manx that has appeared in Australia and New Zealand; it gets the curly coat from outcrossing to Persian cats who carried a recessive Rex gene. Because of anatomical problems that accompany the Manx mutation, breeders are discouraged from creating new tailless breeds. A line of tailless cats in Denmark is believed to be Manx in origin, probably from ship's cats. A similar colony of tailless cats occurs at the south end of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where they are known as Cape Breton Bobtails. In Australia, a wandering Siamese stud and a Manx female were responsible for the arrival of a "Si-Manx." Phyllis Lauder (1981) wrote of news from Australia regarding the crossing of Manx with Scottish Folds. This was inadvisable considering the potential health problems associated with those breeds.




    From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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