The American bobtail is a brawny, hearty and wild-looking cat. The head is strong. The coat appears slightly shaggy reinforcing the natural, wild appearance. This cat can be quite large at around 15 pounds. They have a friendly temperament. There are semi-long and shorthaired varieties.
Originating in the 1960s in the US, the American bobtail was the first of two bobtailed cat breeds to be registered in America. The other is the Pixiebob. The name hints a wild parentage (a wild cat hybrid) but ‘bobcat parentage is unconfirmed’. Both Manx and Japanese bobtail genes may be present in the American bobtail. This cat’s tail should stop just above the level of the hocks and in the range 1.5 to 6 inches long. It should not be kinked.
As at 2009, the American Bobtail was a fairly rare and newish domestic cat breed. The short tail (at about a third to a half of the length of a normal tail3) of this breed is the result of a naturally occurring genetic mutation (perhaps a variant of the Manx mutation – dominant Manx gene) that shortens the tail. The original brown tabby Bobtail called “Yodie”, which carried the mutant gene and short tail, was found on an Indian reservation in Arizona, USA, in 1960 and adopted by John and Brenda Sanders from Iowa1. I think it is now generally accepted that Yodie was not a wild cat.
Although, there is a story that Yodie was thought to have been a wildcat hybrid (bobcat/domestic cat). Apparently Birman, Himalayan (pointed Persians) and Himalayan/Siamese cross were added to the bloodline1. Finding a feral cat with a shortened tail does not of course mean that this was the only bobtailed cat in America. They had been around for generations. It is just that the breeding of this cat began in the 1960s. This may have occurred at this time as a result of a growing interest in keeping “wild” cats as domestic cats.
For example, the beginning of the development of the Ocicat, another cat emulating a wild cat, occurred in the 1960s. There are a number of others. Although there are documented cases where the American Bobcat has mated with a domestic cat, this is not the case in this instance as no genes from the American Bobcat have been found in the American Bobtail despite the similarity in appearance. Neither is this breed to be confused with the Pixie-Bob which is a large domestic cat breed (50% larger than is usual) started in the 1980s.
There are similar uncertainties about the origins of the Pixie-Bob and whether the breed began with the mating of a wild Bobcat to a domestic cat. Pixie-Bobs have similar personalities to the Bobtail. Because the cat’s appearance was interesting to the people who found him/her the cat was mated with a long tailed cat.
The resultant offspring formed the foundation cats of this breed. Apparently, in the early years of development there were attempts to develop a bobtailed Snowshoe cat but this failed due to inbreeding1. Later work by breeders including Reaha Evans, improved the breed. Since then, it seems, feral Bobtails have been bred in North America (USA and Canada) to develop the breed and no specific breed of cat has been introduced into the breeding program.
This has resulted in a wide range of coat color and pattens together with medium-long and dense short haired varieties and possibly better health. There is also the lynx pointed Bobtail. Breeders continue to develop the breed and it is said the modern American Bobtail is sweeter in nature than previously. There is, incidentally, a Japanese Bobtail. The Japanese Bobtail genetic mutation is recessive however. The Russians have their own bobtailed cat too, the Kurilian Bobtail, allegedly a natural breed of cat.
Dominant genes results in half the litter being born with the characteristic of the mutated gene. Note also that this gene can produce what are affectionately called “rumpies” (this comes from the Manx cats, which are tailless and which are called “rumpies” “stumpies” and “tailies”). The Bobtail’s tail is unusually short, being about one third to half the length of a normal tail (see Helmi’s photographs). The tail is usually one to 4 inches in length. For the Manx cat it is normal to be tailless. But if this occurs in the Bobtail there may be accompanying health issues associated with a shortened spine. This breed has was granted full status with TICA in 2002.
I like this video because it shows us and explains to us something about this purebred cat. The other outstanding feature of this cat breed is her solid, sturdy, natural looking body and sweet natured character. See a large format slide show plus reference to the breed standard.
The CFA breed standard requires that the cat be “noticeably athletic”. The American bobail has a “unique natural hunting gaze”2. It would seem that this cat makes a nice companion. Helmi Flick, says that this breed is one of her favorites, with a great personality, fairly active3, dog-like and loyal. Helmi’s recommendation carries weight as she is a cat lover with knowledge and experience. The Bobtail is leash trainable, apparently.
This trait is found in other dog like cats such as the Bengal. It is a useful characteristic as it is a way of getting your cat out of the house in a controlled manner. You can see a Chausie on a leash here. This cat is also good with other animals such as pet dogs, which simplifies life if you like to have lots of pets. It also means that she is good with children. They are, it seems intelligent, active and interested in what you are doing and therefore need input and your companionship.
This may make them less suitable for apartment living and they probably won’t like it if you are out a lot. There is an article about separation anxiety on this website, which you might like to refer to. Some breeders may suggest that if you are out a lot you can provide company for your American Bobtail by introducing another cat, but this may not work. Although Aloeway Cattery listed below say that this helps for Bobtails. As to coat types the classic, spotted or mackerel brown tabby is probably the coat type that most suits as it has the desired look of the wild cat.
The American Bobtail is a strong cat with a healthy disposition, which leads me nicely to a section on suitable food. Update 29th July 2010: See Fergie a longhaired Bobtail in a nice collage of Helmi pics.
I quote a breeder here (Aloeway Cattery). They feed raw meat to reflect what a wild Bobcat (possible ancestor) would eat. They go one step further and feed the whole animal, such as rabbit, chicken and quail. This is interesting bearing in mind what I say above about the origin of this breed. They make the point that when cats are feed dry food they do not drink enough to compensate. They have a point there, I believe. I feed my Moggie fish to compensate (there is a lot of water in the fish I buy). Click here to read about various aspects of cat food or about a raw food diet.
Above: Orange tabby – Photo by geekygirlnyc (Flickr)
Some breeders: These are the top ranked breeders websites in Google at 2008 – things change. Why is this a reasonable way of selecting breeders? To be top ranked you need to have been around a while (a good sign) and be organized. These are free standing sites not part of a directory. They are all listed in the top 3 pages on a search for this breed. I cannot vouch for these breeders. Please check them out carefully and please don’t travel long distances on the presumption that you will buy without doing further research first. Also they will all stop breeding due course. If a website is shut down you might be taken to a website selling domains or with advertising.
- I’d like to make a special mention of this breeder: Beloved American Bobtails,
Cherry Hill, NJ, USA. This cattery is run by Ellen R. Brenner.
- Aloeway Breeding Bobtails since 1995. You can see some nice photographs of a Bobtail playing with a dog on this website. This site is Alexa ranked about 4m with no Google PageRank (little or no inbound links). It is the first to come up as a breeder on its own though (i.e. not as part of a directory)
- Catalons American Bobtail Google listed on 1st page. Located about 20 km outside Los Angeles.
- Attitude Acres This is a small, family run, cattery, specializing in chocolates and chocolate silver American Bobtails. Attitudeacres is pleased to announce they are home and breeder of TICA first IW and LIFETIME achievement winner, Attitudeacres Murony.
- Buckeyebobbis American Bobtails This cattery is located in Ohio. Their website has a Pagerank and is traffic ranked (Alexa) about 7.5m worldwide (the ranking for all websites, there are 57m websites).
- Nachrel American Bobtails This site has a PageRank and a traffic ranking of about 5m.
- breeder sites especially the ones above
Source other than the above: