British Shorthair Cat

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History/Origin

At the time (early 1900s) that the British Shorthair cat started to gain some ground in the early days of the cat fancy the Persian was king. The rich and famous wanted to have a glamorous Persian cat or perhaps a Siamese cat. The middle classes kept a Moggie, the British Shorthair to be.
British Shorthair cat
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The Siamese was very rare and popular at the time and journalists reporting on cat shows would invariably end up enthusing about the rare and extraordinary Siamese cat.

The British Shorthair today looks very similar to the English cat of 110 years ago. There would seem to be a slight difference, an enhancement of the concept of roundness and cobbiness that is so admired in the Brit SH and the refinement of its coat. This can be seen by making a comparison in the photograph below of a champion Brit SH taken at the end of the 1800s and the cats photographed by Helmi Flick on this page. Picture above: British SH late 1800s – see copyright

Bootsie, my British Shorthair, was lounging on the windowsill when suddenly, the phone began ringing. Almost immediately after and just as suddenly, Bootsie began making a strange sound. It sounded a bit like a telephone! Then, he batted the telephone out of my hand and yowled into it. My friend Steve, who was on the phone, laughed his head off when I got the phone back and apologized. Bootsie soon made it into a habit. People who didn’t know I had a cat were stunned, and I was the one laughing my head off. Bootsie is SSOOOO cute!….Camilla (Keller, Texas USA)

Timeline

 

DateEvent
Roman timesBritish moggie to be is introduced into Britain by the Romans
Hundreds of years before 1871British Shorthair (BS) existed as a “domestic cat”, what we now call a Moggie in the UK until the cat was turned into a formal cat breed through deliberate and selective breeding. Known as European Shothairs1.
late 1800sSelective breeding began
1871Blue tabby won Best in Show at the Crystal Palace Cat Show. This was the first official cat show (I presume world wide)
1889Written up in one of the first cat books
1918-1940sFirst and Second World War Years – severe decline in number of this breed. Breeders obliged to make outcrosses with other breeds including Persian cats causing a divergence from true BS type. The GCCF no longer allows out crossing to Persians.
1950sBreed had almost died out. Dedicated breeders “who exported stock to Ireland and throughout the British Commonwealth”3 revived it.
1901First BS exported and registered in “Americas”
c.1910Exportation of Brit. Shorthair breed to USA
1980CFA granted Brit. Shorthair championship status
1988First CFA national win for this breed (3rd Best Cat in Premiership)
currentRecognized by all N.American cat associations and the GCCF in the UK
See some more on the history of this cat breed in comparison with both the American and European Shorthair cat breeds.
Read a narrative version of the history of the British Shorthair cat.


 

It is a shame that mankind decided to create a breed called the British Shorthair and then through his activities (wars leading to outcross breeding) over the following decades consciously diverged from the standard that was previously set.

british shorthair Blue British Shorthair – Sky. Sky lives with Ken and Helmi Flick. Photograph copyright © Helmi Flick

Appearance/Character

The British Shorthair is a placid, easy going and calm cat, which makes this popular cat suited to people who rush around a lot. Their stable and balanced character makes them suitable for indoor and apartment living. Nonetheless, like all cats they are playful and alert when they want to be.

They are a sturdy looking cat, muscular and strong it is said2. I am not entirely sure that this is accurate. The British Shorthair cats that I have seem are beautiful but of average size and strength. The head is “broad and round”. The muzzle and nose is short but it should not be exaggerated as is the case for the Persian or Exotic Shorthair. I feel that there is a tendency to overdo the shortness of the face in a desire to achieve the chubby cheeked “chipmunk-like appearance”2.

This is a very popular cat breed, currently at September 2010, ranked 7th out of 66 cat breeds in a long running PoC poll of over 3400 visitor votes. This breed of cat takes about 5 years to grow to adulthood. This means that it performs well at cat shows into what might be considered old age. At 11 1/2 years of age a BS received her Grand Premiership at a 1994 show.

british shorthair Ralph copyright © Helmi Flick

They continue to “thicken up” until 4 years of age and are on the heavy side being 12-18 lbs for male cats apparently (15 lbs or so would be about the top end). They are heavier than average I think it fair to say. Click the link to see comparisons on domestic cat weights.

The British Shorthair Cat has a noticeably dense coat. The coat “cracks” when the body is flexed. This means you can see into the fur as it parts. You can see clearly that Earl Grey’s body is sturdy and cobby (stocky). His face is rounded with sweet chubby checks and round copper-colored eyes. The British Shorthair is a sturdy, solid looking cat.

The coat can be in almost any color and pattern. “It is shown in all colours and all divisions of the traditional category”2. The Brit. SH is thought of as an intelligent breed of cat and has appeared in films, on TV and on cat food packaging (Whiskas and Sheba). Research (although to be honest it is not great research) indicates in fact that the British Shorthair is in the mid-range of cat breed intelligence. The Sphynx cat is meant to be the most intelligent under informal testing.

British Shorthair bred and photographed in Minsk Russia
British Shorthair bred and photographed in Minsk Russia by Svetlana Vrublevskaya.

The British Shorthair Cat is relatively quiet, in line with the cat’s personality, which seems to be a little like my cat (a Moggie/Norwegian Forest Cat hybrid) in that they prefer to be near and with you rather than on you. This may be due to overheating when on you as their dense coats provide a high level of insulation. The difference in the characteristics of female and male British Shorthairs, I think, mirrors human differences. The males are less serious than the females and less particular. The British Shorthair is a very popular show cat being as it is relatively easy to maintain in preparation for the show and the easy going character help cope with the stresses of competition.

There is a semi longhair British Shorthair cat. There is breed is that is called the Britanica which is recognized by a cat association called the European Group Cat Association (EGCA). The EGCA have recognized the Britanica since 2002. A search of the Internet produced nothing on the cat breed called the Britanica cat, which is a current cat breed. It is interesting that the word is spelled with one “n” normally the word is spelled “Britannica”. This breed is identical to the British Shorthair except for the length of fur and is known as the Lowlander in the USA, where the breed is experimental. Comparison with European Shorthair and British Shorthair This page provides, I hope, a useful look at the differences between the British Shorthair cat, the American SH and the European Shorthair cat, a breed that was formally recognized as a separate breed late in the day.

The article focuses on the European SH. The differences are subtle. Some more on the British Shorthair cat Some more pictures and the story behind one of the best cat photographs can be seen on this page plus some information on the genetics that go to make up this cat’s appearance.

british shorthair

Above: Photograph of Toes a tabby copyright © Helmi Flick

8 thoughts on “British Shorthair Cat”

  1. Earl Grey’s full name is Laziblues Earl Grey, and he still lives with us as part of our Laziblues Cattery family. He was not named after tea, but after the British Prime Minister who lifted the embargo on tea, and allowed a more cheap tea to enter the UK market.
    Love his pictures as a baby here. Thank you Helmi!

    Reply
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