Japanese Bobtail breed standard – comprehensive and illustrated

japanese bobtail breed standard

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Japanese Bobtail Breed Standard – Photograph of Joudama © Helmi Flick. The markings (words and lines) on the photograph were made by MikeB at PoC I felt the need to see if the mathematical nature of the standard worked – it does. Helmi Flick has kindly allowed me to mark up her photographs if it helps.



I believe that the breed standard should be set out in reference to illustrations. That is what I am doing on this page. It helps to be able to relate the words, which are sometimes technical, to a good image of a good example of the cat breed. In this instance I have used the CFA standard.

This page is written mainly with non-show cat keepers in mind.

If an experienced breeder reads this and disagrees with me, please tell me to allow me to make corrections if appropriate.

The illustrations are not of perfect cats but fine examples nonetheless. I do not cover every detail of the standard as this is a guide of the major areas of interest.


The photograph of Joudama’s head above shows us a fine example of the Japanese Bobtail Breed Standard. I notice the symmetry of Joudama’s head and have overlaid the image with the shape of an equilateral triangle as an aid.

The head should be “finely chiseled” with “high cheekbones” and a “noticeable whisker break” (the point at which the area of the whiskers meets the rest of the face should be at a slight angle). I think Joudama has met these standards.

Joudama’s ears should be “large, upright and expressive and set wide apart”. To me (and I am not a judge) the ears nicely match the standard. The ears should be at 90º to the head and I have marked that for ease of reference.

The muzzle should be “fairly broad…neither pointed or blunt”. If the head is short and round the cat is penalized in competition.

You can see that Joudama has different color eyes, one blue and one yellow. The Japanese apparently like to describe eye color as silver and gold respectively. This is due to the white spotting gene (piebald gene) that affects the amount of white hair in the coat and on occasions eye color as well.

The Body

japanese bobtail breed standard

Photograph of Benji © Helmi Flick

Benji’s body isn’t “tubular” (I take this to mean rounded or circular in cross section which Benji isn’t – see cat body shapes), which is correct and a good example of the Japanese Bobtail Breed Standard. If the body conformation is “cobby” (like a Persian or a Manx cat for example) then she will be penalized in competition.

The muscles should be well developed but not coarse. The neck should be neither long nor short in relation to the body.

The front paws have 4 toes and the rear, 5 toes. The coat should, and Benji’s coat clearly is, be silky and soft with no noticeable undercoat. As can be seen in the photograph the hair is longer on the tail and britches (“britches” is an informal term for “breeches”, which are trousers that stop just above the knee. So, in terms of a cat’s anatomy, it means the upper part of the hind legs).

The tail is a kind of badge it seems to me as its appearance is very much individualized for each cat.
Japanese bobtail
The tail is an important part of this breed’s anatomy and therefore important in respect of show cat competition. It carries 20 points as does the head.

The Japanese Bobtail Breed Standard does not specify a minimum length of tail. However, the cat will be disqualified from the competition if there is no tail bone or if it is too long (my words and no figures given).

Disqualification will also happen if there is no pom-pom or the pom-pom is too far (1-2 inches) from the base of the tail.

The coat should lie on the body so as to accentuate the body contours. This is noticeable for Benji above. The coat can be medium short to “medium long to long”. It carries 20 points in competition.

The type” (meaning the overall appearance and whether it is in line with the best expected appearance) carries 30 points. This seems to bear out the statement in the breed standard that the “general balance” is of the “utmost importance” {return to top of page}

Colors and fur length

The preferred colors for Japanese are tricolor (Mi-ke) – calico cats. They are often seen as bicolor, black and white, red and white and tabby and white.

Japanese Bobtail with red van pattern
Japanese Bobtail with red van pattern. Infographic by MikeB. Cat photo copyright Helmi Flick. See it bigger by clicking on it.

I would advise a look at the actual breed standard for the full list. The color and markings carry 20 points.

Japanese bobtail
Photo: erimorle3rd on Instagram – 枚の座布団を分け合って座る。


I have not covered the entire Japanese Bobtail Breed Standard. My thoughts are added. They are not the thoughts of an experienced breeder. However, the article is well researched and carefully compiled.


  • CFA
  • the author

From Japanese Bobtail Breed Standard to All cat Breeds

Update January 13, 2022

This page has been checked, amended slightly, updated and republished as at the above date.

The overall impression that one takes from the Japanese Bobtail is of a medium-sized cat with clean lines and bone structure. The cat should be slender rather than “massive in build” (the words of the Cat Fanciers’ Association). They say that this cat should be elegant and refined. My distinct impression from the introduction to the breed standard is that this cat should be balanced and not extreme in any way. That’s quite an old-fashioned idea.

Japanese bobtail
Japanese bobtail. Photo: Helmi Flick.

This objective is probably based on the fact that this is a natural breed from Japan. It has a pom-pom tail and it is known for its “painted-on” good luck mi-ke pattern. You will see short and long-haired varieties.

RELATED: Japanese Bobtail Cat Facts For Kids

It is believed that the first domestic cats were imported into Japan from China or Korea about 1,000 years ago or more. Therefore, the Japanese bobtail has existed in Japan for many centuries. You will see the cat in ancient Japanese scrolls and paintings. This breed was first brought to the United States in 1968. It attracted interest from American cat fanciers.

The temperament is described as “active, intelligent, talkative” and enjoying the company of other cats and humans. Gloria Stephens says that they like to have a conversation with their owners or play fetch.

If you want to see a great painting of the Japanese Bobtail, you can see a pair of them in a large 15th-century painting that hangs in the Freer Gallery of Art in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.

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