Japanese Bobtail

“When i first saw a Japanese Bobtail, I fell in love. It was the sweetest thing I have ever saw, even though it does not have a tail….” Cheyanne (Lock Haven, USA)
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japanese bobtail
thumbnail photo
© Helmi Flick
japanese bobtail
thumbnail photo
© Helmi Flick
japanese bobtail
thumbnail photo
© Helmi Flick
japanese bobtail
thumbnail photo
© Helmi Flick

History

They are one of the oldest pedigree cats in the world. There are written accounts going back to about 2,000 years apparently1. Other sources say that it originates in 5th century BC. Let’s say it really is next to the Egyptian Mau in terms of the length of its domestication.

It is said that this cat was imported into Japan from China and/or Korea about one thousand years ago.  In 1701 a writer (travel writer perhaps) said that the Japanese only keep one type of cat, the Japanese Bobtail, with a preference for the bicolor and tricolor coat. The calico (tricolor) is called mi-ke, meaning “three-fur” (meaning three colors of fur, white, black and orange). The term calico is used in the USA. The term is tortoiseshell-and-white in the UK. See Kiku below for a calico coated cat.

It is said that cats in Japan with normal length tails might have been persecuted while cats with the bob tail were not. This would have enhanced the natural development of the Japanese Bobtail2.

There is a possibility that there is a link between this cat and the Kurilian Bobtail. These breeds do, though, have different appearances. However, the short tail of both breeds is due to the natural mutation of a recessive gene.

The Kurilian Bobtail is thought to have evolved on the Kuril Islands. These islands are off the north coast of Japan’s Hokkaido island. Russia is nearby. Some believe that the Japanese Bobtail originates from the Kurilian Bobtail. It could be visa-versa. Often the exact nature of a cat’s origins are a little hazy.

On this page, I speculate that the Japanese Bobtail of today does not come from Asia but from America. This is confusing.

They had a privileged place in Japanese society. Japan, incidentally, has good animal welfare laws which makes me surprised about their whaling exploits. The restricted gene pool in Japan ensured that the recessive gene that produces the bobbed tail become more visible in the cat population.

Here’s a potted history in table form.

DateEvent
600-700 ADBelieved that the original domestic cats (the precursor to the Jap. Bob.) came with Buddhist monks to Japan from Manchuria and Korea to keep the rats from destroying the rice paper scrolls1.
1000Allegedly documentary evidence that Japanese cats, in general, came from Korea or China.
1602Due to rodents damaging silk worms affecting the silk trade (silk comes from the cocoon of the silk worm), cat owners ordered to release cats (i.e. not care for cats making them feral). This led to this breed becoming street cats.
1702Written record by travel writer of the presence of this breed being cared for in Japan.
c.1945American soldiers bring back Japanese Bobtails from Japan1.
1968Breed imported into USA by Elizabeth Freret1.
1971Provisional Status granted by CFA.
1976Championship (Full) status granted by the CFA.
1993Championship status granted to Longhaired Japanese Bobtail by CFA.
CurrentIn Japan Japanese Bobtails still wander the streets (see 1602 above). This mirrors the Egyptian Mau, a feral cat in Egypt.
Read about the history of the Japanese Domestic cat (new window)
japanese bobtail

Above: Japanese Bobtail – Kiku – © Helmi Flick

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