Moor-headed cat

This is a cat ‘breed’ that might have happened but it never did. It is also described as the black-headed cat or Mohrenkopf which is German for ‘Moor’s head’. Today morenkopf means a small chocolate-covered cream cake!

Moor-head cat

Moor-head cat. Illustration by Jean Bungartz and now in the public domain.

Enough, I digress. This is a cat that was very rarely seen which could have been picked up by a breeder and developed into a breed if things had turned out differently. The pattern is strange and striking. It was first described by Jean Bungartz in his book Illustrated Book of Cats (1896).

Sarah Hartwell has the book. She describes the cat as if it is a cat breed. Was it? Let’s say it was a type of cat at that time which was recognised by this cat expert of the day: Jean Bungartz.

The cat “must be clean white, with contrasting colour on the head and tail. Consistent specimens of this variety are extremely rare.”

Hartwell describes the pattern as one of the “most peculiar patterns of the domestic cat.”

In the picture we see black fur on the head and tail. However, the colour can either be yellow, blue, grey or black with no white hairs. They were highly valued; I guess because of their rarity.

Occasionally we see similar patterns on modern-day random bred cats. But they are extremely rare today, as well. It is not a pattern that nature selected through domestic cat evolution.

Siamese cat of 1995 looking a bit like a Moor-head cat

Siamese cat of 1995 looking a bit like a Moor-head cat. Picture in the public domain.

A Siamese cat of 1995 awarded TCA best cat looked very similar! The difference being that the fur on the legs is pointed (darker) whereas for the Moor-head cat all the fur except for the head and tail is clean white.

Young Moor with black headdress

Young Moor with black headdress

The name ‘Moor-head’ must originate in the headdress of the race of people called the Moors. Above is a picture of a young Moor man with his black headdress. The similarity is obvious.

The pattern must be created by the white-spotting or piebald gene. The amount of white is graded. This cat might be a grade 6. This gene creates the bicolor (2 color) cats of today and the Moor-head is a bicolor cat. The pattern we see is caused by the way the melanin producing cells, melanocytes, migrate throughout the body during the embryonic stage of development. That’s my assessment and I am open to a counter argument in a comment. In fact I’d welcome one!

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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