Manx Breed History
This Manx Breed History Article is Listed in Manx Cat Breed Information
There are a number of mythical tales surrounding the origins of the Manx, such as that Noah cut off its tail with the door of the Ark as the rain began to fall. In actuality, Manx cats originated on the Isle of Man, off the coast of Great Britain, among a population of cats whose common ancestry sprang from the same roots as the British Shorthair.
A spontaneous mutation occurred at some point several hundred years ago, which created kittens born without the vertebrae that form the tail of normal cats. With the passage of centuries and due to the isolation of the cats from outside breeding, the taillessness eventually became a common characteristic among the Isle of Man cats, because the mutated gene is a dominant trait.
The Manx is a stocky, solid cat with a dense double coat (long or short), a compact body, very short back, hind legs that are visibly longer than the front legs, big bones, a wide chest, and greater depth of flank (sides of the cat nearest the rear) than other cats. The standard weight for males is 10-12 lbs. and for females is 8-10 lbs. The Manx head is broad-jowled with round eyes, and the ear-set is distinct to the breed–when viewed from the back, the ears and the top of the head form a “cradle” or “rocker” shape. The ears themselves are broad at the base and taper to a narrower, rounded tip. This is the general appearance of all Manx cats, regardless of whether they are show-quality or not.
Although the completely tailless, or “rumpy,” Manx is the desired show type, Manx may also have tails. A litter of kittens may include a rumpy, a “riser” (has a bit of cartilage at the base of the spine, under the skin, that may be felt when the cat is happy), a “stumpy” (any tail length not long, but visibly a tail), and a “longy,” and all are Manxes. Only rumpy and riser Manx may be shown in American competition, and the riser’s cartilage must not stop the judge’s hand when the back is stroked.
Whatever the tail length, all the other physical characteristics will be present – roundness of head and body, cradle-set ears, broad chest, deep flank. In fact, the tailed Manx are necessary for the healthy continuation of the breed. The tailless gene, a dominant gene, is lethal when breeding rumpies to each other into or beyond the third generation. The breeder continues to use tailed cats in the breeding program to insure strong kittens and to reduce the possibility of genetic deformity.
The most striking feature of the show-quality Manx is the complete lack of a tail. Indeed, the best Manx has a slight indentation at the base of the spine where the tail would begin–a “dimple.” The breed standard against which a show-quality Manx is judged continuously uses the word “round” to describe the Manx–round body, round eyes, round rump, round head, even round paws. The impression that you get when looking at the Manx is of a hairy basketball with legs. Balance is important, as well, with all that roundness. The Manx needs proportion, or it will be a fat, furry lump. All parts of the body should “go together”–so that what you see isn’t a “head” or a “body” but a complete cat. The short back should rise in a continuous curve to the rump, and the long back legs complete that rounded picture. The head shouldn’t be too large for the body, nor the chest too broad for the hindquarters.
Manx cats come in every color and pattern, although the pointed, or Himalayan, pattern is not accepted in all associations. You will see classic and mackerel tabby Manx, tortoiseshell Manx, calico and solid-color and bi-color Manx; and the color possibilities cover the range of red, blue, cream, brown, black, and white.
Manx coats can be either longhair or shorthair. CFA has recently made the longhair and the shorthair Manx two divisions of the breed, eliminating the former name “Cymric” for the longhair, while other associations, such as TICA, have retained the Cymric name for their long-haired Manx. Longhairs still have a double coat, but the outer coat is of a semi-long length. It doesn’t require the daily brushing of a Persian, but needs more care than the shorthair coat does. All colors and patterns exist in both coat lengths.
There are a number of mythical tales surrounding the origins of the Manx, such as that Noah cut off its tail with the door of the Ark as the rain began to fall. In actuality, Manx cats originated on the Isle of Man, off the coast of Great Britain, among a population of cats whose common ancestry sprang from the same roots as the British Shorthair. A spontaneous mutation occurred at some point several hundred years ago, which created kittens born without the vertebrae that form the tail of normal cats. With the passage of centuries and due to the isolation of the cats from outside breeding, the taillessness eventually became a common characteristic among the Isle of Man cats, because the mutated gene is a dominant trait.
The original Isle of Man Manx was a rangier cat than the standard used today, but the basics were there–deep flanks, long back legs, sturdy body. Through careful, deliberate breeding programs, the size of the cat has increased, and the short-backed, broad-chested and stocky cat that we see now became the desired type.
Mythology and Folklore of the Manx: Many stories of the origin of the Manx are found in cat and mythology books. In many of these tales the Manx are descended from ship’s cats who were shipwrecked on the Isle of Man when their ships were sunk off the coast. A commonly told story is the legend from the early 1600s of two ships from the Spanish Armada that were sunk off Spanish Point near Port Erin. The Isle of Man was the refuge for the tailless cats from these two ships. Another legend has it that the cat came from a ship wrecked in 1806 off Jurby Point, while another says it was a Baltic ship wrecked off Castle Rushen and Calf Island.
Early speculation considered the Annamite cats to be the beginning of the Manx, these cats having short tails. They were introduced into Burma. Others felt the Manx may be descended from Siam and Malaya. The Malaya Archipelago cats have kinked, knotted and short tails.
The Welsh also lay claim to the Manx in their legends and the people considered them sacred animals in early times. British folklore has it that mom cats bit off their kittens’ tails to keep humans from snatching them away. Stumpy tailed cats in New Guinea sometimes get their tails docked by their owners. If a cat is stolen the tail is buried with certain spells to bring misfortune on the thief.
The truth is that short-tailed and tailless cat are seen the world over, the result of a genetic mutation. Japanese Bobtails have short kinked tails and a less stocky body than the Manx. Other breeds of cats occasionally produce a kitten with a missing tail. The Manx, however, is the only cat that is bred to be tailless.
Characteristics and Temperament: The Manx is a mellow, even-tempered cat, friendly and affectionate. Its origins as a “working” cat are still strongly seen in the breed, and any Manx which lives an outdoor or outdoor/indoor life is a fierce, dedicated hunter. Many people call the Manx the “dog cat” because of its strong desire to be with its people. Manx cats will follow you about the house, “helping” with whatever you happen to be doing at the moment. Manx cats are not prone to restive movement, and even kittens like to curl up in a lap for a nap. Manx do like to get on things, and if you’re looking for your cat, look about the room at eye-level (yours, not the cat’s) on tables and the backs of chairs and on bookcases. Chances are, you’ll spot your cat pretty quickly.
The Manx voice is usually very quiet for its size. Even a female in full-blown heat doesn’t make very much noise at all. The Manx has a distinct “trill” which you most often hear from females talking to the kits, but with which they will reply to their people’s verbalizations as well. Your Manx *will* talk to you.
The “watch Manx” is a sight to behold: Many Manx are very protective of their home and any unusual noise or disturbance will cause a low growl and even an attack by a Manx that is very protective. Strange dogs are especially a target of attack.
Manx make good pets for younger children if they grow up with them, because of their even-temperedness. An older Manx may have some difficulty adjusting to the noise and quickness of children, however, since Manx generally prefer a quiet, settled environment. If your home is a quiet one, you’ll find that your young Manx quickly becomes accustomed to that peace and quiet, and simply slamming a door may startle the cat. For the most part, though, Manx aren’t timid cats, and will place a lot of confidence in their people’s reaction to events. A Manx that has been raised in a family environment will transfer easily to another home and remain a happy, playful cat.
If you decide on a show cat, you’ll find that most Manx adjust well to the activity of the show hall, if you begin showing them at the kitten stage. Some Manx actually love the attention they receive at a show, and enjoy meeting new people. It is rare for a Manx to “play” on the judging table however much they might chase toys and race about in your home. They much prefer “kissing up” to the judge, and will deliver “head-butts” to any judge who places his/her face within range.
Manx, unlike many breeds, may be shown for years – as long as they are willing to go and enjoy it, as a matter of fact. This is because the Manx matures slowly, and may take as long as five years to reach full growth and potential. This means that you may get many years of showing enjoyment out of your Manx, and it is conceivable that your cat could win more than one regional/national title as it gets better and better with the passing of time.
Male and female Manx show equally well in the premiership classes, as both may attain the roundness and “type” for top show ability. In the championship classes, males may have the edge over the females, as the whole queen will come into heat often when shown, and this can cause her temperament to be uneven. Whole males generally maintain a more even disposition, although a male used often as a stud may develop a testiness as time goes by, especially in early spring shows when females come into season.
In choosing a show kitten, rely on the breeder to point out likely kittens. About 80 percent of the time, the promising kitten becomes the excellent adult. There are exceptions, of course, especially after the cat has been spayed/neutered, when the so-so kitten develops into a surprisingly winning cat. This is one thing that makes cat showing thrilling, though, when that occasional “surprise” comes along and brightens your life.
Special Medical Problems
Manx Syndrome is a normally fatal defect caused by the so-called Manx gene, which causes the taillessness. The gene’s action in shortening the spine may go too far, resulting in severe spinal defects–a gap in the last few vertebrae, fused vertebrae, or spina bifida in newborns. If there is no obvious problem with a Manx Syndrome kitten at birth, the difficulties will show up in the first few weeks or months of the cat’s life, usually in the first four weeks, but sometimes as late as four months. It is often characterized by severe bowel and/or bladder dysfunction, or by extreme difficulty in walking.
Breeders of Manx will generally not let kittens leave the cattery until they have reached four months of age because of the possibility of Manx Syndrome appearing. In most cases, however, experience will point to a problem in a kitten long before the kit is four months old. Rarely will a breeder have no suspicion of anything wrong and have the Manx Syndrome appear.
Manx Syndrome may occur even in a carefully bred litter, but is more likely in the instance when a rumpy is bred to a rumpy in or beyond the third generation. For this reason, the breeder carefully tracks rumpy to rumpy breedings, and uses tailed Manx regularly in the breeding program. Generally speaking, a sound breeding between a tailed Manx and a rumpy Manx should produce a litter that is 50% tailed and 50% rumpy, but as we know, what should happen and what does happen are many times two different things. Usually, however, one may rely on this percentage. As long as litters are produced in which all tail lengths appear, the breeder may feel that the breeding program is on track.
Manx litters tend toward the small side in numbers, both because of Manx Syndrome and because of the short back of the queen, which leaves less room for large numbers of kittens. A typical Manx litter will be 3 or 4 kittens–more than that could crowd the kits and a female who has a history of large litters needs careful observation during pregnancy to see that all goes well. A sensible precaution with expectant Manx queens is to have the vet x-ray or ultra-sound her a couple of weeks before the due date, to determine the number of kits to expect.
Most breeders will have the tails of Manx kits docked at 4-6 days of age. This is not so much for cosmetic reasons as it is to stave off another manifestation of the Manx gene. In adult cats of around 5 years, the tail vertebrae may become ossified and arthritic, resulting in pain for the cat. The pain may grow so severe that amputation is necessary–a difficult operation for an adult cat. It is much less painful and recovery is much swifter for a very young kitten to have its tail docked. ~ Jean Brown, Paul Osmond, Marj Baker and Sam Cuttell.