Over the years, breeders have selectively bred domestic cats to display and pass on a wide variety of unique traits, from long, patterned fur to specific eye colors and face shapes and many, many more. Perhaps one of the most unique traits of all types of bobtail cats, however, is their adorable little “bobbed” tail. This trait is observable in breeds such as the Manx and American Bobtail, among many others.
Interestingly, the bobtail trait was originally the result of a totally random genetic mutation amongst domestic shorthaired cats. Starting around the 1960s and ‘70s, though, breeders began to selectively breed these individual cats to create a diverse array of different bobtail breeds. Let’s take a look at the many breeds of bobtail cats below! We’ll look into how and when they came about as well as what makes them so special!
1. Japanese Bobtail
Although most bobtail breeds didn’t gain mainstream traction until fairly recently, historians believe Japanese Bobtails have existed since the 1600s! The breed is widely considered lucky in Japanese culture. Furthermore, these handsome cats are thought to bring happiness, luck, and prosperity to their owners.
The Japanese Bobtail exists in many coat colors and patterns. These range from solid white and brown to unique patterns like van, tricolor, bicolor, and harlequin. As you might imagine, its most defining trait is its short, nub-like tail. According to breed standards, the Japanese Bobtail’s tail should have “at least one curve, kink, or angle” in its structure. The breed has been recognized by nearly every major organization that registers purebred cats. Currently, the only exception is the UK’s Governing Council of the Cat Fancy.
Incredibly, every individual Japanese Bobtail cat has its own unique, specific tail shape. No two are exactly alike! However (again, according to the breed standard), the tail should extend no longer than three inches from the cat’s body.
Japanese Bobtails are among the oldest existing cat breeds in the world. Japanese artists have depicted the Japanese Bobtail in ancient art pieces like paintings and prints for centuries. Oddly, though, these cats didn’t arrive in America until 1968.
Originating from the Isle of Man off the UK’s coast sometime in the early 19th century, the Manx is a bobtail cat that is one of the African wildcat’s many descendants. Although the bobtail trait is merely a natural genetic mutation, urban legends and folk tales suggest this type of bobtail cat was somehow brought to the Isle of Man over the Irish Sea.
Other common names for the Manx include “stubbin” and “rumpy” cats. Both names originated from the Manx language native to the Isle of Man. Because the island is so small and its biodiversity is so limited, the Manx and its tailless trait spread very quickly amongst the area’s native cat populations.
The Manx’s main defining trait is its bobbed tail, though many cat lovers also admire the breed for its playful and “dog-like” temperament. These energetic, curious cats can present in a variety of eye colors, coat colors, and coat patterns. They can also have long or short coats, though short hair tends to be more common. Manx cats are also well-loved for their short, stout bodies and rounded heads with wide, similarly round eyes, which give them a cuddly, rotund appearance.
3. American Bobtail
The result of another random genetic mutation, the American Bobtail breed was officially developed by breeders and recognized by various organizations in the US starting in the 1960s. American Bobtails have a similar appearance to typical domestic American shorthair cats, aside from their bobbed tails. They can also have a wide variety of coat lengths, colors, and patterns. However, longhair individuals with color points tend to be considered more desirable.
Notably, this particular breed’s bobbed tail is usually slightly longer than many other known bobtail breeds. Individuals can have tails ranging from tiny, one-inch nubs to those as long as four inches. All manner of curves, bends, and kinks in the cats’ tails are also fairly common.
In terms of their temperament, American Bobtails are energetic, athletic, and alert. They are also highly intelligent and curious, and the breed is an especially great choice for families with children or other cats and animals. In addition, they are highly adaptable and welcoming to sudden changes in their environment. This trait makes American Bobtails great pets for travelers or people who tend to always be on the move.
The Pixie-bob breed’s roots are fairly recent! This breed originated in the mid-1980s in Washington and was created by Carol Ann Brewer.
Incredibly, the kittens from the first litter of Pixie-bobs were direct descendants of “legend” cats, which are naturally-occurring cats with wild American bobcat and domestic cat parents. Over time, breeders have carefully developed the breed to make these cats further resemble wild bobcats as closely as possible. Thankfully, though, no captive American bobcats were used to produce this type of bobtail cat.
After Brewer successfully bred the first litter of Pixie-bobs, she initiated a breeding program for them in 1986. The breed’s name comes from the name of one of the first litter’s kittens, a female named Pixie, who was the foundation of the breed. Over time, Brewer introduced other cats into the breeding program, and what we know today as the Pixie-bob was born.
Starting in 1993, the International Cat Association officially recognized the breed, and eventually, several other organizations followed. The American Cat Fanciers’ Association finally recognized the breed in 2005.
Like their bobcat ancestors, Pixie-bob cats are heavily muscled and athletic with distinctly spotted coats. Interestingly, polydactyly is very common amongst Pixie-bobs, with some individuals having up to seven toes on each paw!
Also commonly known by breeders as the Highlander Shorthair or the Highland Lynx, the Highlander breed is very new. The International Cat Association (TICA) recognized the breed as recently as 2008. Highlander cats are a unique blend of the Desert Lynx and Jungle Curl breeds, resulting in a distinctively curly-eared bobtail cat.
The Highlander breed was initially developed in 2004 by breeders aiming to create a small, domestic breed with the aesthetic of a wild, big cat like a lynx or a bobcat. Over the next decade or so, a small group of breeders further refined the Highlander cat, and in 2016, TICA moved the breed from the Preliminary New Breed Class up to the Advanced New Breed category.
Highlander cats have a strikingly unique appearance, with their ears resembling that of an American Curl and their faces having large, pronounced features. Coat colors range from tabby to various types of color points, though most registry organizations do not consider bicolor cats as breed standard. Both shorthair and longhair variations are common. Like their parent breeds, Highlanders are muscular, athletic, and have the overall appearance of a “big cat” in a small, cuddly package.
In terms of temperament, Highlander cats are extremely friendly, outgoing, and confident. They are more active than most domestic breeds and greatly enjoy swimming, human interaction, and lots of outdoor exercise.
6. Cymric (Longhair Manx)
The Cymric breed is an unusual one, as many cat registry organizations simply consider it to be a long-haired variation of the Manx breed. Other than the length of its luxurious double coat, this particular type of bobtail cat is virtually identical to the Manx. Interestingly, it is common for Manx cats to produce both long- and short-haired kittens, sometimes even within the same litters!
Similar to Manx cats, Cymric cats have short, bobbed tails, somewhat pudgy, rounded bodies, and round heads. Some individuals, known as “rumpies,” can be completely tailless, while those with very short bobbed tails are similarly affectionately known as “stumpies.”
These bobtail cats have an odd gait thanks to their unique body shape which causes their rear end to sit slightly higher up than their front legs. Amusingly, this makes them look like blurry, round balls of fur when they break into a run.
The Cymric’s personality is also quite similar to the Manx. Sweet, friendly, and people-pleasing, these “dog-like” cats make great additions to any home, particularly those with children or other cats.
7. Kurilian Bobtail
Hailing from Russia’s Kuril Islands, the original short-haired Kurilian Bobtail has existed for more than 200 years! Other names for this breed include the Kuril Bobtail, Kuril Islands Bobtail, and the Curilsk Bobtail. The breed developed naturally for many generations with no intervention from humans. In recent years, though, breeders have further distributed the breed all over the world and solidified its breed-standard characteristics.
Like the Manx and Cymric breeds, the Kurilian Bobtail also has very long, muscular hind legs in comparison to its front legs. Although this quality gives the Kurilian Bobtail an odd, uneven gait, it also means the cat is a strong jumper. It is also fairly common for individuals to have spiral-like tails with kinks or curves.
Because of their unique, athletic build, these types of bobtail cats are very active and enjoy plenty of exercise, especially outdoors. Kurilian Bobtails even enjoy water and swimming, as their thick, water-resistant coats keep their bodies well insulated.
Affectionate, friendly, and highly energetic, Kurilian Bobtail cats are excellent pets able to adapt to a variety of different households and lifestyles. Just be sure to keep any pet rodents, birds, or fish away from them, as they have a strong natural hunting instinct.
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.