M is for Manx

Cat Fancy's first look at the Manx cat breed describes a loveable tailless cat.

By Tana White

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From the Archives of Cat Fancy: Enjoy this all-access pass to cat history from the pages of the oldest living cat magazine. This content remains in its original form and reflects the language and views of its time. Health and behavior information evolves and only the most current advice should be followed.

Excerpted from CAT FANCY magazine, 1967, Volume 3


Situated in the Irish Sea, between the coasts of England and Ireland, lies a distinctive and inviting little island – the Isle of Man. A visitor would be enchanted by the grassy glens, rolling hills spread with heather and the quaint little stone cottages that dot the sea shores. He would also have the chance to meet a most captivating little cat which lives there, the Manx.

Even at first glance, this feline is distinctively different from other cats. His head is pleasantly roundish with large lustrous eyes that are placed with a slight slant in an intelligent face. His ears are wide at the base and taper to a rounded tip that may be adorned with a tuft of hair. They are set a little to the side and outward, appearing to form the rocker of a cradle hen viewed from behind. A caressing hand will move up a short back that arches from the shoulders up to the hindlegs, which are taller than the forelegs. His rump, well-furred and padded, is as round as a ball and his flanks are quite deep. The coat is soft, having a downy undercoat and a silky outer coat. The physical structure causes a gait entirely unlike other cats. The Manx has an appealing built-in rumba when walking and actually hops when running. The classic Manx which comes to mind is completely tailless and even has a small indentation, called a dimple, which appears where the tail would normally start. The male is the very image of virile masculinity, being compact, sturdy of bone and powerfully built. The queen, despite the same compactness and bone structure, is still a dainty and very charming female.

The Isle have been recognized as the official home of the Manx, for it is there that the breed developed and was first discovered. Some believe the Manx did not start until after the Spanish Armada had been defeated and a ship was wrecked on Spanish Head. Supposedly, a tailless male cat was on board but left the wreck, swam ashore, and began the breed. Spain disclaims the existence of tailless cats, but the cat in question did not have to be a Spanish cat. As ships go from port to port, sailors pick up different cats to keep the ship free of vermin. Perhaps a seaman chose a cat from the Orient as is generally suggested. Cats in the East are reported as being minus all or part of a tail in Japan, Siam, Burma and the Malay Peninsula. Dr. Neil B. Todd, however, proved genetically that the Manx is not even distantly related to Oriental cats. To complicate things, a Baltic ship also went down off the coast and reports say a drenched, angry rumpy cat was among the survivors.

It is more likely that the Manx originated on the Isle as a mutant, as Dr. D.W. Kerruish, Veterinary Officer of the Animal Health Department on the Isle states. With this particular mutant, which proved to be semi-dominant, the closed cat population on the Isle began to acquire a distinct physical structure all its own. If the mutant had occurred on the mainland, it would probably have been lost.

Mention should be made that while the physical structure of the Manx is completely dominant, this happens to be due to a wise and providing nature for while the structure has a peculiar dominance over that of an ordinary cat, it also carries a semi-lethal gene. Breeders have discovered that if a tailless cat (called a rumpy) is bred to another rumpy for three generations, the kittens will be deformed and in the following generation, dead. If the Manx with a short tail (called a stumpy) is used the kittens will be healthy. The stumpy, like the rumpy, has the same short and arched back, distinctive ear and eye placement, deep flanks, round rump and double coat. While it has the same conformation, it does not have the lethal gene that will maim or kill. An average litter will include one rumpy, one stumpy and one longy (a Manx with a tail of normal length). There is some controversy between American breeders and people from the Isle of Man that if a cat does not have the dimple, it is not a Manx. This can hardly be true. Siamese are bred to eliminate the kinked tails but because a kitten has a kinked tail, this does not make it any less a Siamese. Likewise, if a pair of Manx which meet all the physical characteristics of the breed give birth to a Manx with a tail, it is no less a Manx.

The Manx does have a more colorful origin theory which concerns Noah and the flood. It seems the rain had begun to fall and Noah was most anxious to be off, but one lone cat was missing from the menagerie. As the waters began rising, the delinquent cat came bounding over puddles and made a spring for the door. Noah, in his haste to secure all hatches, closed the door too soon and while poor puss gained admittance, his tail did not. Another legend gives rise to the theory that a wise Manx queen started the whole thing. It seemed that Cletic warriors were fond of adorning their helmets with the luxurious bushy tail of the Manx and every litter born was eventually shorn of tails. To protect future litters, this queen managed to start the fad of giving birth to completely tailless kittens, thus sparing them the pain of having their tails docked.

The first Manx in America that received notoriety was “Swamp Angel” who lived in the early 1900's. This feline was supposed to have been a cross between a cat and the large black hack rabbits that inhabited the Great Swamp near Chatham, New Jersey. He was, undoubtedly, a little lost Manx that originally came from the Hurley farm in Toms' River. The Hurleys were sea-going folk and brought back a pair of Manx from England. The Manx breed flourished on the farm and a custom bean. When a child grew up and married the couple took a pair of Manx with them to start house-keeping.

While the Hurley's were the first to value the Manx as pets, other people have also succumbed to the wiles of this little feline. The Manx is one of the most intelligent but yet the most sensitive of all cats known. Unjust punishment or an unfortunate accident whereby a Manx is injured by a human leaves a lasting impression on this cat. Physical punishment is rarely necessary, a stern scolding being enough to correct an undesirable act. Because of the Manx's sensitivity toward the wishes of their humans, they are the easiest of all feline breeds to house train. It has been said they are distant and aloof, but this is generally when the cat has been passed form home to home. One such was a large black neuter who passed through three homes before we obtained him. Although an adult, ne never offered to battle any of the cats we already had, he accepted our food and our petting, but was reluctant to give his trust, remaining a rather dignified and aloof gentleman. When he did begin to return our affection, we were forced to place him in another home. For two days he spend his time beneath the davenport, then suddenly began a passionate love affair that lasted until his death. The woman of the house did not work, and with a little coaxing he began to warm toward her. Suddenly he lost all semblance of dignity and raced up and down the steps to the upper story. He would supervise preparation of meals, amuse the male member of the family after office hours by stalking imaginary game beneath the furniture, and he retired them each night secure in the knowledge that they loved him. Given love and affection, no Manx will remain cold or aloof as they thrive on human companionship.

Noted as hunters, the Manx are excellent the Manx are excellent in the elimination of vermin. Not only mice and rats fall to their prowess, by snakes as well. Manx owners maintain they have never seen their cats run from a dog. Quite the contrary, many is the time a Manx will send a dog scurrying pell-mell down the lane to safety. Perhaps part of this is due to the unique manner some Manx have of confronting their adversaries. If the attacker is not a large animal, the cat will raise on his hind legs, ears back, teeth bared and front legs outstretched with claws in readiness as he makes his own attack. The unnerving aspect of a ferocious demon descending upon him in this most unorthodox manner would be enough to send any dog scurrying to safety.

Even so, the Manx is a most gentle and affectionate pet. They are particularly gentle and patient with children. The Manx is also a devoted mother of her own young and takes great care in raising them and training them to the rules of the house. A litter of Manx kittens is a great addition to the home. They will provide many entertaining hours stalking one another and gamboling about your legs. For no reason, they will all suddenly go racing through the house and then, at what is apparently a signal, all begin to leap straight upward in a fascinating ballet.
Manx kittens are very sensitive to the rigors of being transported across the country. While the kitten will arrive at its destination in fine physical condition, their faith in human nature has been shaken. They were in a comfortable home, then plopped in a small carrier, placed aboard a roaring monster, subjected to another ride and suddenly brought into a different house. Most enter a new home wary and cautious. One such was a lovely little four month old female that came from Oregon to Texas. She accepted her new home, but seemed quiet and withdrawn.

While she made no great effort to escape us when we held and petted her, she would not purr in return. In fact, for a few weeks she would not join the other cats in the room with us when we watched television after work although she was friendly with them. About a month later, when she grew brave enough to add her squeaky voice to the cat chorus for supper and would occasionally arch her back when we ran a hand from shoulders to rump, she suddenly appeared in a doorway before me and paused. I was sitting in a hair while the baby dozed off to sleep as she opened a pink mouth and I barely heard what sounded like a request for entry. I motioned with my hand and in a wild rush she tumbled into my lap, purring and rubbing her head against my hands. Now she follows us about the house, her eyes gleaming with affection.

It is this whimsical personality which captivates Manx owners. They are often amazed at the politeness and gentleness of their pets as well as thankful for the ease in the training and care of their charges. More than that, they are proud of the intelligence which the breed shows and are completely beguiled by the intense affection a Manx shows toward those whom they give their love.
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