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What Is The History Of The Manx Cat? Everything You Want to Know!

Sarah Psaradelis

By Sarah Psaradelis

manx cat on bench

The Manx cat is an ancient breed that has been around for centuries. They are popular for their tailless appearance and are a fascinating breed that originated from the Isle of Man— an island between Ireland and England in the Irish Sea.

Manx cats have been referred to as “stubbing” cats which some locals continue to use in modern times because of the Manx language on the Island. This breed has been around since the 1800s and is one of the first founding members of the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) which was founded in 1908.

The Manx cat not only has an interesting appearance, but also a long history that we will discuss in this article.

The Fascinating History Behind Manx Cats

The Manx cat is a well-known and tailless breed of cat that was first published as a breed standard in 1908, although this cat breed has first been documented to have been around since the 1800s. The Manx cat breed is believed to have been created from the mainland stock on the Island, and like all cats, the Manx is a descendent of the African Wildcat.

The Manx cat is believed to have come from a gene pool of cats located on their home island and was the result of inbreeding. They were a popular addition to most farms and were kept as a form of rodent control. There were also colonies of Manx cats that formed in Douglas horse tram stables and would hunt gulls as a source of food.

They were not only a popular cat breed for farmers but were also commonly found in town businesses that were either on or off the island. Manx cats also made great sailing cats because there was a belief that if you “don’t have a tail then you cannot start a storm.”

manx cat
Image Credit: PradaBrown, Shutterstock

History Behind The Manx Cat’s Appearance

Manx cats were quite popular in cat shows and were entered as a cat of other varieties where they could not compete in the shows unless they had a good size and markings. Manx cats lack a tail and instead have a stub where their tail should be. Interestingly, this stump can vary in length depending on how the Manx cat has been bred. These cats are medium in size, with a broad chest and their body type is usually described as lean with muscle.

Aside from having no tail, another distinctive feature of the Manx cat is that they have elongated hind legs and a small, rounded head. They can be found in a range of different coat colors and patterns, but pure white Manx cats are quite rare. There are long-haired Manx cats, but these variants are typically considered to be a different breed—the Cymric —who does not have a tail either.

This cat’s long hind legs are much longer than their fore legs which gives the cat a humped appearance, which is why this cat is sometimes described as being rabbit-like—their stub on the rump and rounded body with long hind legs that make them good jumpers.

The dominant trait that gives this cat a tailless feature is the Manx tailless gene which became common on the Isle of Man because of the genetic diversity of the cats. This is known as the founder effect which shortened this cat breeds tail significantly.

manx cat
Image Credit: spicetree687, Pixabay

Manx Cats Through The Years

  • 1750: The first-ever reference to a tailless Manx cat appeared to be in a description of “stubbin” cats which are cats that lack a tail, and it is the word stubby translated from the Manx language to English. This was used to describe a cat that was tailless or only had a short stub, and it is believed to be the first description of the development of the Manx cat breed.
  • The 1800s: This is when the first proper documentation and development of the Manx cat breed was identified and recorded in populations on the Isle of Man. They were also introduced into cat shows under the Manx division and were entered as “any other variety” class.
  • 1903: One of the first known recordings of the Manx breed standard happened this year in the writing of Rabbits, Cats, and Cavies which was published by a show and breeding expert, Charles Lane, who had a Manx cat named Lord Luke.
  • 1908: The year when the Manx cat was recognized as one of the first breeds by the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA)—a predominant United States-based pedigree cat registry that was first founded this year.
  • 1961: To maintain the number of Manx cats on the Isle of Man, the government set up a cattery at the Knockaloe farm. The farm was quite difficult to maintain, so the cattery was moved to Nobles Park back in 1964 where it remained for the next thirty-odd years. The cattery closed in 1992 because of the high costs to maintain the place along with concerns about the cat’s welfare from the SPCA.
  • 1963: This year, a tabby Manx cat was shown to the Queen Mother on her visit to Castletown. The cat then became a ship cat on the royal yacht Britannia, and he was called Schickry (the Manx word for “certain”).
  • 2004: This was the year when the last Manx breed standard was recorded, and the long-haired variety of this cat was recognized as a separate breed from the Cymric.
  • 2015: The Manx Cat Genome Project was launched this year in August to get a better understanding of the Manx cat genetics. Computational biologist, Rachel Glover from Douglas in the Isle of Man performed a genome sequence of this cat breed to uncover the genetic mutations that separate the Manx cat from other breeds. This was the Isle of Man’s first sequencing program.
manx cat lying
Image Credit: NSC Photography, Shutterstock

5 Interesting Facts and Folklore About Manx Cats

  • Manx cats were used to promote the Isle of Man by the government and were given as gifts to famous people who would visit the Island and tourists were encouraged to take them home. These famous people include Walt Disney, Edward VIII, and John Wayne.
  • The distinctive differences that make this cat different than other cat breeds are due to the “founder effect”, which is caused by a limited gene pool.
  • Manx cats were originally working cats on farms as a form of rodent control on the Isle of Man and were loved by farmers for the cat’s excellent hunting ability and playful personality.
  • There are many folklores surrounding the Manx cat, primarily due to their tail (or lack thereof). For example, the tailless cat swam ashore from a shipwreck and brought the tailless gene to the island’s cat population.
  • The oldest folklore surrounding this cat breed is that they were late to running onto Noah’s Ark and the door was closed on their tail.
manx cat
Image Credit: Cheryl Kunde, Shutterstock

Final Thoughts

The Manx cat is now a popular cat breed across the world, and their tail stub can come in various lengths, which means that not all cats with stubs are necessarily Manx cats. This cat breed has many folklores and history from the Viking times and is an excellent cat for rodent control according to their island of origin.

This cat breed can be found in many different coat colors and patterns, along with either a short or long coat length, and a stubby tail that varies widely in length.


Featured Image Credit: rokopix, Shutterstock

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