American Bobtail Cat
History of the American Bobtail
Until recently the American Bobtail has received little attention, so most people are surprised to learn that he has been catting around America for as long as the better-known Japanese Bobtail (see page 136), first imported to the United States in the late 1960s. The American Bobtail appeared on the scene in the 1960s as well, but because of the haphazard debut of the Bobtail, the word is just now beginning to spread about this breed.
The cat's history is uncertain. The original Bobtail bloodline came from a mating between a short-tailed brown tabby male named Yodie and a seal point Siamese female. Yodie was obtained by John and Brenda Sanders of Iowa while they were vacationing near an Indian reservation in Arizona. The parentage of Yodie is unknown, but was thought to have been a bobcat/domestic cat hybrid because of his stubby tail.
Birman, Himalayan, and a Hima-layan/Siamese cross were then added to the bloodline. Mindy Schultz (now Mindy Cave), a friend of the Sanders and the earliest Bobtail breeder, wrote the first provisional standard in the early 1970s. However, at that time the breed experienced setbacks due to the usual obstacles developing and promoting a new breed of cat is an endeavor that requires the patience of Job, the wealth of Midas, the wisdom of Solomon, and the tenacity of the Terminator.
What happened in those early years seems immaterial at this point. Most of the early bloodlines have been phased out. In the mid-1980s a group of Bobtail breeders decided to break away from the original blueprint of the cat, which was essentially a short-tailed pointed long hair with white mittens and a white face blaze. Breeders were having difficulty working with the complicated combination of genes required for the bobbed tail, Himalayan color pattern, and the white spotting factor. The original line became too inbred to be usable.
The new and improved American Bobtail comes in all colors, categories, and divisions. The trend among today's breeders is toward a sweet, domestic cat that has the natural, wild look of the bobcat. The new Bobtail lines were reputed to have begun in Florida with trysts between domestic cats and bobcats, the kittens of which fell into the hands of breeders working with the Bobtail. However, these matings cannot be documented since they appear to be on the order of: 'Well, our cat got out, and there were these bobcats running around all over the place, and then the kittens were born with those stubby little tails.'
While it is possible for the bobcat (Felis rufus, an indigenous North American spotted cat closely related to the larger lynx) to mate with domestic cats, bobcat/domestic cat hybrids, particularly the males, would most likely be sterile. Possibly the short, bobcat-like tail occurred as a spontaneous mutation within the domestic cat population, or is related to the dominant Manx gene.
Outcrossing the Bobtail to domestic stock is still allowable. The goal is to keep the gene pool healthy since it is still quite small. Neither Manx nor Japanese Bobtails are used in the matrix, nor are bobcats bred into the existing lines. Originally recognized only as a longhair, a shorthair standard has now been written and accepted.
American Bobtail Personality
While the breed is still developing, breeders say that Bobtails are playful, energetic, and friendly, and possess an uncanny intelligence for Houdini-type escapes from closed rooms and fastened cages. Very people-oriented, they are not above demanding human attention by meowing or commandeering available laps.
On the cat activity scale (with, perhaps, the Persian as a serene '1' and the Abyssinian as an animated '10'), the Bobtail rates a 7 or 8 ' fun-loving and frisky but not overactive.
American Bobtail Breed Traits
Bobtails are slow to develop, reaching maturity somewhere between two and three years. Like bobcats, the Bobtail's hind legs are slightly longer than the front legs, and the feet are large and round and may have toe tufts.
The Bobtail's most noted feature, its succinct tail, is one-third to one-half the length of an ordinary cat's, and should not extend below the hock. Like the Manx, the Bobtail's tail appears to be governed by a dominant gene. The tail is straight and articulate but may curve, have bumps or be slightly knotted.
Bobtails with no tails (also called rumpies) are not acceptable because of the health problems associated with the shortened spine.