View Full Version : Little Known English Cat Breeds

December 11th 05, 10:40 AM

Just as the Isle of Man has the Manx and Scotland has the Scottish Fold
(most of whom live in exile due to the vagaries of the British Cat
Fancy), so too do other areas of the British Isles have their indigenous
felines, as peculiar to their area as National Costume.


Many years ago in the lush green fields of Ireland were beautiful felines
who were under the protection of St Brendan. These cats, it is said,
arrived on the Emerald Isle with the sidhe, which is why their
descendants can see the little people. Their lush coats, magnificent size
and extraordinary good health placed them in great demand throughout the
world. St Brendan took the finest of these cats on his voyages to present
as gifts to the Lords of the lands he visited. The praises of these
handsome cats were related far and wide by bards.

Then the "bad times" arrived and foreigners arrived, destroying
everything in their path. Because of their size the Irish Bog Cats were
valued for their fur and tender meat. Driven to the verge of extinction,
these beautiful native cats retreated into the Bogs. There they remained
until their rediscovery in recent years when kind-hearted and serious
breeders undertook the task of breeding these once honoured and lovely
animals. Their popularity as friendly intelligent felines has again
spread throughout their native land, but it must be remembered that
beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that what St Brendan considered
beautiful, might today be considered coarse and lumpish (centuries of
inbreeding has also had a somewhat detrimental effect).

Unlike many traditional breeds where the modern show cat barely resembles
its working class ancestors, the Irish Bog Cat is a sturdy, working class
of cat found in almost every Irish household. All are pot-bellied from
their diet of corned beef, boiled cabbage and "champ" (a traditional dish
of potatoes and onions which accounts for their astonishing turn of speed
due to a unique form of jet propulsion). Besides the boiled dinners, they
also enjoy a bowl of Guinness Stout, Murphy's or uisge beatha (Whiskey)
daily and soda bread.

The show-quality Irish Bog Cat has a round thick head with cauliflower
ears. One ear is folded and the other curled. Chin is very weak, no chin
is preferred. Nose is a Tip O'Neil with a definite break, several breaks
are preferred, it is black, turning red after a few Jamiesons. Eyes are
green, bloodshot and swollen in proportion with the nose. Muzzle is
somewhat long in proportion to breadth, with freckles on the whisker
pads. (The long muzzle is necessary for sticking noses in Irish coffee

The legs are longer in front than in back for climbing out of the peat
bogs. There is no tufting on their paws but claws are strong and curved
for digging potatoes. All tails are kinked and two kinks are desirable
but not required. The kink is necessary for pulling out peat from the
bogs. The cat has a very thin main coat with a thick woolly, waterproof
undercoat. Hair grows from back to front and the only acceptable colour
is red tabby with markings shaped like shamrocks. This coat turns white
with age.

All Irish Bog Cats are born on St. Patrick's Day; those that are born on
other days are considered "variants" and may not be bred. A note from St
Brendan is necessary for authenticity of pedigree. A tonsure is also
required and they all have great step-dancing ability (best known Irish
Bog Cat step-dancer being Michael Catley whose "Ridfurdance" performed to
great acclaim at the Purrovision Song Contest - he has since gone on to
have his own show named "Clawed of the Dance"). Bog Cats born in odd
years have names starting with an "O", those born in even years start
with "Mac".


These unique felines have existed in Scotland since the time of myth. So
fearsome are they in battle that Hadrian's Wall was, in fact, built to
keep out not the barbarous Scots, but the fiercely territorial McCats who
fought in battle alongside their clans. The bagpipe is believed to have
been based upon the skirling war cried of McCats. They have a complex
history, being derived from centuries of hybridization between the ginger
cats of the Viking settlers, the now extinct Woad Blue Cats of ancient
tribes and the Scottish Wild Cat (although some authorities claim that
the Scottish Wild Cat is a partially domesticated form of the Scottish
McCat and this is borne out to some extent by a comparison of their

These cats have split into a number of sub-breeds to suit local
conditions although all have the distinctive "och-aye the noo" call.
Highland McCats have longer, woollier fur and have evolved to hunt in
highly efficient packs capable of bringing down a Highland Cow. They have
harsh voices and impenetrable accents. Lowland McCats can be
differentiated by their gentler lilting accents. Shetland cats are small,
due to the harsh living condition, but powerful and a pack of Shetland
McCats can easily bring down a Shetland pony. Orkney McCats are rugged
with gale-proof fur.

All McCats have long hair, and frequently beards and sideburns as well.
Facial hair is bright ginger in the Celtic and Viking sub-breeds, black
in the Gaelic varieties. The rest of the coat is any of a variety of
hunting tartans depending on clan allegiance. Those cats born outside of
clan lines are usually Black Watch. The breeding of designer-tartan cats
to suit overseas buyers is frowned upon.

Eyes are watery blue, bloodshot, bulbous and usually point in different
directions, while ears exhibit uniform thickening and extreme hairiness.
The muzzle is short and broad with a fine set of ginger whiskers either
side of a squashed and flattened nose which is mauve-red in colour. Many
McCats have particularly long canines, which enable them to tackle larger
prey and which, according to myth, are inherited from the ancient sabre-
tooth cats which once roamed the area.

The legs of Highland McCats are longer on one side than on the other to
enable them to chase their prey along hillsides. Some authorities claim
that the reason Highland McCats have legs of different lengths is for
hunting wild Haggis (most modern Haggis are intensively farmed). Like
Haggis, McCats come in right handed and left handed varieties and amorous
mismatched pairs, as with Haggis, have problems. Hunting their favourite
prey is simpler though as, if they miss the Haggis the first time around,
they can have another go on the other side of the hill. In all varieties,
the tail is bushy and the same colour as the facial hair and there is a
pronounced sporran, especially in male McCats. Although they have long,
scythe-like claws for bringing down unwary Sassenachs, many McCats also
have a skein dhu or traditional small dirk strapped to one leg, those
lacking a dirk are pretty handy with broken McEwans lager bottles.

The staple diet of these cats is Highland beef, Salmon (generally
poached), grouse, bashed neeps and boiled thistle-tips. Sightings of
Nessie are generally put down to sightings of particularly large McCats
swimming after salmon in Loch Ness.

Though born at any time of year, McCats born after a Scotland victory
over England in a Rugby or Soccer final are most highly regarded. All
McCat names are prefixed by Mc.


Indigenous to Wales, the Iechyd-da is best known for its fine singing
voice. Male Iechyd-das often form choirs and compared to the caterwauling
of their feline brethren worldwide, the sound of Iechyd-das competing for
the attentions of a female is deeply moving. Careful selective breeding
has fixed this trait into modern Iechyd-das. Each year these cats compete
at a three day festival to find the best singer and this cat is highly
sought after for stud services (which is why the contest is held annually
since most winning cats drop through exhaustion after eight months of
intensive breeding).

In appearance, the Iechyd-da is unremarkable. Males tend to be especially
well-built and athletic, perhaps due to having to sing while in full
flight from a thrown rugby boot in days gone by. Black and white is the
preferred colour and the sight of a show hall full of identical black-
and-white Iechyd-das in full song has moved many a judge to tears. Those
that aren't black and white are generally a sooty, grey colour due to
natural selection favouring those cats which blended in with coal mines
and slag heaps. All have exceptional sight and a remarkable sense of
navigation underground. Songs are still sung to the honour of Black Aled,
the cat who led a hundred and thirty trapped miners to safety after a
cave-in. For three days the miners followed this cat's singing until they
finally reached daylight. Admittedly Black Aled went the roundabout route
out of sheer curiosity, but he did lead the miners to safety nonetheless.
Black Aled never sang another note from that day till the day he died.

The preferred diet of the Iechyd-da is Welsh Rarebit and leek-and-mutton
broth. Their long association with mines has led many to develop a
strange habit known as coal-eating which is a form of pica found only in
the Iechyd-da breed. This could also account for the tendency of many
cats to develop a peculiar cough which sounds like the Welsh "ll" (as in
Llanelli) or "ch" (as in bach).

Traditional names for these cats include Dai, Dafydd and Jones although
more ambitious cats go by the name of Llanfairpwll...gogogoch


Despite European efforts to standardise English felines into a single
homogeneous Euro-compliant cat, these cats (which have accompanied
explorers to all corners of the world where they rapidly subdued native
cat breeds and enforced Imperial manners upon them) remain stubbornly
split into a host of local variants. Occasional, woad-colored cats appear
in these local variants, this is due to recombination of genes inherited
from the ancestral English feline.

Perhaps the best known are the Manx, Cornish Rex and Devon Rex, although
there are lesser known variants. The "Cockney" is noted for its black
coat and contrasting white pearl-effect speckles and a preference for
cock linnet and jellied eels. The "Geordie" has a peculiar dialect
understood only by other Geordie cats; they tend to be tough with a high
degree of differentiation between the genders - males are rough, ready,
rampant and lack finesse while females are perpetually on call - and a
staple diet of mushy peas and Newcastle Brown Ale. The "Lancashire" has
an outgrowth on its head which resembles a flat cap; it is excessively
fond of pigeon, black pudding and a pint of Mild. The "Glassy-Eyed
Suburban Commuter Cat" is a highly evolved local subspecies which occurs
only in black-pinstripe-and-white and is highly adept at crowding large
numbers of cats into small spaces during its two main activity periods
(morning and afternoon "rush" hours) although it spends much of the
intervening time slumbering over a newspaper.

The heyday of the English Imperial Cat was between the Elizabethan and
Victorian eras, after that it was all downhill as the cats were repelled
from their annexed territories by native felines battling for
independence. Sadly little effort has gone into the Imperial Cat during
the twentieth century and breeders tend to reminisce about past glories
rather than actually trying to reclaim any of that glory. Even in
International competition these cats, which once dominated the show
benches of the world, are sinking further towards obscurity. English
Imperial Cats enjoyed a brief revival during the two World Wars, though
for very much the wrong reasons. Being one of the few creatures that
could thrive in bombed out areas by subsisting on rats and mice, they
were frequently "befriended" by butchers and found themselves being sold
to unsuspecting buyers as "roof rabbit" and "genuine 100% coney".

Nowadays, the diet of the English Imperial Cat is far more diverse. From
a traditional diet of fish and chips (which is why the best specimens can
still be found close to Harry Ramsden's) or chip-butties it has moved on
to curry and chips, fried rice, pizza, burgers and in fact anything
served in a foil or styrofoam takeaway carton requiring the bare minimum
of preparation.

A cautionary note about the much-maligned "Essex" variety - due to their
indiscriminate breeding habits, it is almost impossible to trace the
pedigree of an Essex cat with any degree of accuracy or certainty. Essex
cats will mate with anything - other Essex cats, pet rabbits or small
dogs - much to the despair of the hard-working breeder who has carefully
matched up two Essex cats only to find her prize stud bonking next-door's
Dobermann with fatal results. Essex cats rarely mate with other variants
of the English Imperial (to be truthful, no other cat would ever consider
mating with an Essex cat) and are therefore dangerously inbred leading to
a high concentration of "Sharons", "Traceys" and "Waynes". Most Essex
cats are deaf and have poor colour vision due to their tendency to hang
around noisy nightclubs with high intensity light shows.


Found only in Burberry pattern with optional gold necklaces and
bracelets, the English Chav cat emerged relatively recently in the
Chatham area of Kent and has spread to all areas of the country. Males
have short, spiky fur on the head and back while females sport scraped-
back fur. They can subsist entirely on junk food and alcohol. Both sexes
are notoriously aggressive and have a reputation for promiscuity and
kleptomania. They are very vocal and constantly spit, swear and curse.

December 11th 05, 10:43 AM
Copyright 1995, SMIFFY/CPL

In the bleak midwinter,
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone,
Snow was falling snow on snow,
Snow on snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter
Not so long ago.

Little cat came calling,
Small, lost and alone,
Once a Christmas present,
Now tossed out of home;
Snow was falling, fun for some,
But cold and deadly snow
To a hungry feline
With nowhere to go.

Toys, giftwrap and tinsel
A bare few weeks ago,
Then like an outgrown plaything
Put out in the snow -
Don't give cats as presents
The novelty won't last,
Too many are abandoned
When Christmastime has passed.

In the bleak midwinter
Turned away from home,
By owners less than caring
With hearts as hard as stone.
Uncomprehending, puzzled,
She knows nowhere to go,
Hungry and not wanted,
Christmas kitten in the snow.

Author Anon

I once was a cuddly kitten,
But now I am a stray,
'Cos when I was no longer fluffy,
They sent me on my way.

They've kept the big Alsatian,
As he can bark and growl,
But I could fly at strangers,
If I caught them on the prowl.

I slink around their dustbin;
I mew outside their door;
But it's clear from their behaviour,
They don't want me anymore.

Now I'm cold and hungry,
And getting very thin,
What have I done to hurt them,
Why won't they let me in?

I crouch in sheds and boxes,
In my bedraggle fur,
So shivery and dejected,
I cannot even purr.

They have another kitten,
Their children's whole delight;
But probably next Christmas,
it will share my wretched plight.

(W Girt)

Christmas is coming, lists are all made
For presents and goodies and toys,
No-one's forgotten, not even the pets,
They all share in the seasonal joys.
But what of the cats on nobody's list,
The strays no-one bothers about?
Always outside, peering wistfully in,
Not ever inside looking out.

That sad little bundle of scrag-end and fur,
Beating the birds to the bread,
He'd give a lot to be in by the fire,
Imagine him warm and well-fed,
Safe in the love of a family,
No longer a stray, but a pet,
His purr could be your Christmas carol,
And make it your happiest yet.


A plate of fish, a cosy lap,
Perhaps a lick of cream,
To sit and purr before the fire,
Well, even cats can dream!
I've never had a proper home,
No door has opened wide,
O friendly voice called out to me,
"Come on puss, come inside."

But now maybe I've found a friend;
Though I'm not really sure,
I dare not eat the food she brings,
Until she's closed the door.
But there's a nice big wooden box,
Put just inside the shed,
With cosy blanket tucked well in,
To make a lovely bed.

Tomorrow I shall take a chance,
(She seems so nice and kind)
To get myself inside that door
And leave the dark behind.
That friendly fire I'll sit beside,
My lonely days all past,
A real belonging cat I'll be,
And have a home at least.
But there are other lonely ones,
Who ask themselves "Why me?"
If only they would have my luck
Real Christmas it would be.


It's the week before Christmas, I can hear carol-singing,
But the phone, the darned phone, it just never stops ringing:
"I want a small kitten before the weekend,
A surprise Christmas present for my best friend,
It must be fluffy and must have big blue eyes ...
No you can't do a pre-adoption check, this is a surprise,
And besides, she works full-time and goes out nights and weekends.
If she doesn't want it? She can give it to one of her friends,
Other cats? Her last two were run over, two before that got lost.
Get it neutered? Don't you know how much that would cost!
Does it really matter? Isn't giving what Christmas is about?
Here! Don't you speak to me like that, and don't you dare shout!
All through this phone call you've huffed and you've puffed.
Well you and the cat shelter might as well go get stuffed!"