Cymric Cat – Made Tail
The Cymric Cat, which is rightly pronounced koom rik, is a longhaired, tailless version of the shorthaired, tailless Manx. The Manx, of course, is named after the Isle of Man, where the breed originally came to flower. The Cymric Cat, for reasons that remain obscure, was baptized with the Welsh term for Wales.
This name was chosen, says one cat registry, because “many longhaired Manx were observed in Wales at one time.” Unfortunately, we aren’t told who observed these longhaired Manx, when they were observed or if they originated in Wales. Until such questions are answered, it’s reasonable to assume the Cymric Cat is a Man-made cat, too.
The Warning Label
What you don’t see is what can get you with a Cymric Cat and a Manx as well. In fact, wrote former Cat Fanciers’ Association president Richard H. Gebhardt, “Manx is a very discouraging breed. It would be an injustice to the cat and to the new fancier not to mention the disappointments the prospective breeder should be prepared to cope with.”
Those disappointments, which include crippling, spina bifida and abnormalities of the bowel and bladder, occur in proportion to the shortness of the cat’s spine. Lumbar vertebrae do not materialize in Cymric Cat in the same number as they do in ordinary cats. Therefore, breeders who persist in breeding the shortest possible two Cymric Cat together may find their kittens suffering from too little of a good thing.
That possibility, which has come to be known as Manx syndrome, often appears, if it is going to appear, during the first weeks or months of a kitten’s life. That’s why conscientious breeders do not let kittens leave home until they have reached four months of age.
Manx syndrome is more likely to occur when tailless Manx or Cymric Cats are bred together for three generations or more. To lessen the possibility of Manx syndrome, breeders should use tailed Cymric cat regularly in their breeding schemes. In addition, writes one observer, “Most breeders will have the tails of Manx kits docked at 4 to 6 days of age. This is not so much for cosmetic reasons as it is to stave off another manifestation of the Manx gene.”
That manifestation can occur when cats are roughly 5 years old. The tail vertebrae may become painfully ossified and arthritis. In severe cases amputation is necessary. Small wonder that Gebhardt cautions, “Only those fanciers with a deep concern for the Manx’s [or the Cymric’s] well-being should be involved with them, for heartaches most frequently exceed triumphs.”
In fact, he continues, “There is a good reason to argue that the Manx should not be a natural breed. True, it produces tailless kittens quite naturally, but a pure breed should not produce defects from like-to-like breedings. This happens all too often with Manx. For as long as Manx have been recognized – and there were Manx taking prizes in British shows more than a century ago – the genetic defects have never been bred out of these cats.”
The Isle of Man is a 221-square-mile tourist attraction caressed by the soothing waters of the Gulf Stream in the middle of the North Irish Sea. Tailless cats have lived on Man since the early 19th century. No one knows how they came to the island or how they came to be tailless, though several accounts have been advanced to explain their condition. According to one theory, two cats were the last animals to board Noah’s Ark, and in his haste to beat the weather Noah severed the cats’ tails when he slammed the gate on them.
Another fleet of believers contends that Manx swam to the Isle of Man from a sinking vessel of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Persons who subscribe to that theory, however, must provide evidence of tailless cats in Spain and a shipwreck involving the Spanish Armada in the North Irish Sea. (More seaworthy conjecture has it that Phoenician sailors carried Manx from Japan to the British Isles.)
One theory concerning the Manx’s origin pins the tail on Irish invaders, who are accused of cutting off the island cats‘ tails and using them for helmet plumes. A twist on this theme credits mother cats for biting off their kittens‘ tails to prevent the Irish freebooters from amputating them. Yet another legend says the Manx resulted from a one-hop stand between a cat and a rabbit. This belief is predicated on the observation that some Manx hop like bunnies when moving at warp speed.
Scientists, for their part, believe taillessness results from nothing more exotic than a mutant gene, which is no small wonder itself. The gene responsible for taillessness, though it cannot be said to have originated on the Isle of Man, was able to blossom there because the tiny island provided it with a closed environment. (Rhode Island, our smallest state, is 14 times the size of Man.)
New Coat of Arms with Cymric Cat
Longhaired cats, which are found throughout Northern Europe, have coexisted with shorthaired cats for many years on the Isle of Man, whose earliest settlers included a Northern European seafaring gang called the Vikings. One shouldn’t be surprised, therefore, that cats without tails have also coexisted in long and shorthaired versions on the Isle of Man.
Unlike the absence of a tail, the presence of a long coat in the Cymric Cat is not the result of a natural mutation. As former Cat Fanciers’ Association president Richard H. Gebhardt explains in The Complete Cat Book, “Beginning in the late 1930s and continuing for several decades, Manx breeders began to use Persians in their breeding programs, not from any deep desire to produce longhaired Manx, but in order to improve conformation and thickness of coat in their shorthairs.
“Cat fanciers, being what they are, will frequently seek recognition for anything new or different that appears in their litters. Just as frequently they will attempt to explain the unique in terms of a rare mutation, and some people tried to use this as an explanation for the appearance of longhaired Manx kittens. Such was not the case.”
Tail’s End of Cymric Cat
According to Gebhardt, the Manx was a popular, well-established breed in England long before the birth of the cat fancy there in the 1870s. The Manx also got a quick leg up in this country, arriving in the early 1900s and earning championship status in various cat associations in relatively short order. The Cymric Cat, however, didn’t rate more than a pet or occasional breeding status until the 1970s. This oversight was first corrected by the Canadian Cat Association, which bestowed championship status on the Cymric Cat in mid-decade. When The International Cat Association was formed later in 1979, t, too, accepted the Cymric for championship competition – as have all other cat associations in the meantime. (Although most associations register the Cymric as a separate breed, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) wisely includes the Cymric as a longhaired variety of the Manx.)
The Cymric’s low profile in the show ring – CFA registered only 86 new Cymric Cat in 1999 – is more a reflection of taste than temperament. For the Cymric Cat, says one breed fancier, “is the most intelligent cat I’ve ever seen. And the rapport they have with their owners is unlike any other animal I know of.”
The Building Code of Cymric Cat
The gene governing taillessness is an incomplete dominant. If a kitten inherits that gene from one of its parents, it will be born without a tail; but even if both parents carry the gene, there is no guarantee that a kitten will be born sans queue. As sure as pussycat’s got a tail, some Cymric Cats do also; and because kittens that inherit the taillessness gene from both parents fail to develop in the womb, all living Cymric Cats are heterozygotes – i.e., they possess one gene for taillessness and one for a tail. Consequently, there are a number of possible endings to the Cymric’s tail.
The rumpy Cymric Cat is characterized by the absence of tail vertebrae, and the new minus ultra, the dimpled rumpy, has an indentation marking the spot where a tail ought to be. A rumpy Cymric Cat with a coccyx, the hinge that attaches the tail to the spine, is known as a riser. Risers can compete in cat shows alongside their rumpy brethren – if the riser’s coccyx does not impede a judge’s hand traveling fore to aft along the Cymric’s spine.
A Cymric Cats that possesses a coccyx and one or two tail vertebrae is called a long riser – – or short stumpy. The true stumpy, for its part, has anywhere from two to six vertebrae and can disport itself straight, bent to one side or curled like a fiddlehead. Breeders also report seeing half-tailed Cymric and Cymric Cat with tails like ordinary cats.
The absence of a tail, per se, does not guarantee the presence of a Cymric Cat in the show ring. A Cymric should also be an engaging constellation of circles, from its rounded head that is slightly longer than it is broad to its rounded, tailless rump. This cat’s large, round and full eyes are angled slightly upward toward the nose. A gentle dip in the nose; a definite whisker break, with large, round whisker pads; a well-developed muzzle; and a strong chin complete the Cymric face.
The Cymric’s ears are wide at the base, tapering gradually to rounded tips. Medium in size, the ears are amply spaced and are set slightly outward. When viewed from behind, the ear set resembles the rocker of a cradle.
The Cymric Cat has a short, thick neck and a solid, muscular, medium-sized body. Compact and stout in appearance, the Cymric has well-sprung ribs and is powerfully built without being coarse. Its short back forms a smooth, continuous arch from shoulders to rump. The flank (or fleshy area of the side between the ribs and the hip) has greater depth than in other breeds, lending considerable gravity to the body when the cat is viewed from the side.
But for its heavy, glossy, medium to medium-long double coat, the Cymric cat is indistinguishable from its shorthaired relative the Manx. The Cymric’s long coat, which gradually lengthens from shoulder to rump, may create the impression that the Cymric is longer than its shorthaired relative is.