The Manx Cat – Breeds cat information
The tailless Manx Cat — of whom it can be said that less is more — is named after the Isle of Man, a 221-square-mile tourist attraction and tax haven caressed by the soothing waters of the Gulf Stream in the middle of the North Irish Sea.
Tailless cats were observed on the Isle of Man by the early 19th century. No one knows how they came to the island or how they came to be tailless, but some accounts of their origin are no less fanciful than the legend of Man’s creation. Two sea-change theories of the Manx Cat origin involve Noah’s Ark and the Spanish Armada. Architects of the ark theory claim that two cats were the last animals to board the ark. Captain Noah, impatient to beat the weather, severed the cats’ tails when he slammed the gate on them.
The fleet of believers in the Manx Cat “it is plain did mainly come from-Spain” theory contend that Manx Cat swan ashore from a sinking vessel of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Anyone who finds comfort in that explanation, however, must also find evidence of tailless cats in Spain and a shipwreck involving the Spanish Armada in the Irish Sea. (A more seaworthy vessel is the notion that Manx Cat was carried from Japan to the British Isles by Phoenician sailors.)
Landlocked speculations concerning the Manx Cat origin pin the tail on Irish invaders, who are accused of cutting off the island cats’ tails and using them for helmet decorations. 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 Cat resulted from a one-hop stand between a cat and a rabbit. This belief is predicated on the observation that some Manx Cat hop like bunnies upon reaching warp speed.
Scientists, unfanciful creatures that they are, believe taillessness results from nothing more romantic 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 grow to lesser flower there because the minuscule island provided it with a conveniently closed environment. (Rhode Island, our smallest state, is 14 times the size of Man.) Therefore, even though we can’t claim that tailless cats originated on Man, we can say they were at one time more plentiful there than on any other 221-square-mile patch of Planet Earth.
“The Manx Cat was a popular, well-established breed in England long before the birth of the cat fancy there in the 1870s,” writes Richard H. Gebhardt in The Complete Cat Book. And because “the spontaneous mutation that results in taillessness can appear at any time in any location,” Gebhardt adds, “Manx type cats may have existed in other places as early as the 1500s.”
The Manx Cat also got a quick leg up in this country, earning championship status in various cat associations by the early decades of this century. “For many years,” says Gebhardt, “breeders got their stock directly from the Isle of Man, but as the breed’s popularity increased in England and America — and the stock on the Isle of Man dwindled — more and more cats were bred off an island.”
Gebhardt made that observation in a book published in 1991. The following year Nigel Bunyan, writing in London’s Daily Telegraph, reported, “The celebrated Manx cat, for centuries an enduring symbol of the Isle of Man, may be dying out. Tourists from all over the world visit the island to see the tailless feline [and] businessmen feature it on their company logos. Such was its place in Manx Cat society that the island’s government established a cattery to ensure its survival, but the battery has been closed, and the 19 breeding [cats] have been found new homes.”
A “local veterinary surgeon and keen breeder of Manx cats” who spoke to Bunyan estimated there were fewer than 500 Manx left on the island. “The closure of the cattery could sound the death knell of the Manx cat,” the vet lamented.
One shudders to think that the Manx Cat might join the Bee Gees in the ranks of famous expatriates of the Isle of Man. If that sad day comes round, perhaps the guiding lights behind a fledgling movement to built a Bee Gees museum on Man to attract tourists will find it in their hearts to add a Manx-cat wing to that building. Or perhaps the fairies under the little people bridge can conjure up some new breeding stock.
Manx Cat – The Isle of Man
The Isle of Man, which is equidistant from England, Scotland and Ireland, is the birthplace of the Bee Gees as well as giving its name to the Manx Cat. In addition, Man is celebrated for its kippers, four-horned sheep, palm trees and motorcycle races “a 98-year-old tradition that adds 20 thousand people or so to the island’s 73,000 population each May”.
According to legend the Isle of Man was created when two warriors — an Irishman named Finn MacCoole and his unknown English adversary — were battling over a woman. MacCoole, in a fit of rancor, seized a chunk of Ireland and flung it toward his rival. The candygram fell short of its mark and landed in the middle of the North Irish Sea. Thus was Man created.
On the earthly plane, Man has formed 10,000 years ago when global warming caused the disintegration of the mantle of ice that had covered a large part of the Northern Hemisphere. As the massive glacier slowly melted and slunk northward, an island presented itself in what is now called the Irish Sea. Celts and, later, Vikings were among the earliest human inhabitants of this island.
Fanciful explanations for the Manx cat’s origin are consonant with the spirit of Man, where inhabitants never say the word rat for fear of summoning one — or a spate of bad luck — by that utterance. Nor do Manxlanders cross the Little People of Fairy Bridge, which lies on the main Douglas- to-Castletown road, without saying Laa Mie (good day) to the fairies that live under the bridge. To do otherwise is to court misfortune. On April 30 many islanders fix a wooden cross bound with sheep’s wool to the inside of their front doors to ward off malicious fairies. That same night people blow horns on Peel Hill to banish evil spirits.
“Throughout the centuries,” one visitor reports, “the Isle of Man has developed a way of life and a culture all its own.” Indeed, for many visitors Man is appealing because it lags 40, some would say 400, years behind the times. The island — where an archaic law still technically in force decrees that a true Manxman can shoot a Scotsman wearing a kilt if he’s on the beach — can be reached only by air (40 minutes from England or Ireland) or sea (four hours by traditional ferry, two by catamaran).
Although geographically part of the British Islands, Man is not part of the United Kingdom (UK). A British Crown Dependency, Man relies on the UK for defense and for representation in the world’s councils. Otherwise, the 33-by-13-mile island is governed by the world’s oldest parliamentary body, Tynwald, which has ruled Man without interruption for more than 1,000 years. A man also maintains a separate, handsome currency that is, unfortunately, useless abroad — even in the rest of Britain.