Published on November 10th, 2015 | by Debbie Martin2
The British Shorthair
According to the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF), an organisation that registers pedigree cats in the United Kingdom, the British Shorthair is the most popular pedigree breed of cat in the country. But to what can we attribute this popularity? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at this well-loved mainstay of British cats.
Profile: what is a British Shorthair?
The breed is, perhaps unsurprisingly, distinctive for its coat of short fur, but it is also recognisably by its ‘chunky’ proportions: it has well-muscled shoulders and chests and relatively short legs and a stubby neck supporting a bulbous head. Its eyes are big, round and spaced far apart. The breed is also notable for being sexually dimorphic – which basically means that males and females are easily distinguished from one another. The former is far heavier than the latter, and comes equipped with especially prominent jowls.
History: Where did the British Shorthair come from?
The British Shorthair is among the oldest pedigree breeds of cat – its ancestry stretches back to Ancient Egypt, where cats were considered to be divine. The breed was then brought the Britain by the Roman invaders of the first century and interbred with the native British wildcats. In this early period, the breed was still much the same as it is today – robustly built, with a short, thick coat to help it survive the British weather.
The Victorian era saw cat-breeding become a serious enterprise, as the upper classes began to demand increasingly high-quality breeds. When the British Shorthair as we know it today made its debut in 1871, at a cat show in Crystal Palace, it proved an enormous success. Harrison Weir, the breeder credited with first developing the British Shorthair, became a rich man almost overnight.
This initial success was to prove short-lived, however. By the end of Victoria’s reign, the Persian cat had become the must-have item among Victorian aristocrats, and the Shorthair began to wane in popularity. Shorthair breeders attempted to fight this trend by breeding the British Shorthair with the Persian in order to create the British Longhair. Similar crises came later, after the end of the First World War, when the GCCF elected to tighten their standards for what is considered a British Shorthair.
This decision created yet another shortage in breeding stock. Breeders decided that to get around this they would crossbreed the shorthair with the superficially-similar French Charteux. It wasn’t until after the Second World War that British Shorthair breeders would concentrate once again on establishing the British Shorthair as a breed of its own. These efforts would yield formal recognition in the 1970s, when the breed was recognised by cat fancier organisations on either side of the Atlantic.
Personality: What is a British Shorthair like to own?
The reason for this particular breed’s popularity is clear when you first encounter one – it’s cuddly, friendly and generally pleasant to be around. They have no problem being picked up and fussed, and have the same proportions as a teddy bear. The breed is also remarkably relaxed, and will happily adapt to all but the most severe of domestic conditions. If you’re looking for a cat that’s easy to please, and that will happily curl up on the sofa, then the British Shorthair is for you.
Any Special Issues?
Another factor in the popularity of the British Shorthair is that the breed is extremely low-maintenance. Their short fur coat means that they don’t require grooming, unlike some other pedigree breeds like the Persian or Ragdoll. They are suited to a variety of lifestyles and climates – so whether you’re living out in the countryside or at the centre of the hustle-bustle metropolis, you’ll find that your cat is perfectly suited.
When buying a pedigree cat, there are a few guidelines which are best stuck to. For all of their advantages, Shorthairs are no exception. The breed consists of a variety of different animals, each with differently-coloured eyes and fur. You’ll therefore have to decide exactly what sort of animal you’re after. Of course, the more specific your demands, the further afield you might have to travel – and so you might want to broaden your expectations if your budget is an issue.
Shorthair kittens will be especially bulky in their proportions, but as they grow older this feature will slowly diminish and they’ll become more markedly cat-like. That said, British Shorthair kittens tend to be a little slow to reach full maturity: but give them a little time and they’ll develop into a beautiful pedigree cat!