About British Shorthairs
The British Shorthair, also called the English Cat or simply the “Brit,” is the national cat of the British Isles. This is a compact, muscular and powerful breed that should be "cobby" or chunky in appearance. The British Shorthair has a broad chest, short strong legs and large rounded paws. Its tail is thick at the base, round at the tip and plush but not fluffy. The males are almost always larger than the females; this size difference is more easily recognized in British Shorthairs than in most other domestic breeds. Unlike females, mature males tend to develop prominent chubby cheeks, or jowls, which is another distinguishing gender-based feature.
The British Shorthair has the roundest head of all recognized Shorthair breeds, including the European and American Shorthairs. It also is stockier than its other Shorthair cousins. Its ears are small and widely-set, and its muzzle is short and broad. The eyes of the British Shorthair are large, round, expressive and strikingly copper or orange in color, with no hint of green. The only exceptions are in the British White Shorthair which may have copper or blue eyes or one of each, the British Silver Tabby whose eyes can be green to hazel, the British Colourpoint whose eyes are blue, and the British Golden Tipped whose eyes can be green.
British Shorthairs have short, plush coats that are often described as crisp or cracking, referring to the way the coat breaks over the cat's body contours. They come in all of the major color and pattern groups, including a pointed Siamese pattern. The white is uncommon. The blue historically has been the most popular. Other recognized colors include black, cream, chocolate, lilac/lavender, bi-colour, tortoiseshell (tortie), tortie and white (calico), tabby, tipped and colourpoint. British Shorthairs are easy keepers. However, their dense coats do require regular brushing to keep them looking fit and sleek.
The British Shorthair is the result of careful selective breeding of the best examples of the native mixed-breed street cats of Great Britain. The original ancestors of this breed probably came to Britain with Roman colonists several thousands of years ago. The first people to conscientiously breed and refine the British Shorthair were mainly men living in the northern part of England in the 1800s. The British Black was one of the earliest varieties to be bred selectively. It also was one of the first Shorthairs to be shown at the original English national cat show, which was held at Crystal Palace, London, in 1871. The British Shorthair was a common participant in cat shows throughout the United Kingdom through the end of the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, they lost much of their popularity to the Angora and Persian cats, which were imported for the cat show scene around the turn of the century.
Starting in the 1930s, the British Shorthair had a resurgence in popularity. The solid blue-gray variety was particularly prized in the early part of the 1900s and was called simply the British Blue. Another setback in the breed’s development occurred during World War II, when many respected breeders had to abandon their long-standing breeding programs. After the war, there were few high-quality purebred male British Shorthairs left in Great Britain. The breed suffered from outcrosses to strays and other common cats. Eventually, starting in the 1950s, dedicated British Shorthair fanciers bred their quality purebred females to pedigreed Blue Persian males. After several generations, the British Shorthair was well on its way to returning to its earlier quality and popularity. Today, this is the third largest group of registered cats in the United Kingdom.
British Shorthairs are recognized world-wide, although they are still by far most common in Great Britain. In America, the breed was developed from the best British stock. The American Cat Fanciers’ Association recognized all colors and patterns of the British Shorthair in 1976. Other purebred cat registry associations soon followed suit. As in Great Britain, British Shorthairs in this country now are only bred to other British Shorthairs. Out-crosses to Persians are no longer necessary or permitted.
The typical lifespan of a British Shorthair is 10 to 15 years. The White British Shorthairs with one or two blue eyes are uncommon, but they are prone to deafness and vision abnormalities. Like other white animals, all-white cats have an increased risk of sunburn. White British Shorthairs also can have a condition called polydactylism, which literally means “many digits.” Polydactyl cats have more toes than normal. This is a serious fault in the show ring but does not hurt affected cats or cause them any real disability. British Shorthairs (especially males) are predisposed to a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The breed also is susceptible to developing hemophilia B, also known as Christmas disease, which is inherited as a sex-linked trait.
The British Shorthair – or the “Brit,” as it is sometimes affectionately called - is an easygoing, intelligent, friendly breed. It has been described as being placid, patient and predictable. The British Shorthair’s sweet and gentle nature makes them wonderful, steadfast companions and undemanding family members. They adapt easily to apartment, farm, city or estate living. These are not noisy or pushy cats, although they greatly appreciate and accept affection when it is offered to them.
Unlike other cat breeds known for being attention-seeking or high-strung, the docile British Shorthair is known for its calmness and stability. They certainly can be energetic, lively and playful, but normally they are not aggressive, assertive or intrusive. The British Shorthair is not an especially graceful, elegant, acrobatic or swift breed. However, it more than makes up for lacking these qualities by bringing so many other wonderful attributes to its household.
Today’s purebred British Shorthairs retain many of the traits of their streetwise non-pedigreed ancestors. They have great endurance and keen hunting abilities. They are highly intelligent, steady, trainable cats, making them favorites among animal trainers. Because of these characteristics, British Shorthairs have been used in a number of films, television shows and commercial advertisements over the years. British Shorthairs are not ones to spend most of their days cat-napping on cushions. Most of them have an independent streak and enjoy their freedom.