THOMAS' MANX (c1880)


The Thomas Manx (f). Illustration by Harrison Weir. Published in 'Our Cats' (1889)1. Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection


The Manx cat can be found among the very earliest of cat varieties to be exhibited. In fact, a much-admired specimen was exhibited at the first Crystal Palace Show of July, 1871 and was reported in the column of The Graphic published 22nd July, 1871 in the following terms:

"Fifthly, a native of the Isle of Man, with the usual absence of tail. This cat was very beautifully marked, with light red and yellow markings on a lighter ground of the same colour. This cat takes the water like a dog and catches fish."3

And in an article published on the same date in The Naturalist appeared an apparently opposing view:

"There were Manx cats also, - uncomfortable cats without tails, who sat down discreetly, apparently ashamed of their peculiarity."4

Given that these quotes come some nine years before the birth of our earliest recorded Manx produced by a breeder, this demonstrates that the Manx, as a variety of English cat, was already fairly well known among the general populace and members of the press.

Mr. Weir confirms this at the start of his chapter on The Manx Cat where he asserts:

"The Manx cat is well known, and is by no means uncommon. It differs chiefly from the ordinary domestic cat in being tailless, or nearly so, the best breeds not having any; the hind legs are thicker and rather longer, particularly in the thighs. It runs more like a hare than a cat, the action of the legs being awkward, or does it seem to turn itself so readily, or with such rapidity and ease; the head is somewhat small for its size, yet thick and well set on a rather long neck; the eyes large, round, and full, ears medium, and rather rounded at the apex."1

Although most Manx cats were short-haired, long-haired Manx did certainly exist and some were the result of cross-breeding to other varieties. On this matter Harrison Weir gives us an example:

"Be that as it may, one thing is certain; that cross-bred Manx with other cats often have young that are tailless. As a proof of this, Mr. Herbert Young, of Harrogate, has had in his possession a very fine red female long-haired tailless cat, that was bred between the Manx and a Persian."1

Illustration of a Manx cat, exhibited at the first Crystal Palace Cat Show Drawn by Percy MacQuoid, for 'The Graphic', July 1871 3
Image courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection


    |   Unknown
Mr. Thomas' Manx, circa 1880, Manx, F
    |   Unknown

Our knowledge of this particular 'unnamed' female Manx cat , who is the subject of this individual history, is due solely to the fact that Harrison Weir records her as an excellent example of the breed in his book Our Cats published in 1889. In the chapter on Manx he records:

"The illustration I give is that of a prize winner at The Crystal Palace in 1880, 1881, 1882, and is the property of Mr J.M. Thomas, of Parliament Street. In colour it is a brindled tortoiseshell. It is eight years old. "(Ed: Written c.1888)1

He then goes into a more detailed description of the cat itself:

"The hind quarters are very square and deep, as contrasted with other cats, and the flank deeper, giving an appearance of great strength, the hind legs being longer, and thicker in proportion to the fore legs, which are much slighter and tapering; even the toes are smaller. The head is round for a she-cat, and the ears somewhat large and pointed, but thin and fine in the hair, the cavity of the ear has less hair within it (also a trait of the Siamese) than some other sort-haired cats, the neck is long and thin, as are the shoulders. Its habits are the same as those of most cats."1

Mr. Weir then puts the whole into context by telling us more about the breeder, Mr. Thomas.

"I may add that Mr. Thomas, who is an old friend of mine, has had this breed for many years, and has kept it perfectly pure."1


Fortunately, we do know that 'the Thomas Manx', which was a tortie female, did breed successfully as evidenced by the following extract from Weir:

"At the end of this description, I also give a portrait of one of its kittens, a tabby; both are true Manx, and neither have a particle of a tail, only a very small tuft of hair which is boneless."1

Tabby Manx kitten, out of 'The Thomas Manx' (brindled tortie) queen. Owned by Mr J. M. Thomas. Illustrated by Harrison Weir. Our Cats,(1889) 1
Image courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection


'The Thomas Manx' (Brindle Tortie female) born c.1880. Illustrated by Harrison Weir. Our Cats,(1889) 1
Image courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection


A Stumpy Manx, illustrated by 'Rose' for Mr. John Jennings book Domestic and Fancy Cats, published by L. Upcott Gill, in 1893. 2
Image courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection


What we learn from directly from Weir, and from other independent sources, are the following facts:

  • that Manx were not uncommon
  • that Manx were relatively well-known
  • that Manx were, in some cases, kept and bred by gentlemen like Mr. J.M. Thomas, who clearly respected their individuality and their unique qualities
  • that between 1871 and the mid 1890's, a number of quality examples of the breed were duly exhibited and took first prizes

Although outcrossing is known to have occurred after Manx were exported from the Isle of Man, it should be especially noted that the appearance of the Manx Longhair occurred naturally in litters of original Manx cats. It has been known for a very long time that the recessive genes for long hair were always carried in the foundation gene pool of Manx cats from the colony on the Isle of Man. And, as one would expect, long haired Manx appeared in litters of pedigree shorthaired Manx cats, particularly in Canada and the USA during the 1970's, in a similar ratio to that of their English Shorthair counterparts.

With this first identifiable show Manx we find that Manx were being bred and exhibited a full 10-12 years ahead of the establishment of the National Cat Club's first register.

Although these beginnings were humble, the fact that they were among the first exhibits to compete over 140 years ago and are still competing successfully today, shows a level of dedication among the breeders and lovers of 'the Manx cat' which is nothing short of exemplary.


  1. Our Cats, by Harrison Weir (1889)
  2. Domestic and Fancy Cats, by John Jennings, 1893
  3. The Graphic, 22nd July, 1871
  4. The Naturalist, July 1871
  5. Photos and quotations as per sources quoted.

Registers associated with this article include The Incorporated Cat Fanciers Association of Great Britain (TICFAGB), National Cat Club (NCC), The Cat Club (CCR), Beresford Cat Club (BCC), Feline Federation Francaise (FFF), Siamese Cat Registry (SCR), US Register & Studbook for Cats (USR)including Supplement(USRS), The Studbook of the American Cat Association (ACA), and the Studbook & Register of the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA).


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