All About British Shorthairs

This cat is also commonly called a moggy in Britain.
By: PawCulture Editors
British Shorthairs

About This Breed

A descendant of cats brought to Britain by the Romans, the British Shorthair is an intelligent breed known for its chubbiness and ability to express itself well through meowing.

Physical Characteristics

The British Shorthair is known for its marked roundness and chubby build. It has a broad chest, short legs and a plush but not fluffy tail. As with many cat breeds, the adult males may also develop prominent cheek jowls that distinguish them from their female counterparts.

COLOR(S)

The British Shorthair can be seen in a variety of patterns and colors, including black, blue, white, red, cream, chocolate, lilac, cinnamon and fawn. Popular patterns include solid, color point, tabby, shaded bicolor, and tortoiseshell.

COAT

Dense and plush.

Personality and Temperament

ACTIVITY LEVEL

Low to Moderate

POSITIVES

The British Shorthair is intelligent and personable. It takes to being an indoor cat well too.

THINGS TO CONSIDER

Though not overly affectionate, the British Shorthair will involve itself in what is going on around the house.

Care

SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS

The British Shorthair has been known to communicate by meowing when it wants something specific. Because of its dense coat, you will need to brush about twice a week to limit shedding.

SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS

In order to prevent matting, the breed requires regular grooming.

Health

Obesity is a condition commonly seen in British Shorthairs.

History and Background

The British Shorthair holds the historical placard for being the first official showcat. This breed is, in fact, the antecedent of the modern breeding program, and as the breed name suggests, the refinement of this breed began in Britain. Until the latter part of the 19th century, the British Shorthair was a mere average domestic cat, commonly called a moggy in Britain (the breed is now commonly referred to as a Shorthair only). By then, the Shorthair had become a ubiquitous member of the typical British homestead, having been the cat of choice for guarding the home and land from rodents for well over a thousand years.

Historically, the Shorthair’s arrival in Britain is tied to the Roman invasions that commonly occurred during the reign of the Roman Empire. Their presence was generally regarded as fortuitous, as they were appreciated for their strength, endurance, hunting skills, and general good nature. Over time, the Shorthair came to be regarded as more than just a working cat, and they began to be welcomed into the home as well, to share the warmth of the hearth with the family proper. The Shorthair was so commonplace in British life, and its “smile” so well known, that it inspired perhaps the most famously recognized illustrated image of a cat to this day, when John Tenniel designed the Cheshire Cat for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865.

It was in the late 1800s that cat fancier Harrison Weir took his admiration for the Shorthair a step higher. Weir’s main considerations were to bring others of his thinking together so that the best of the Shorthair breed could be displayed and judged, and so that the breed could be strengthened and cultivated through thoughtful pairings. Weir succeeded in organizing the first ever held cat show at the Crystal Palace of London, on July 13, 1871. Its inception and subsequent show competitions proved to be wildly popular amongst cat enthusiasts, forever heralding Harrison Weir as the father of the cat fancy.

As the fancy grew over the years, the distinctions in breeds grew as well, and as the public came to be introduced to new and different breeds, affectations changed and the Shorthair’s popularity was sidelined for more fashionable breeds. At the turn of the century, long haired cats were the rage among cat fanciers in England.

As often happens during times of great conflict, the population of the Shorthair was severely diminished during the First World War (as was much of the animal population). Post-war breeders attempted to incorporate the Persian breed with the remaining Shorthairs in order to revive the numbers, but the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy would not hear of it, demanding that breeders return the breed to its original form. It would take three generations of breeding back to Shorthairs to make the cats eligible for registration as pedigrees again. This cycle was to repeat itself with the occasion of the Second World War, but with the remaining numbers of Shorthairs even more dire than before, circumstances demanded that breeders beg permission from the British Governing Council of the Cat Fancy to cross the British Shorthair with other breeds.

Permission was granted, and through careful selection, outcrosses with breeds such as the Russian Blue, Chartreux, and Persian brought the British Shorthair back into the British home albeit with some changes to appearance. The British Shorthair now donned a teddy bear look, with a stout body, full whisker pads, a naturally upturned mouth, and round, wide-open eyes. The same mild disposition the breed had been esteemed for remained, and the luxurious coat of fur inherited greater softness from the carefully chosen crossings. Although the British Shorthair remains popular as a family companion in Britain, its numbers in the U.S. were not significant enough to be considered for registration by the American Cat Fanciers Association until 1970, when the Blue British Shorthair was registered.