Reward for Missing Tail

Updated July 24, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

The Question:

How did the Manx cat lose its tail? All other cats have long flowing tails, but not the Manx cat; it only has a stump.

The Answer:

Be careful what you call a stump! There are actually four varieties of the Manx cat: Rumpy: completely tailless; Riser: a bit of a stump at the base of the spine; Stumpy: a short stump of a tail; and Longy: a visible short tail.

The Manx cat appears to have originated on the Isle of Man, which is located in the Irish Sea. A variety of stories exist as to what could have caused this cat to have no tail. One suggests that mother cats would bite off the tails of their kittens to prevent invading Scandinavians from catching them by the tail. If captured, the Scandinavian would cut the cat's tail off and used it to decorate his helmet. Another theory suggests that as Noah was closing the door to his ark, the cat's tail got caught in the door and was lost forever.

But for those of you who prefer Darwin to Noah, the Manx cat is most likely the result of a spontaneous genetic mutation that occurred hundreds of years ago, when a kitten was born without the vertebrae which normally forms a cat's tail. It is actually not uncommon for the occasional kitten to be born without a tail. But with the exception of the Japanese Bobtail-which possesses a similar "kinked" tail-tailless cat breeds have not thrived. Without many years of interbreeding on the island, where it is likely that "taillessness" became a dominant trait passed on from litter to litter, we would not know this special breed of cat.

Check out Cat Fanciers' Manx FAQ for more of this cat's history and unique characteristics.

-The Editors

Sources +