There are a number of mythical tales surrounding the origins of the Manx, such as that Noah cut off its tail with the door of the Ark as the rain began to fall. In actuality, Manx cats originated on the Isle of Man, off the coast of Great Britain, among a population of cats whose common ancestry sprang from the same roots as the British Shorthair. A spontaneous mutation occurred at some point several hundred years ago, which created kittens born without the vertebrae that form the tail of normal cats. With the passage of centuries and due to the isolation of the cats from outside breeding, the taillessness eventually became a common characteristic among the Isle of Man cats, because the mutated gene is a dominant trait.
The original Isle of Man Manx was (and when you can find them, still is for the most part) a rangier cat than the written standard of today, but the basics were there–deep flanks, long back legs, sturdy body. Through careful, deliberate breeding programs, the size of the cat has increased, and the short-backed, broad-chested and cobby cat that we see now became the desired type. Most American Manx breeders have been particularly focused on producing what we today call the “traditional” Manx type, especially with respect to the head. A correct Manx face does not appear flattened in the Persian style, but the broad cheeks and wide muzzle flow into the roundness. The profile displays a gentle curve, and not an angular “stop” where the nose joins the face between the eyes. The whisker pads are full and plump, and there is a visible muzzle length, rather than having the nose positioned directly between the eyes – again, not in the style of a Persian or an Exotic head type. The proper Manx eyes are large without being coin-round, but are slightly tilted at the outer tips. The correct “rocker” ear set completes this round picture of the head.
Mythology and Folklore of the Manx
Many stories of the origin of the Manx are found in cat and mythology books. In many of these tales the Manx are descended from ship’s cats who were shipwrecked on the Isle of Man when their ships were sunk off the coast. A commonly told story is the legend from the early 1600s of two ships from the Spanish Armada that were sunk off Spanish Point near Port Erin. The Isle of Man was the refuge for the tailless cats from these two ships. Another legend has it that the cat came from a ship wrecked in 1806 off Jurby Point, while another says it was a Baltic ship wrecked off Castle Rushen and Calf Island.
Early speculation considered the Annamite cats to be the beginning of the Manx, these cats having short tails. They were introduced into Burma. Others felt the Manx may be descended from Siam and Malaya. The Malaya Archipelago cats have kinked, knotted and short tails.
The Welsh also lay claim to the Manx in their legends and the people considered them sacred animals in early times.
British folklore has it that mom cats bit off their kittens’ tails to keep humans from snatching them away.
Stumpy tailed cats in New Guinea sometimes get their tails docked by their owners. If a cat is stolen the tail is buried with certain spells to bring misfortune on the thief.
The truth is that short-tailed and tailless cat are seen the world over, the result of a genetic mutation. Japanese Bobtails have short kinked tails and the body type is referred to as “Oriental” rather than the compact Manx type. Other breeds of cats occasionally produce a kitten with a missing tail. The Manx, however, is the only cat that is bred to be tailless.