The British Shorthair is the pedigreed version of the traditional British domestic cat, with a distinctively stocky body, dense coat, and broad face. The most familiar color variant is the "British Blue", with a solid greyblue coat, orange eyes, and a mediumsized tail. The breed has also been developed in a wide range of other colours and patterns, including tabby and colorpoint.
It is one of the most ancient cat breeds known. In modern times, it remains the most popular pedigreed breed in its native country, as registered by the UK's Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). A quarter of all kittens registered with the GCCF each year are British Shorthairs, making the British the most popular pedigree cat in the UK.
The breed's goodnatured appearance and relatively calm temperament make it a frequent media star, notably as the inspiration for John Tenniel's famous illustration of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. The Cat Fanciers' Association profile reads: "When gracelessness is observed, the British Shorthair is duly embarrassed, quickly recovering with a 'Cheshire cat smile'. History The origins of the British Shorthair most likely date back to the first century AD, making it one of the most ancient identifiable cat breeds in the world. These cats were imported by the Romans who kept them to keep the camps clear of snakes, mice and insects.
These cats then interbred with the local European wildcat population. Over the centuries, their naturally isolated descendants developed into distinctively large, robust cats with a short but very thick coat, to better withstand conditions on their native islands. Based on artists' representations, the modern British Shorthair is unchanged from this initial type Selective breeding of the best examples of the type began in the nineteenth century, with emphasis on developing the unusual bluegrey variant called the "British Blue" or "English type" (to distinguish it from the more fineboned "Russian type"). Some sources directly credit UK artist, and pioneering cat fancier, Harrison Weir with the initial concept of standardising the breed. Others suggest a group of breeders may have been involved. The new British Shorthair was featured at the firstever cat show, organised by Weir and held at the Crystal Palace in London in 1871, and enjoyed great initial popularity.
By the 1900s with the advent of the newly imported Persian and other longhaired breeds, the British Shorthair had fallen out of favour, and breeding stock had become critically rare by World War I. At least partially to alleviate this, British Shorthair breeders mixed Persians into their bloodlines. The genes thus introduced would eventually become the basis for the British Longhair. At the time, any longhaired cats produced were placed into the Persian breeding program. As all cats with the blue colouration were then judged together as variants on a de facto single breed. The Blue Shorthair, outcrossings of the British with the Russian Blue were also common Coat, colour, and patterns The British Shorthair's coat is one of the breed's defining features. It is very dense but does not have an undercoat; thus, the texture is plush rather than woolly or fluffy, with a firm, "crisp" pile that breaks noticeably over the cat's body as it moves.
Although the British Blue remains the most familiar variant, British Shorthairs have been developed in many other colours and patterns. Black, blue, white, red, cream, silver, golden and—most recently—cinnamon and fawn are accepted by all official standards, either solid or in colourpoint, tabby, shaded and bicolour patterns; the GCCF, FIFe and TICA also accept chocolate and its dilute lilac, disallowed in the CFA standard. All colours and patterns also have tortoiseshell variants.
The Tabby patterns include: Classic Tabby, Mackerel Tabby, Spotted & Ticked Tabby. The nontabby patterns include: Tortoiseshell, BiColour, Van patterns BiColour & White, Smoke, Tipped & Colourpointed. Temperament They are an easygoing and dignified breed, not as active and playful as many but sweetnatured and devoted to their owners, making them a favourite of animal trainers. They tend to be safe around other pets and children since they will tolerate a fair amount of physical interaction, but as a rule do not like to be picked up or carried. They require only minimal grooming and take well to being kept as indooronly cats; however, they can be prone to obesity unless care is taken with their diet.
Health The UK breed committee considers the British Shorthair a longlived cat, with a life expectancy of 14–20 years. Vet clinic data from England shows a median lifespan of 11.8 years.