Manx (cat)

Cat Breeds > Manx (cat) > Manx (cat)

A crouching, riser-tailed, black and white female Manx.
Alternative names Manks
Origin Isle of Man (UK dependency)
Common nicknames Stubbin, rumpy
Breed standard
CFA standard
TICA standard
AACE standard
ACFA standard
CCA standard
Long-haired specimens may be considered a separate breed, the Cymric
Cat (Felis catus)

The Manx cat (play // ; Manx language: kayt Manninagh), formerly often spelled Manks, is a breed of domestic cat originating on the Isle of Man, with a naturally occurring mutation which shortens the tail. Many Manx have a small stub of a tail, but Manx cats are best known as being entirely tailless; this is the most distinguishing characteristic of the breed, along with elongated rear legs and a rounded head. Manx cats come in all coat colours and patterns, though all-white specimens are rare, and the coat range of the original stock was more limited. Long-haired variants are sometimes considered a separate breed, the Cymric. Manx are prized as skilled hunters, and thus have often been sought by farmers with rodent problems, and been a preferred ship's cat breed. They are said to be social, tame and active. An old local term for the cats is stubbin. Manx have been exhibited in cat shows since the 1800s, with the first known breed standard published in 1903.

Origin and folklore

Tailless cats, then called stubbin (apparently both singular and plural) in Manx English dialect, were known before the 18th century on the Isle of Man (hence the name), where they remain common. In the Manx language proper, "Manx cat" is kayt Manninagh (plural keiyt or kit). Manx itself was often spelled Manks well into the mid 1800s. There are numerous folktales about the Manx cat, all of them of "relatively recent origin" as they are focused entirely on the lack of a tail, and are devoid of religious, philosophical, or mythical aspects found in the traditional Irish–Norse folklore of the native Manx culture, and in legends about cats from other parts of the world.

The dominant trait of taillessness arises from a spontaneous mutation, the Manx taillessness gene, that became common on the island (an example of the founder effect).

Folklore has claimed the island's tailless cats came from the Spanish Armada. A ship from that fleet foundered on the cliffs at Spanish Head on the coast of the Isle of Man. According to the local story, tailless cats swam ashore from the shipwreck and became an established breed. Further stories elaborate that the cats originally went aboard the Spanish ship in the Far East, but this is probably a modern attempt to link the Manx to the unrelated Japanese Bobtail breed.

Regardless of the genetic reality, there are various Larmarckian folk tales that seek to explain why the Manx has a short to no tail. In one of them, Noah closed the door of the Ark when it began to rain, and accidentally cut off the tail of the Manx cat who had almost been left behind. A mid-twentieth-century postcard from the Isle of Man shows a cartoon scene in which a cat's tail is being run over and severed by a motorcycle, a reference to motorcycle racing being popular on the island, and an update of the Noah story. More postcards from a contemporary "How Manx Cats Are Made" series show similar scenes of another's cut off by a train, and third's bitten off by a fish. Because the gene is so dominant and "invades" other breeds when crossed (sometimes without owner intent or knowledge) with the Manx, some have believed that simply being in the proximity of a Manx cat could cause other breeds to somehow produce tailless kittens.

Another (genetically impossible) account claims that the Manx is the offspring of a cat and a rabbit, purporting to explain why it has no or little tail, long hind legs and a hopping gait. The cat-rabbit halfbreed tale has been further reinforced by the more widespread "cabbit" legend.

Populations of tailless cats also exist in a few other places in Europe. The population on the isolated Danish peninsula (former island) of Reersø in the Great Belt may be due to the arrival on the island of shipwrecked cats of Manx origin.

Recognition as a breed

Manx cats have been exhibited in cat shows, as a named, distinct breed (and with the modern spelling "Manx"), since at least the late 1800s. Early pet breeding and showing expert Charles Henry Lane, himself the owner of a prize-winning rare white rumpy Manx named "Lord Luke", published the first known, albeit informal breed standard for the Manx in his 1903 Rabbits, Cats and Cavies, but noted that already by the time of his writing "if the judge understood the variety" a Manx would be clearly distinguishable from some other tailless cat being exhibited, "as the make of the animal, its movements and its general character are all distinctive." In his era, few shows provided a Manx division, and exhibited specimens were usually entered under the "Any Other Variety" class, where they often could not compete well unless "exceptionally good in size and markings".

The Manx was one of the first breeds recognised by the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) (the predominant United States-based pedigreed cat registry, founded in 1908), which has records on the breed in North America going back to the 1920s.


Tail or lack thereof

The chief defining characteristic of the breed is its absence or near-absence of a tail, a naturally occurring, cat body-type mutation of the spine, caused by a dominant gene. Tail length is random throughout a litter of kittens. Manx to non-Manx breeding will usually produce some Manx-type kittens; whether these are properly labeled Manx cats is up to the breed standard consulted. Manx cats are classified according to proportional tail length as kittens (the proportion does not change after birth):

  • Rumpy or dimple rumpy – having no tail at all, though often a tuft of hair where the tail would have grown from the rumpy
  • Riser or rumpy riser – having a bump of cartilage under the fur, most noticeable when the animal is happy and raising its tail end
  • Stumpy – having a partial tail of vestigial, fused vertebrae, up to about an inch long
  • Stubby – having a short tail of non-fused bones, up to about half an average cat tail
  • Longy or tailed – having a near-complete, normal tail

Since the early days of breed recognition, Manx show cats have been rumpy through stumpy specimens, with stubby and longy Manx not qualifying to be shown except in the "Any Other Variety" class. Kittens with complete tails may be born in a Manx or Manx-cross litter, having not inherited the taillessness gene at all; these are not classified as Manx cats by any breed standards, and cannot pass on the gene, since they do not possess it.

The Manx is easily distinguished from, the Japanese Bobtail, which also has a mutation causing a short tail and elongated rear legs. The Bobtail always has a stumpy to stubby tail, which is kinked or curled and has a slightly bulbous appearance, while the Manx has a straight tail when one is present at all. The Bobtail is also triangular-faced and long-eared, with a long body, like many other Asian breeds, and is frequently all-white or mostly-white calico, with one blue and one green eye, in pure-bred examples (virtually any coat pattern is possible in either breed, however). The gene responsible for the bobbed tail in the Japanese variety is a recessive, and unrelated to the Manx taillessness gene, which has been associated with a pattern of health issues. The Pixie-bob breed also has a short tail.

Manx and similar breeds do not exhibit problems with balance, since that sense is controlled primarily by the inner ear, and in cats, dogs and other large-bodied mammals has little to do with the tail (contrast rats, for whom the tail is a quite significant portion of their body mass).

Body and legs

Manx are small to medium-sized cats, broad-chested with sloping shoulders and flat sides, and in show condition are firmly muscular and lean, neither bulky nor fatty. Lane reported the original, native, naturally occurring pure breed as ranging typically from eight to ten pounds for males and six to eight pounds for females, with many smaller examples but only rare ones larger. The hind legs of Manx are notably longer than the fore legs, causing the rump to be higher than the shoulder and creating a continuous arch from shoulders to rump giving the cat an overall rounded or humped appearance, though the breed is comparatively long when stretched out. The fore legs are strong and straight.


Manx cats' heads are rounded in shape, and medium in depth with a long neck. The face is often very expressive, with a small nose. The upright, round-tipped and front-facing ears are largish. The eyes are large, rounded and prominent, with their outer corners higher than the inner ones. Absent any bloodlines with a dominant alternative eye color (such as blue in Siamese or related ancestry), Manx usually have some hue variant of yellow ("gold") eyes, and for show purposes follow the eye colour standards of the same coat colour/pattern in non-Manx short-hairs (or long-hairs, in the case of the Cymric sub-breed).


Manx cats exhibit two coat lengths. Short- or long-haired, all Manx have a thick, double-layered coat. The colour and pattern ranges exhibited should conform to the standards for that type of coat in non-Manx.

The more common short-haired Manx – the original breed – has a coat with a dense, soft, under-layer and a longer, coarse outer layer with guard hairs. The overall appearance of the coat is fine, short and lying close to the skin, versus fluffy or voluminous.

The long-haired Manx, known to some cat registries as the Cymric, has a silky-textured double coat of medium length, with breeches, belly ruff and neck ruff, tufts of fur between the toes and full ear furnishings. The CFA considers the Cymric to be a variety of Manx and judges it in the short-hair division even though it is long-haired, while The International Cat Association (TICA) judges it in the long-hair division as a distinct Cymric breed. The long-haired variety are of comparatively recent development. Lane wrote in 1903 that the Manx "to the best of my knowledge, information and belief, does not include any long-haired specimens", in his detailed chapter on the breed.

Regardless of coat length, the colours and coat patterns occurring in the breed today run the gamut of virtually all breeds due to extensive cross-breeding, though not all registries may accept all coats as qualifying for show. The most common coats are tabby, tortoiseshell, calico and solid colours. Widely divergent Manx specimens, including even a colour-point long-hair of evident Himalayan ancestry with blue eyes, have been celebrated on Isle of Man postage stamps since the 1980s, and recent publications often show marbled and spotted varieties. The original insular stock, however, were of less widespread variation. Lane, having "seen a great many of them" wrote of Manx cats that "[i]t is curious that the colours in this variety seem somewhat limited" and that the breed "does not comprise all the colours usually associated with other short-haired varieties". He reported only very common black, common black and white, common grey-striped tabby, uncommon tortoiseshell, and very rare all-white specimens. Calico and point-coloured are notably absent from this list, as are even today's common colourful tabbies. According to CFA, entirely white Manx cats still remain extremely rare. In some cases, white Manx may be worth over US$4,000.

Genetics and health

The Manx taillessness gene is dominant and highly penetrant; kittens from two Manx parents are generally born without any tail. Being homozygous for (having two copies of) the gene is semi-lethal and such kittens are usually spontaneously aborted before birth. Thus, tailless cats can carry only one copy of the gene. Because of the danger of having two copies of the taillessness gene, breeders avoid breeding two entirely tailless Manx cats together. A tailed Manx bred to a tailed Manx results in all tailed kittens. Breeders have reported all tail lengths in the same litter, and there is no accurate means to predict the ratio of tailed to tailless kittens produced in each litter.

Some partial tails are prone to a form of arthritis that causes the cat severe pain, and in rare cases Manx-bred kittens are born with kinked short tails because of incomplete growth of the tail during development; kittens with stumpy to longy tails have sometimes been docked at birth as a preventative measure.

"Manx syndrome" is a colloquial name given to the condition which results when the mutant tailless gene shortens the spine too much. It can seriously damage the spinal cord and the nerves causing spina bifida as well as problems with the bowels, bladder, and digestion. Some live for only 3 years; the oldest recorded was 5 years when affected with the disease . In one study it was shown to affect about 20% of Manx cats, but almost all of those cases were rumpies, which exhibit the most extreme phenotype. Most pedigreed cats are not placed until four months of age (to make sure that they are properly socialised) and this gives adequate time for any health problems to be identified. Renowned feline expert Roger Tabor has stated: "Only the fact that the Manx is a historic breed stops us being as critical of this dangerous gene as of other more recent selected abnormalities." The breed is also predisposed to rump fold intertrigo and corneal dystrophy. Actual occurrences of Manx syndrome are rare in modern specimens due to informed breeding practices. Manx have been known to live into their mid to high teens and are no more or less healthy than tailed varieties.


As with all cat breeds, the cat fancy has arrived through observation at a variety of generalisations about the Manx breed as a whole. No scientific studies have yet been done to prove these assumptions, even on average, but they are widespread beliefs. The Manx is considered a social and gregarious feline, and very attached to humans, but also shy of strangers. The breed is thought to be highly intelligent, playful, and in its behaviour reminiscent of dogs. For example, like some Maine Coons and a few other breeds, Manx cats often learn to fetch small thrown objects. They may also follow their owners about like puppies, and are believed to be better able to learn simple verbal commands than most cats.

Many of these views of the breed are not known to have a very long pedigree. Lane's early and experienced account of the temperament of this "variety, which is quaint and interesting" is simply that they are "docile, good-tempered and sociable", and that a prize specimen should be "an alert, active animal of much power and energetic character."

Manx are prized as hunters, known to take down larger prey even when they are young. They have long been sought as mousers by farmers. A strong preference for them as ship's cats is thought to be responsible for the world-wide spread (port to port) of what originated as a very limited, insular breed.

Although all cats, including the great cats, may use both rear legs simultaneously to propel the body forward, especially when moving quickly, Manx cats are often said to move with more of a rabbit-like hop than a stride even when not runnning.

As a national symbol

The Isle of Man has adopted the Manx cat as one of the symbols of the island nation and its unique culture. On Isle of Man currency, Manx cats are the subject of the reverse of three special commemorative crown coins. The first two, issued in 1970 and 1975, are stand-alone releases in both copper-nickel and silver proofs, while the third in 1988 inaugurated an ongoing series of annual cat coin issues that have also been produced in gold in various sizes; an almost-hidden Manx cat appears in the background on each of the 1989-onward releases featuring other breeds. A Manx cat also appears on the island's 1980–83 penny. The breed figures on numerous Isle of Man postage stamps, including a 2011 series of 6 that reproduce the art from Victorian era Manx cat postcards, a 1996 one-stamp decorative sheetlet, one stamp in a 1994 tourism 10-stamp booklet, a 1996 five-stamp series of Manx cats around the world, and a 1989 set of the breed in various coat patterns, plus two high-value definitives of 1983 and 1989. The cat appears prominently as the subject of a large number of tourist goods and Manx (in both senses) pride items available on the island and over the Internet, serving (along with the triskelion) as an emblem of the Isle of Man.

Famous and fictional Manx cats

  • The famous ASL-communicating gorilla, Koko, has had three separate Manx (All Ball, Lipstick and Smokey) as companion animals.
  • Bernie Rhodenbarr's Manx cat in Lawrence Block's "Burglar" series of mystery books
  • Bluebeard, from the German animated film Felidae
  • Gordon from Catscratch.
  • Mac Manc McManx, a recurring guest character in the daily comic strip Get Fuzzy.
  • Mayor Manx from SWAT Kats.
  • Manx, the antagonist to Slimer, of Slimer! And the Real Ghostbusters.
  • Manx Cat from Paul Gallico's novel Manxmouse: The Mouse Who Knew No Fear
  • Manx McCatty from Christopher Reed's children's book The Big Scratch
  • Marco the Manx from Joann Roe's series of children's books (including Castaway Cat, Fisherman Cat, Alaska Cat and Samurai Cat
  • Max from Adam Whitmore's "Max the Cat" series of children's books (including Max Leaves Home, Max in America, Max in India and Max in Australia.)
  • Stimpson "Stimpy" J. Cat, The Ren and Stimpy Show's a fat, tailless, red and white cat, may represent a stylized Manx.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Manx (cat),
which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

More Pictures

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Lilac-point Cymric 'Ramsey' 2011-04-06