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The Brown Tabby Cat

The tabby cat is doubtless one of, if not the most common of colours,
and numbers many almost endless varieties of both tint and markings. Of
these those with very broad bands of black, or narrow bands of black, on
nearly a black ground, are usually called black tabby, and if the bands
are divided into spots instead of being in continuous lines, then it is
a spotted black tabby; but I purpose in this paper to deal mostly with
the brown tabby--that is to say, a tabby, whose ground colour is of a
very rich, orangey, dark brown ground, without any white, and that is
evenly, proportionably, and not too broadly but elegantly marked on the
face, head, breast, sides, back, belly, legs, and tail with bands of
solid, deep, shining black. The front part of the head or face and legs,
breast, and belly should have a more rich red orange tint than the back,
but which should be nearly if not equal in depth of colour, though
somewhat browner; the markings should be graceful in curve, sharply,
well, and clearly defined, with fine deep black edges, so that the brown
and black are clear and distinct the one from the other, not blurred in
any way. The banded tabby should not be spotted in any way, excepting
those few that nearly always occur on the face and sometimes on the
fore-legs. The clearer, redder, and brighter the brown the better. The
nose should be deep red, bordered with black; the eyes an orange colour,
slightly diffused with green; in form the head should not be large, nor
too wide, being rather longer than broad, so as not to give too round or
clumsy an appearance; ears not large nor small, but of moderate size,
and of good form; legs medium length, rather long than short, so as not
to lose grace of action; body long, narrow, and deep towards the fore
part. Tail long, and gradually tapering towards the point; feet round,
with black claws, and black pads; yellowish-white around the black lips
and brown whiskers are allowable, but orange-tinted are far preferable,
and pure white should disqualify. A cat of this description is now
somewhat rare. What are generally shown as brown tabbies are not
sufficiently orange-brown, but mostly of a dark, brownish-gray. This
is simply the ordinary tabby, and not the brown tabby proper.

As I stated in my notes on the Tortoiseshell cat, the best parents to
obtain a good brown tabby from is to have a strongly marked, not too
broad-banded tabby he-cat and a tortoiseshell she-cat with little black,
or red tabby she-cat, the produce being, when tabby, generally of a rich
brown, or sometimes what is termed black tabby, and also red tabby. The
picture illustrating these notes is from one so bred, and is a
particularly handsome specimen. There were two he-cats in the litter,
one the dark-brown tabby just mentioned, which I named Aaron, and the
other, a very fine red tabby, Moses. This last was even a finer animal
than Aaron, being very beautiful in colour and very large in size; but
he, alas! like many others, was caught in wires set by poachers, and was
found dead. His handsome brother still survives, though no longer my
property. The banded red tabby should be marked precisely the same as
the brown tabby, only the bands should be of deep red on an orange
ground, the deeper in colour the better; almost a chocolate on orange is
very fine. The nose deep pink, as also the pads of the feet. The
ordinary dark tabby the same way as the brown, and so also the blue or
silver, only the ground colour should be of a pale, soft, blue
colour--not the slightest tint of brown in it. The clearer, the
lighter, and brighter the blue the better, bearing in mind always that
the bands should be of a jet black, sharply and very clearly

The word tabby was derived from a kind of taffeta, or ribbed silk, which
when calendered or what is now termed "watered," is by that process
covered with wavy lines. This stuff, in bygone times, was often called
"tabby:" hence the cat with lines or markings on its fur was called a
"tabby" cat. But it might also, one would suppose, with as much justice,
be called a taffety cat, unless the calendering of "taffety" caused it
to become "tabby." Certain it is that the word tabby only referred to
the marking or stripes, not to the absolute colour, for in "Wit and
Drollery" (1682), p. 343, is the following:--

"Her petticoat of satin,
Her gown of crimson tabby."

Be that as it may, I think there is little doubt that the foregoing was
the origin of the term. Yet it was also called the brinded cat, or the
brindled cat, also tiger cat, with some the gray cat, graymalkin; but I
was rather unprepared to learn that in Norfolk and Suffolk it is called
a Cyprus cat. "Why Cyprus cat?" quoth I. "I do not know," said my
informant. "All I know is, that such is the case."

So I referred to my Bailey's Dictionary of 1730, and there, "sure
enough," was the elucidation; for I found that Cyprus was a kind of
cloth made of silk and hair, showing wavy lines on it, and coming from
Cyprus; therefore this somewhat strengthens the argument in favour of
"taffeta," or "tabby," but it is still curious that the Norfolk and
Suffolk people should have adopted a kind of cloth as that representing
the markings and colour of the cat, and that of a different name from
that in use for the cat--one or more counties calling it a "tabby cat,"
as regards colour, and the other naming the same as "Cyprus." I take
this to be exceedingly interesting. How or when such naming took place
I am at present unable to get the least clue, though I think from what I
gather from one of the Crystal Palace Cat Show catalogues, that it must
have been after 1597, as the excerpt shows that at that time the shape
and colour was like a leopard's, which, of course, is spotted, and is
always called the spotted leopard. (Since this I have learned that the
domestic cat is said to have been brought from Cyprus by merchants, as
also was the tortoiseshell. Cyprus is a colour, a sort of
reddish-yellow, something like citron; so a Cyprus cat may mean a red or
yellow tabby.)

However, I find Holloway, in his "Dictionary of Provincialisms" (1839),
gives the following:--

"Calimanco Cat, s. (calimanco, a glossy stuff), a tortoiseshell cat,

Salmon, in "The Compleat English Physician," 1693, p. 326, writing of
the cat, says: "It is a neat and cleanly creature, often licking itself
to keep it fair and clean, and washing its face with its fore feet; the
best are such as of a fair and large kind and of an exquisite tabby
color called Cyprus cats."

I have thought it best to give two illustrations of the peculiar
markings of the spotted tabby, or leopard cat of some, as showing its
distinctness from the ordinary and banded Tabby, one of my reasons
being that I have, when judging at cat shows, often found excellent
specimens of both entered in the "wrong class," thereby losing all
chance of a prize, though, if rightly entered, either might very
possibly have taken honours. I therefore wish to direct particular
attention to the spotted character of the markings of the variety
called the "spotted tabby." It will be observed that there are no lines,
but what are lines in other tabbies are broken up into a number of
spots, and the more these spots prevail, to the exclusion of lines or
bands, the better the specimen is considered to be. The varieties of
the ground colour or tint on which these markings or spots are placed
constitutes the name, such as black-spotted tabby, brown-spotted tabby,
and so on, the red-spotted tabby or yellow-spotted tabby in she-cats
being by far the most scarce. These should be marked with spots
instead of bands, on the same ground colour as the red or
yellow-banded tabby cat. In the former the ground colour should be a
rich red, with spots of a deep, almost chocolate colour, while that of
the yellow tabby may be a deep yellow cream, with yellowish-brown spots.
Both are very scarce, and are extremely pretty. Any admixture of white
is not allowable in the class for yellow or red tabbies; such exhibit
must be put into the class (should there be one, which is usually the
case at large shows) for red or yellow and white tabbies. This
exhibitors will do well to make a note of.

There is a rich-coloured brown tabby hybrid to be seen at the Zoological
Society Gardens in Regent's Park, between the wild cat of Bengal and a
tabby she-cat. It is handsome, but very wild. These hybrids, I am told,
will breed again with tame variety, or with others.

In the brown-spotted tabby, the dark gray-spotted tabby, the
black-spotted tabby, the gray or the blue-spotted tabby, the eyes are
best yellow or orange tinted, with the less of the green the better. The
nose should be of a dark red, edged with black or dark brown, in the
dark colours, or somewhat lighter colour in the gray or blue tabbies.
The pads of the feet in all instances must be black. In the yellow and
the red tabby the nose and the pads of the feet are to be pink. As
regards the tail, that should have large spots on the upper and lower
sides instead of being annulated, but this is difficult to obtain. It
has always occurred to me that the spotted tabby is a much nearer
approach to the wild English cat and some other wild cats in the way of
colour than the ordinary broad-banded tabby. Those specimens of the
crosses, said to be between the wild and domestic cat, that I have seen,
have had a tendency to be spotted tabbies. And these crosses were not
infrequent in bygone times when the wild cats were more numerous than
at present, as is stated to be the case by that reliable authority,
Thomas Bewick. In the year 1873, there was a specimen shown at the
Crystal Palace Cat Show, and also the last year or two there has been
exhibited at the same place a most beautiful hybrid between the East
Indian wild cat and the domestic cat. It was shown in the spotted tabby
class, and won the first prize. The ground colour was a deep
blackish-brown, with well-defined black spots, black pads to the feet,
rich in colour, and very strong and powerfully made, and not by any
means a sweet temper. It was a he-cat, and though I have made inquiry, I
have not been able to ascertain that any progeny has been reared from
it, yet I have been informed that such hybrids between the Indian wild
cat and the domestic cat breed freely.

Next: The Abyssinian

Previous: The Tortoiseshell-and-white Cat

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