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The Tortoiseshell-and-white Cat

This is a more common mixture of colouring than the tortoiseshell pure
and simple without white, and seems to be widely spread over different
parts of the world. It is the opinion of some that this colour and the
pure tortoiseshell is the original domestic cat, and that the other
varieties of marking and colours are but deviations produced by
crossing with wild varieties. My brother, John Jenner Weir, F.L.S.,
F.Z.S., holds somewhat to this opinion; but, to me, it is rather
difficult to arrive at this conclusion. In fact, I can scarcely
realise the ground on which the theory is based--at the same time, I
do not mean to ignore it entirely. And yet, if this be so, from what
starting-point was the original domestic cat derived, and by what
means were the rich and varied markings obtained? I am fully aware
that by selection cats with large patches of colour may be obtained;
still, there remain the peculiar markings of the tortoiseshell. Nor is
this by any means an uncommon colour, not only in this country, but in
many others, and there also appears to be a peculiar fixedness of
this, especially in the female, but why it is not so in the male I am
at a loss to understand, the males almost invariably coming either
red-tabby or red-tabby-and-white. One would suppose that black or
white would be equally likely; but, as far as my observations take me,
this is not so, though I have seen both pure white, yellow, red, and
black in litters of kittens, but this might be different were the he
parent tortoiseshell.

Some years ago I was out with a shooting party not far from
Snowdon, in Wales, when turning past a large rock I came on a
sheltered nook, and there in a nest made of dry grasses laid six
tortoiseshell-and-white kittens about eight to ten days old. I was
much surprised at this, as I did not know of any house near,
therefore these must have been the offspring of some cat or cats
that were leading a roving or wild life, and yet it had no effect
as to the deviation of the colour. I left them there, and without
observing the sex. I was afterwards sorry, as it is just possible,
though scarcely probable, that one or more of the six, being all
of the same colour, might have proved to be a male. As I left the
neighbourhood a few days after I saw no more of them, nor have I
since heard of any being there; so conclude they in some way were

I have observed in the breed of tortoiseshell or
tortoise-shell-and-white that the hair is of a coarser texture than
the ordinary domestic cat, and that the tail is generally thicker,
especially at the base, though some few are thin-tailed; yet I prefer
the thick and tapering form. Some are very much so, and of a good
length; the legs are generally somewhat short; I do not ever remember
seeing a really long-legged tortoiseshell, though when this is so if
not too long it adds much to its grace of action. I give a drawing of
what I consider to be a GOOD tortoiseshell-and-white tom or he-cat. It
will be observed that there is more white on the chest, belly, and
hind legs than is allowable in the black-and-white cat. This I deem
necessary for artistic beauty, when the colour is laid on in
patches, although it should be even, clear, and distinct in its
outline; the larger space of white adds brilliancy to the red, yellow,
and black colouring. The face is one of the parts which should have
some uniformity of colour, and yet not so, but a mere balancing of
colour; that is to say, that there should be a relief in black, with
the yellow and red on each side, and so in the body and tail. The nose
should be white, the eyes orange, and the whole colouring rich and
varied without the least Tabbyness, either brown or gray or an
approach to it, such being highly detrimental to its beauty.

I have received a welcome letter from Mr. Herbert Young, of James
Street, Harrogate, informing me of the existence of what is said to be
a tortoiseshell tom or he-cat somewhere in Yorkshire, and the price is
fifty guineas; but he, unfortunately, has forgotten the exact address.
He also kindly favours me with the further information of a
tortoiseshell-and-white he-cat. He describes it as "splendid," and
"extra good in colour," and it is at present in the vicinity of
Harrogate. And still further, Mr. Herbert Young says, "I am breeding
from a dark colour cat and two tortoiseshell females," and he hopes,
by careful selection, to succeed in "breeding the other colour out."
This, I deem, is by no means an unlikely thing to happen, and, by
careful management, may not take very long to accomplish; but much
depends on the ancestry, or rather the pedigree of both sides. I for
one most heartily wish Mr. Herbert Young success, and it will be most
gratifying should he arrive at the height of his expectations. Failing
the producing of the desired colour in the he-cats by the legitimate
method of tortoiseshell with tortoiseshell, I would advise the trial
of some whole colours, such as solid black and white. This may
prove a better way than the other, as we pigeon fanciers go an
apparently roundabout way often to obtain what we want to attain in
colour, and yet there is almost a certainty in the method.

As regards the tortoiseshell cat, there is a distinct variety known to
us cat fanciers as the tortoiseshell-tabby. This must not be
confounded with the true variety, as it consists only of a variegation
in colour of the yellow, the red, and the dark tabby, and is more in
lines than patches, or patches of lines or spots. These are by no
means ugly, and a well-marked, richly-coloured specimen is really very
handsome. They may also be intermixed with white, and should be marked
the same as the true tortoiseshell; but in competition with the real
tortoiseshell they would stand no chance whatever, and ought in my
opinion to be disqualified as being wrong class, and be put in that
for "any other colour."

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Previous: The Tortoiseshell Cat

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