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Tortoiseshells








I place these first on the list because, being an old pigeon fancier and
somewhat of a florist, I deem these to be the breed wherein there is the
most art and skill required to produce properly all the varied mottled
beauty of bright colours that a cat of this breed should possess; and
those who have bred tortoiseshells well know how difficult a task it is.

In breeding for this splendid, gorgeous, and diversified arrangement of
colouring, a black, or even a blue, may be used with a yellow or red
tabby female, or a white male, supposing either or both were the
offspring of a tortoiseshell mother. The same males might be used with
advantage with a tortoiseshell female. This is on the theory of whole
colours, and patches or portions of whole colours, without bars or
markings when possible. In the same way some of the best almond tumbler
pigeons are bred from an almond cock mated to a yellow hen. The
difficulty here, until lately, has been to breed hens of the varied
mottling on almond colour, the hen almost invariably coming nearly, if
not quite yellow--so much so that forty to fifty years ago a yellow hen
was considered as a pair to an almond cock, in the same way as the red
tabby male is now regarded in respect to the tortoiseshell female; and
it was not until at Birmingham, many years ago, when acting as judge, I
refused to award prizes to them as such, that the effort was made, and a
successful one, to breed almond-coloured hens with the same plumage as
the cock--that is, the three colours. With cats the matter is entirely
different, it being the male at present that is the difficulty, if a
real difficulty it may be called.

Mr. Herbert Young, a most excellent cat fancier and authority on the
subject, is of opinion that if a tortoiseshell male cat could be found,
it would not prove fertile with a tortoiseshell female. But of this I am
very doubtful, because, if the red and the yellow tabby is so, which is
decidedly a weaker colour, I do not see how it can possess more vitality
than a cat marked with the three colours; in fact the latter ought, in
reality, to be more prolific, having black as one of the colours, which
is a strong colour, blue being only the weak substitute, or with white
combined. A whole black is one of the strongest colours and most
powerful of cats.

Reverting once again to the pigeon fancier by way of analogy, take, as
an instance, what is termed the silver-coloured pigeon, or the yellow.
These two, and duns, are, by loss of certain pigments, differently
coloured and constituted (like the tortoiseshell among cats) from other
varieties of pigeons of harder colours, such as blues, and blacks, or
even reds. For a long time silver turbit cock pigeons were so scarce
that, until I bred some myself, I had never seen such a thing; yet hens
were common enough, and got from silver and blues. In the nestling
before the feathers come, the young of these colours are without down,
and are thus thought to be, and doubtless are, a weakly breed; yet there
is no absolute diminution of strength, beyond that of colour, when
silver is matched to silver; but dun with dun, these last go lower in
the scale, losing the black tint, and not unfrequently the colour is
yellow; or, matched with black, breed true blacks. I am, therefore, of
opinion that a tortoiseshell male and female would, and should, produce
the best of tortoiseshells, both male and female.

It not unfrequently happens that from a tortoiseshell mother, in the
litter of kittens there are male blacks and clear whites, and I have
known of one case when a good blue and one where the mixed colours were
blue, light red, and light yellow were produced, while the sisters in
the litter were of the usual pure tortoiseshell markings. In such cases,
generally, the latter only are kept, unless it is the blue, the others
being too often destroyed. My own plan would be to breed from such black
or white males, and if not successful in the first attempt, to breed
again in the same way with the young obtained with such cross; and I
have but little doubt that, by so doing, the result so long sought after
would be achieved. At least, I deem it far more likely to be so than the
present plan of using the red tabby as the male, which are easily
produced, though very few are of high excellence in richness of ground
tints.





Next: Tortoiseshell-and-white

Previous: Mating



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