Breed Profile: Manx
By David McDaniel

The Manx is a medium-sized cat (10 - 12 pounds on average in the male) with an overall rounded look and disproportionately long hind legs. However, Manx cats are best known and most easily recognized because they lack tails.

As with any breed with distinctive features (or in this case, lack thereof), there is abundant folklore surrounding the Manx. According to one legend, the Manx was late getting to Noah’s Ark and slipped onboard just as the door was shut, losing its tail in the process. Recent British legend has it that the female Manx would bite the tails off her kittens to keep the Irish from painfully removing the tails from adult cats to use as battle decorations. It is also suggested that tailless cats swam to the Isle of Man (located in the Irish Sea) after one of many shipwrecks near its shores, including a pair of Spanish Armada ships that were sunk close to 400 years ago.

Though entertaining, these stories offer little (if any) factual information about the origins of the Manx; as is often the case, the truth is rather mundane. The Manx does take its name from the Isle of Man, the breed’s point of origin. Records found on the Isle of Man and observations about the cats’ genetics both suggest that at some point hundreds of years ago, kittens were born without normal tail vertebrae as the result of a mutation. Because the island’s cat population was isolated and the mutated gene is a dominant one, it was not long before all of the island’s cats were born tailless.

The terms “rumpy” and “stumpy” are both used to describe the Manx, especially at cat shows and by breeders. As the names suggest, a “rumpy” completely lacks a tail, sometimes having a slight hollow or dimple at the base of the spine, while a “stumpy” has a short stump of a tail. The occasional “longy” Manx is born with a definite tail, and all three types may be present in the same litter.

Manx cats come in every color and pattern and there is also a longhaired variety of Manx, sometimes referred to as a Cymric. Though called a longhair, the fur on a Cymric more closely resembles that of a Maine Coon than a Persian; this medium-length fur therefore requires more care than the coat of a shorthaired Manx, but does not require daily brushing.

As pets, the Manx is often called “man’s cat” or a “dog cat” because of its temperament, loyalty, and love of people. Manx cats are said to be favorites of truck drivers because they generally enjoy car rides. They will often retrieve and bury their toys, and they generally take well to a leash but are also known to follow their owners around on their own.

The tailless feature of the Manx occasionally presents balance or grooming problems that tailed cats don’t encounter, but this rarely creates any real trouble for cat or owner. One word of caution, however: while all pet owners should take care to prevent unwanted litters, Manx cats should only be bred by someone who understands the genetics of the breed. Otherwise, serious spinal problems or stillbirths may affect the litter of kittens.

Because they are often very people-oriented, it may take a little extra time for an adult Manx to adjust after adoption. In this case, it’s important not to grow impatient before really giving the cat some extra time to bond with you. However, for a dog owner who has never had a cat or for anyone who wants a social animal, a Manx could very well make for the perfect cat.