History of British Shorthair Cats

The British Shorthair cat, one of the oldest breeds in Britain, traces its ancestry to cats imported by Romans during the days of the Roman Empire.

Initially valued for their hunting ability, domestic cats also later came to be valued for their calm, their endurance, and their companionship. Interest in cats and cat breeds, known as the “cat fancy” did not truly rise, however, until the 1870s, arguably beginning with the Crystal Palace Cat Show. During this time, however, Persians and Siamese cats predominated in breed recognition and as choices for upper class pets.

Although the predecessors of the British Shorthair, known as “Moggies”, had long been common in middle class households, they were not given the same recognition as more rare and exotic breeds.In the late 1800s cat breeders began selectively breeding Moggies and created the British Shorthair as a recognized breed.

The British Shorthair Cat breed was exported to other nations in continental Europe and the United States over the course of the next few decades. Between World War I and World War II, however, the breed struggled to retain a stable population. Following WWII breeders out-crossed British Short hairs to Persians, Burmese, Russian Blues and other breeds in an attempt to regain the breed’s population.

The result of this out crossing, while possibly saving the British Short hair as a breed, also subtly changed the breed’s appearance, making modern cats more cobby. Breeders also began to permit a wider variety of colors within the breed. Despite these subtle differences, British Short hair cats of today still look very similar to the cats originally recognized within the breed more than 100 years ago.

Today this easy-going breed of cat is one of the most popular competitive cat breeds. In 2001, the British Shorthair became the most popular breed of cat registered with the UK’s Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF).


The breed standard describes a powerful, well-balanced and compact build; short, strong legs; a tale that is thick at the base and tapers slightly at the tip; a round head with good width between the ears; round, wide open eyes; and round, thick whisker-pads.


The British Shorthair served as a model for the Chesire cat in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland“, an image of the breed which probably remains the most infamous with modern children and adults alike.

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