British Shorthair
Breed Profile

Getting to Know the British Shorthair
by Erin Vosburgh

Breed History

In 1871, the first properly organized cat show was held in London’s Crystal Palace. Among the cats exhibited were the luxuriously coated Persians and the British Blue (early name for British Shorthair) with their wonderfully dense coats designed by nature as a defense against the cool, damp British climate. Also at this show the western world got its first glimpse of a rare Siamese. Harrison Weir, who organized this first modern cat show, was a great admirer of the British Shorthair. “The ordinary garden cat,” he wrote, “has survived every kind of hardship. That he exists at all is a tribute to his strength of character and endurance.” Mr. Jung, who was to become one of the first cat show judges, shared Mr. Weir’s devotion to the shorthaired British cats. He believed if these beautiful cats were thoughtfully bred, a race of cats with aristocratic pedigrees and the same inherent goodness and quality would be developed.

By 1910, no cat had done as well as the British Shorthair silver tabby male and his silver tabby sister. Their success as well as others like them caused quite a stir among fanciers. This created a great demand for cats of this color, many of which were exported to the United States. The years of World War I were very tough on all species of pedigreed animals and cross breeding became necessary to reestablish populations and characteristics eliminated through wartime stress.
At this time Persian cats were introduced to enhance the appearance of the British Shorthair, including blue Persians with 60 years of color breeding behind them. In doing so they gave them a somewhat different look from other shorthair breeds. However, the breeders’ goal was always to enhance the British Shorthair and so attention was spent on the shorthaired kittens of these matings. Through the war years the introduction of Persians plus random bred “moggies” (English vernacular for non-pedigreed cats) were instrumental in reestablishing the British Shorthair to the wonderful specimen it is today. In this century the British Shorthair is recognized and registered in various colors and patterns, and is popular in every country that has pedigreed cat registration.

As previously mentioned, silver tabbies were imported in large numbers in the early twentieth century. Registrations of imported British Shorthairs continued in the United States as Domestic Shorthairs until the 1950’s. At that time, American cat associations began to recognize the British Blue as a distinct breed. While Brits were just hitting the American show bench, a UK British Shorthair was about to make history.

It was a British Shorthair, a blue male named Brynbuboo Little Monarch, that was the first adult of any breed to gain the title Grand Champion under the rules of the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF, the pedigreed cat registrar in the UK). Virtually every British Shorthair today can track its ancestry back to this cat due to his use as stud and to the selling of his progeny.

Other imported colors of British Shorthairs continued to be registered as Domestic/American Shorthairs in the USA until a black female British, “Manana Charmaine,” was imported. She was registered and shown in another association as an American Shorthair. When she did substantial winning, other breeders complained that this was not an American Shorthair, but rather a British Shorthair. This opened the eyes of other American fanciers to realize British Shorthairs came in many other colors besides blue. In the 1970’s, CFA British Shorthair breeders concentrated on achieving Championship status for the breed. Breeders attended the CFA Board Meeting in Texas and were allowed to enter the process to gain championship status.

In 1980, over a century since the first Cat Show, CFA granted the British Shorthair Championship status and a white female earned the first Grand Champion title. Since those early years the number of National Winners have grown as have the number of Distinguished Merit cats. The Distinguished Merit title is CFA’s award given for producing cats that have contributed to their breed by producing Grand Champions. British Shorthair breeders are proud that their cats are basically the same worldwide. Cats of this breed, imported from as far afield as Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Holland, as well as those bred in the United States, have enjoyed great success at CFA shows. This includes the full range of solid, parti-color, and tabby British Shorthairs.

From the times of the Romans, British Shorthairs have populated the British Isles. These cats, most likely developed from those early domestic cats, and perhaps crossed with the native wild cats. Though prized for their strength and hunting ability, as their personality, grace and confidence were discovered, they became the undisputed heirs to the fireside hearths and pleasant additions to the home. Today the British Shorthair reigns supreme in its homeland and is gaining great popularity in the United States. Their patience, adaptability, confidence, easy-care and strength make them highly valued as family companions today. 

Their Personality

Living with British Shorthairs is relaxing. They are not overly active cats, which is why they are comfortable in apartments as well as houses. With true British reserve, they will wait for an invitation to join you at your side on a couch or chair.

These cats are content to be with you and stare at you as you read, watch TV or sew. Occasionally they will put a single paw in your work to make sure you know they are still watching. British Shorthairs are the great supervisors. They watch everything and even follow you from room to room to make sure you adhere to your daily routine; they do not need to be underfoot to do this. Often a British Shorthair will be seen on a chair or ledge simply observing what is going on as they watch the people in their world.

A quiet cat, a British Shorthair does meow, only when is necessary
They are confident cats and do well with other pets. However, do not expect them to ignore small rodents and birds, even if they are pets. They can adjust well to dogs and other cats and it is not unusual for the British Shorthair to rise as leader of the family hierarchy. The British Shorthair is a great family pet because it is more then willing to spread its love and attention to everyone. They possess the gift of great patience and are excellent with children despite their ruggedness. With a little adult cultivation, the relationship between a British Shorthair and a child is deep and long lasting. When too overwhelmed to continue in a child’s activities, a British Shorthair will simply move away to a quiet out of reach place where they can resume their role as household supervisor.

Caring for Your British Shorthair

Caring for a British is not difficult. The coat requires only weekly brushing to catch any shedding. Of course, more extensive grooming is required for a British Shorthair presented at a cat show. A bath several days ahead of the exhibition ensures that a proper amount of oil returns to the coat, giving it a healthy body. Toenails are always clipped on exhibition cats and most British Shorthairs accept this procedure with good grace. Nail clipping is a simple procedure every pet owner can learn from his or her cat’s breeder, from a veterinarian or professional groomer. Attention must be given to making sure that the ears are kept free of dirt and wax. A warm damp soft cloth can clean the easily reached areas. Your veterinarian must clean within the deeper portion of the ears.

WCF Standard

Breed standards British Shorthair

– The medium to large sized cat is muscular and cobby. Chest, shoulders and back are broad and massive.  Legs are short and muscular; paws thick and round.  The tail is medium long and thick with a rounded tip and reaches to the shoulders.  The neck is short and strong.

Head – 
The head is rounded, massive, broad with a firm chin. The nose is short, broad and straight.  The profile is curved (without any stop). Cheeks are full and pronounced. The large round whisker pads lend a distinct outline to the short muzzle.

Ears – 
The ears are medium in size, broad at the base, with slightly rounded tips. They are set wide apart.

Eyes – 
The eyes are large and round, set wide apart.  Eye colour corresponds with coat colour.

Coat – 
The coat is short and very dense, not close lying. It stands away from the body like plush due to the sufficient undercoat. The texture is not woolly, it is crisp.

Colour varieties – 
All colours and colours with Siamese points without white are recognized. The description of colours is listed in the general list of colours.


• A profile with a stop is a severe fault.

Scale of points

  • Body – 20 points
  • Head – 30 points
  • Colour of the eyes – 10 points
  • Coat texture – 10 points
  • Coat length – 15 points
  • Coat colour, pattern – 10 points
  • Condition – 5 points




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