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Japanese Bobtail: origins, legends and history
Japanese Bobtail: origins, legends and history

It comes from the Far East and yours origins are lost in time: the Japanese Bobtail is a cat with a very special history.

The feline race has been the prerogative of Asian countries for centuries and only recently has it spread to the rest of the world.

The ancestors of the Japanese Bobtail

According to the most reliable testimonies, the Japanese Bobtail has its origins at the beginning of the sixth century.

Japanese long-haired bobtail variant
Japanese long-haired bobtail variant

At that time, the very first ancestors arrived in Japan from Korea and China, transported by merchant ships.

It was habit board the cats together with crew members to combat the rat infestations that abounded on ships.

Thus the ancestors of the Japanese Bobtail originally had the task of protecting the precious cargoes of silkworms that were exported to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Origins of the Japanese Bobtail between history and legend

From the sixth century onwards, the Japanese Bobtail spread throughout the Far East becoming one of the most famous breeds.

Its fame grew over time thanks to the local folklore that began to attribute to it an aura of mystery between myth and legends.

It is not known exactly whether it already possessed its peculiar characteristic at that time: an unusual very short tail, similar to a pom pom.

cat with red and white coat
cat with red and white coat

What is certain is that not only the Japanese Bobtail has very ancient origins but that its tail has made it so famous.

We find numerous references to a cat with similar (practically identical) features in local folklore.

Woodcuts and serigraphs, that is prints on wood and silk, depict cats with the typical tricolor hair and very short tail.

We are talking about evidence dating back to the Asuka period, which includes the time span that goes more or less from 538 to 710 AD.

It is the first Buddhist period in the history of Japan and it is no coincidence that cats were often depicted inside temples.

The royal family's favorite cat

More or less from the fifteenth century onwards, the history of the Japanese Bobtail is closely linked not only to environment of the temples but also to the palaces of power.

Traditionally, the monks continued to welcome specimens of these cats that were always welcome in places of worship.

But the epochal change came when the imperial family set their eyes on the Japanese Bobtail.

From that moment on, indeed, the feline race became prerogative of sovereigns and of the Japanese aristocracy because they were considered to be noble and precious in turn.

The Japanese Bobtail was appreciated for its features and elegant appearance, as well as for the particular short tail considered a good omen.

Japanese Bobtail: more recent history

The samples came reintroduced to the streets of Japanese cities when the increase in mice and rats began to compromise the silk trade.

Japanese bobtail excellent domestic cat
Japanese bobtail excellent domestic cat

A real invasion that threatened to bring the country's economy to its knees and why the Japanese Bobtails were freed to protect goods.

Thanks to this government decision the specimens began to spread like wildfire throughout Japan, both in the cities and in the countryside.

Indeed, especially here they were welcomed by the owners of estates and farms for the protection of goods and crops.

It was also realized that the Japanese Bobtail was also a excellent domestic feline, a company with a sweet and loving character.

All this explains the great success of this feline breed and its great diffusion, together with the marked intelligence typical of these cats.

Beautiful in appearance but witty and sociable, Japanese Bobtails could (and can) be trained almost like dogs.

Until the first decades of the last century, the feline breed remained confined within the Japanese borders and neighboring countries.

It was only in 1968 that the Japanese Bobtail landed in the New Continent thanks to Elisabeth Freret initiating a more in-depth study of the breed.

Genetic analyzes have shown that the Japanese Bobtail is not genetically similar to other Japanese cats. The mystery of its true origins remains obscure!

Recognition and breed standards

After 1968 the Japanese Bobtail spread not only in the United States but also in Europe where today we can find several farms dedicated to the breed.

Despite this, however, it remains not very widespread and known mostly by fans of oriental felines.

The first Japanese Bobtail variety to be officially recognized by the CFA - Cat Fanciers' Association was the short-haired one in 1976.

We should wait until 1993 for the official recognition of the long-haired variety, which is still quite rare.

A lucky cat

The Japanese Bobtail is linked to one of the most widespread e ancient Japanese legends, that of Maneki Neko.

the famous Japanese lucky statuettes
the famous Japanese lucky statuettes

Basically, the specimens born with a particular combination of red, black and white were called Mi-Ke, translated "three furs" and were considered lucky charms.

So the depictions of the Maneki Neko they represent a Mi-Ke and even today this creature is considered a good omen and a bearer of joy and prosperity.

You will have happened to enter a Japanese shop or restaurant and see some pretty figurines depicting a cute cat holding her paw up as in greeting.

Well, it is precisely the Maneki Neko that even today all shopkeepers and traders keep in plain sight to ensure the success of their business!