The origin of the modern British Shorthairs is to be found
in ancient Egypt.
It is from here that the local cats (Felis Lybica) arrived
in Great Britain, on board the Roman ships where they were
used to protect the hunger cargo from the rats. It was also
on land that these animals revealed themselves to be
remarkable hunters, and for many years, as strays, continued
in this important feat, whilst in the meantime mixing their
genes with the local European cats on the territory. As time
went by this gave the Felis lybica more muscular, rounded
features as compared to the original standard.
For centuries, our future friend had only this social
function, until, in 1871, something changed…
A great fan of feline breeds, Mr. Harrison Weir, decided to
present the first feline exposition which we have news of,
at the Crystal Palace in London. He selected the most
beautiful stray cats and presented them to the public at the
show. He himself was a judge and his cat “ The Old Lady”
(this was her name), at the ripe old age of fourteen, won
first prize: she was a British Shorthair!
This name was given to the breed to diversify it from the
other breeds which were present on the British territory,
such as foreign Oriental cats or Angoras.
During the first years of the first century, the British
Shorthairs were now appreciated and were put on show at many
feline expositions, always claiming great success by winning
the prizes offered. The birth of the first club of lovers of
this magnificent breed, the BCC (British Cat Club), dates
back to 1901.
This sudden, but praiseworthy popularity also contributed to
the exportation of many specimens from Europe right to
America, and therefore became widespread.
Shortly afterwards because of the imminent disturbances due
to the two world conflicts, the rearing of this magnificent
breed came to a sudden halt, but was safeguarded thanks only
to the great passion of a few breeders. Amongst these we
remember Miss Kit Wilson, who, during the years of the Great
Depression and of the Second World War was able to somehow
carry on with the selection of our four legged British
After the Second World War, because of the scarcity of pure
breed specimens, and the closeness of relationships, it
became necessary to cross Shorthairs without pedigrees with
other short haired breeds, such as Burmese, Russian Blue,
and Carthusian, with the intent of finding the
characteristic traits of the native British thus
safeguarding its health. As a result the breeders had to
cross their own specimens of British with others of the
Persian breed. The result of this further cross-breeding was
that of the strengthening and rounding of its features and
also to widen the range of colours of its coat, thus leading
their evolution towards the one we know today.
The resemblance between the British and the Carthusian,
spurred the breeders to make crosses between the two races
and therefore the F.I.Fe. decided to unify the standards. In
1977 though, because of the disastrous outcome, the same
International Feline Federation, made a distinction between
the two races once and for all and categorically banned the
breeding of hybrids.
The British Shorthair is an extremely strong and robust cat
that does not need particular looking after or attention.
Special attention must be paid to its grooming, especially
in the moulting season, because in this particular moment
its thick and compact fur must be brushed frequently.
It is as physically solid as it is psychiatrically, very
poised, it never gives in to hysterical crisis and never
raises its voice, does not scratch or bite because of anger
or fear. At most, will bite whilst playing, but always
taking care not to hurt its partners in games.
This mental stability means that it does not have
destructive streaks (thinking about sofas curtains, or
similar). Lives well with other animals, and when left alone
for many hours during the day, it is advisable to make it
live with another British Shorthair with which to keep
Our friend has also been given a great sense of
independence, is very proud and has an inward sense of
dignity. It loves being with company and follows its human
life companions all around the house, almost like a puppy,
finding improbable resting places but which let him keep an
eye on all members of the family. It does not like to be
held for more than is necessary, but usually prefers to
decide itself when the time has come to be cuddled, which
usually always leads to an unstoppable need to purr.
It is definitely more tied to family members than to the
place where it lives: this makes it adapt easily to new
circumstances and journeys. It loves to travel, and uses the
occasion to explore new horizons letting out all of its
It is an extremely patient cat and above all shows this
peculiarity when with children: instead of showing anger or
hurting them, it would rather leave and go and hide for a
moment and hide in a place where no one can aggravate it.
As mentioned earlier, it is a cat with a great instinct for
hunting. While staying at home, it runs wild chasing flies
and anything similar, proving (but not always with excellent
results…) that blood is thicker than water! It loves to play
and chase a ball and can learn to fetch and bring small
objects, just like a little dog!
It is a quiet, loving, sociable cat, always very thoughtful
and very cool and living in symbiosis with the family makes
it happy and appeased.
The British Shorthair is particularly indicated for “Pet
Therapy”, and has also been given nick-names such as “teddy
bear-cat” for the way it looks or “ The laughing cat”
because of the curious expression on its face.
Measurements: medium - large.
Appearance: robust, with strong bones and muscles.
Size: male 6-7 kg. female 4-5 kg.
Head: round and massive with a wide skull. Its neck
must be short, massive and well developed.
Ears: large at the base and rounded at the top, not
Eyes: big, round, of an intense, brilliant colour.
The colours varies according to the colours of its coat: the
British Blue’s eyes being orange, golden, copper.
Nose: Short, wide and straight. There is a small dint
but there is no typical stop, for example in the Exotics.
Body: From medium to large, large muscles. Evident
sexual bimorfism: the female is a lot smaller than the male.
Tail: wide at the base and thin towards the end which
Legs: muscular with medium to heavy bones, rather
Coat: very full, thick and dense. Not excessively
soft, but “crisp” and pleasant to the touch.