The Kurilian Bobtail is a newly recognized native breed of the Kuril islands, but it is surrounded by centuries of legend. The Kurilian Bobtail is said to be like a creature from tall tales, looking like a cat from the front but with the appearance of a rabbit from behind. It has long back legs, with the measure from the hock to the toes being especially long. It has a naturally bobbed tail measuring 5 to 13 cm long which is spiral kinked and usually sits like a rabbit's puff on its hind end. This cat comes in a variety of colours and patterns including van, harlequin, bi-colour, patched, tortie, solid, smoke, cameo, silver and golden. In its native regions it is most popular when bicolor, tortie, patched tortie or calico.


In its natural, wild habitat, this cat is known to be both an excellent swimmer and fisherman and an exceptional rat hunter. It is said to be no problem for this cat to catch a 5 kg fish or a hare in the wild. People who live in Kunashir report that bear will run away from this cat! However, this breed is not well known out of its native territories and the western regions of Russia. It is still discovered in the wild on a chain of islands known as the Kurils, which run from the easternmost point of Russia to the tip of Japan's Hokkaido Island. The population is small and it is considered a very rare breed of cat. Part of the reason for its rarity is that there are just 2 or 3 kittens in a litter and it breeds only once per year in the wild.


In its general appearance, the Kurilian is something like the Norwegian Forestcat, though its face has more resemblance to the Siberian. It is built square-ish with a muscular (though not bulky) body rather than having the slender oriental physique of the Japanese Bobtail. The legs are not long though the hind quarters are slightly raised. Its head is shaped more triangularly than the Siberian with low cheekbones and a straight, broad, middle-long nose. The eyes are slightly slanted and almond shaped, but it does not have oriental features. All colours and coat patterns are accepted with the exception of colorpoints, chocolate, cinnamon, fawn, lilac and the same combined with white. Japanese call the calico 'Mi-ke' and suggest that wherever a family has a calico cat they bring happiness, prosperity and good health to the home. The Mi-ke has become a popular colour and pattern for the Kurillian.


The Kurilian's wild look is not reflected in the temperament of the breed. It is renowned for being both a clever and gentle clown. It has a great love for both human company and other species of pets, and it is perfectly happy living in an apartment in the city. In fact, the breed is smallish in the wild but it has developed onsiderably in size through being domesticated. The Kurillian's skill as a fisherman may explain why the Kuril is an excellent swimmer who loves nothing better than to play in a bathtub with a dripping tap! In fact, many Kurilian would like to join their owners in the bath, if allowed. The breed has also adapted its rat hunting skills to the confines of apartment living, proving to be both a peaceful and gentle companion of humans who loves to the pursue flies.


There are many breeds that are said to be doglike, however, the Kurilian Bobtail is outstanding in its gregarious and accepting nature. They will run to the door to greet their owner coming home and will be just as accepting of friends and strangers who visit the home. The Kurilian Bobtail does not shy from strangers or changes in their environment. In fact, they are remarkably accepting of change. Now that several members of the breed have made the 2-day journey from Russia to North America it is certain that it is a breed characteristic to 'go with the flow' and accept a change not only in environment but in human companionship with ease. This does not detract from the expression of interest in human company, but the breed seems to have an incredible trust of humans and simply wants to be in human company. They like to play hard and are very self-entertaining, but they also enjoy long periods of quiet companionship. One trait noticed by North Americans is that while they are not a lap cat the breed loves to lay at the feet of their owner.


This is a breed that seems to understand everything its owner desires and is easy to train to respond to voice command alone. Kurilians are also remarkable among cat breeds for their 'silent' nature. like the Pixie-Bob, another natural short-tailed breed (native to North America), they tend to be non-vocal except for a few musical trills which sound more like bird song than cat calls. The breed is not destructive to furniture or the home, yet it is still a cat with a cat's independant nature and a tendancy to do what it best desires. One more thing... unlike other breeds, the father of a litter spends as much time tending to the kittens as their mother does.


copyright 2005 Kurilian Bobtail Fanciery Association article by Sharon Berg, FogForest Bobtails


History of the Kurilian Bobtail

This is a natural breed, which existed in isolation for a long period (at least 100-150 years) on a chain of islands collectively known as the Kurils, which belong to Russia and Japan. In Russia there are several documents referring to cats with a short tail, which were brought home from the islands by the members of the military or scientists in the middle of the 20th century. The character of these cats made them very popular even without being promoted as a pedigreed cat. Many people brought these cats home from the islands, but historically in Russia there were no cat clubs and therefore no breed standards to guide those who raised them.


At the first cat fancy exhibitions of the Kurilian Bobtail (1990) many foreign experts were concerned that these Russian cats with a short tail were just a Japanese Bobtail of a heavier type. Even today, it cannot be said that the Kurilian Bobtail and the Japanese Bobtail have an entirely different genetics. In fact, it is probable that the Kurilian bobtail was the original source of mutation for the short tail in the Japanese. Yet, the difference is that the Japanese Bobtail is a created breed with a similar tail. Russia has not enough Japanese Bobtail for the realization of research into a comparison of the genetic makeup of these breeds. However, the Kurilian are cats of the wild type with a wild origin. Russian Breeders have kept this distinction in the Kurilian, while the Americans have created the elegant Japanese Bobtail.


In contrast, the genetics of the Manx is entirely different from the genetics of the Kurilian. The bobtailed gene has absolutely no harmful consequences such as the Manx gene does and it has allowed these cats to exist in their natural environment and interbreed without intervention from man for centuries.


The Karelian Bobtail (though the name is similar) is also a separate mutation from either the Manx or the Kurilian. The Karelian Bobtail originated in the region of St. Petersburg, in the western regions of Russia. It has a recessive tail gene while the Kurilian Bobtail gene is dominant. In addition, if compared to other breeds, the features of the Karelian are more like the Norwegian Forest Cat while the Kurilian is closer in appearance to the Siberian population from the Far East.


Genetics and Breeding:

As I already said, the mutation for the short tail of the Kurilian Bobtail has no accompanying illnesses that have come about to date. It is pleasant and dominantwith an incomplete display. To further explain, when bred to the common domestic cat one (with a normal length of tail) all kittens will have the short or kinked tail. Length of the tail varies from very short up to almost normal length with several turns and fusing of the joints. The short tail is not generated by one gene and is very complex, but the length of a tail is stable in breeding.


For Kurilian Bobtail there is no outcrossing to other breeds, only Kurilian SH to Kurilian LH is permitted. The existing population on the Kuril Islands is numerous enough to support the development of the breed without out-crossing as it is always possible to bring a new animal intoa breeding program.

by Svetlana Ponomareva



Characteristics of the


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