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The British Shorthair, Great Britain's working cat, is a very sturdy, muscular cat with a short, plush coat. The breed was developed in Europe from unpedigreed cats. Perhaps the oldest natural English breed, the British Shorthair lines go back to the domestic cats of Roman times.

The British Shorthair's origins are those of the native working cats, the street and yard cats, of Britain. The early British Shorthair and the French Chartreux were of similar type; many breeders think they were originally the same cat. Today, breeders have taken great care to produce two distinct breeds, to be judged separately. Ancestors of the British Shorthair survived years of superstition and persecution in past centuries, when thousands of cats were killed. It is a marvel that this wonderful, sweet-tempered cat is still around for the whole world to enjoy.

Many shorthairs were shown at the famed Crystal Palace in 1895. They held the limelight for about a year at the shows, until the Persian took over. British Shorthairs were to remain out of favor until the 1930s, when a small number of dedicated breeders took an interest in them. Mr Harrison Weir, of early cat fancy fame, wrote: "The ordinary garden cat has survived every kind of hardship and persecution. That he exists at all, is tribute to his strengh of character and endurance."

In the United States, the early British Shorthairs were called the British Blues. As blue was the only recognized color. They were not as defined as the British Shorthairs of today, and relied more on size and plush coats for their wins than on type. In the 1970s a cat named Mary Poppins caught cat fancy's eye. She was a blue tortie, much smaller than her peers. But she had the look, the full cheeks, the round muzzle and a sweet and appealing air.

The British Shorthair is a medium to large, sturdy cat with a semi-cobby body-a rather short, powerful body with a full, broad chest, broad shoulders and hips, short, strong, substantial legs, rounded paws and a thick tail. The head is broad and round with a firm chin. The round full cheeks give the cat a chubby, chipmunk appearance. Its eyes should be large, round and expressive. The ears are medium in size, round and set wide apart. The broad nose is short and snub with an obvious change of direction from the bridge. If it is properly proportioned, you should he able to "cup" the head in two areas: the skull and the muzzle should fit into a circular shape. The fur is short, dense, firm, crisp, well-bodied, with a natural protective appearance. The coat feels like a plush rug and should tingle the hands. It is a pleasure to run your finqers through it. Brindled fur is desirable in all torties in this breed. British Shorthairs are very independent, yet extremely affectionate.

They are very alert and quizzical and enjoy following you around the house to make sure you do thinqs right. They are extremely people-oriented, usually downright mushy. This is an extremely quiet, little talking, no-nonsense, "I can take everything in stride" breed of cat. British Shorthairs are easy to groom, as their fur does not tangle and should he combed very lightly. They make ideal pets for quiet households as well as for busy households.

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