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INRxS Cornish Rex Cattery

The Tabby Tome
Cat sleeping on papers It has become apparent to us when talking about our love of tabbies that not all people are aware of what the term "tabby" means when describing a cat. For those of you who do not know what tabby means when used to describe a cat, read on. The following is not meant to be an exhaustive genetic discourse, rather just a description for visualization purposes. 

Simply put, it is a type of marking. Some people call a tabby a "tiger" cat. Most notably a tabby is characterized by stripes of color on the body and rings of color around the neck, legs and tail. There are some breeds of pedigree cats where the tabby markings are significant to the identity of the breed. This is not the case with Cornish Rex, the marking is just one of the many ways a Cornish presents itself. Some breeders find the marking undesirable and try to selectively breed the trait out while others, such as INRxS, find the marking attractive and try to refine it.

Close-Up showing the classic M pattern on the tabby forehead There are three types of tabbies:
    1. The Mackerel tabby
    2. The Classic tabby
    3. The Spotted tabby.
There is some debate whether the latter type is distinct from the Mackerel or just a genetic variation thereof. Tabby patterns can be found in any basic color of Cornish Rex.
A mackerel tabby is described as having narrow vertical stripes on the sides of the cat with horizontal "bracelets and necklaces" circling the legs and neck. This is the pattern that is found on many wild cat species. Some other tabby features would be the  "M" on the forehead, "tear" line(s) running from the outside corner of the eye to the base of the ear, and two lines of color running the length of the body on either side of and parallel to the spine.

The classic tabby has irregular spirals and whorls of tabby pattern on the sides of the cat. The "M" on the forehead and other facial markings, the two parallel "spine lines" and the bracelets and necklaces are the same as a mackerel. The bracelets and necklaces tend to be more pronounced and complete in the classic though. 

Unique to the classic is what is called a "butterfly pattern" of color located over the shoulder while on the side of the cat there is a solid "blotch" of color circled by one or more rings of color (like a bull's-eye). Since there is more colored area in the blotching of a classic tabby, they tend to appear darker than a similarly colored mackerel tabby.  The spotted tabby has spots of color generally arranged in lines or spirals with less distinct bracelets and necklaces although the head markings are very similar to the other two types of tabbies.
 The two parallel "spine lines" are generally not visibly present on the spotted tabby either. The tail is ringed in a similar manner to the other two types.

Those breeders who do not prefer tabbies indicate that they feel the tabby markings distracts from the visual impact of the Marcel waved coat. Conversely, they say, the Marcel waves most times distorts and diffuses the tabby markings. In balance though, we feel that a properly marked tabby Cornish will retain enough clarity to the tabby markings to be an attractive alternative to a solid colored Cornish. It has not been our experience that the markings detracts or distracts the eye from the Marcelling of the coat either. Quite the contrary, tabby markings brings the eye to settle on the distinctive Cornish Rex coat. 

Another issue that has been raised about tabby Cornish is that they are thicker boned or "cobbier" that other Cornish. On first thought, considering the fact that Cornish Rex have an ample amount of American Shorthair blood in their background, this seems plausible. In point of fact, few serious breeders concentrate on producing tabbies so fewer fine examples exist. Those of us who do take tabbies seriously have produced excellent type in our cats.

Here are a few more examples of the rainbow of tabby color in our rex:

Mark and Sharon McKenzie
INRxS Cornish Rex Cattery
Imperial (St. Louis), Missouri
Home phone: 636-464-4821
E-mail :

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Tuesday, August 15, 2000