Sunday 28 September 2008

American Shorthair, British Shorthair, and European Shorthair cats

American Shorthair, British Shorthair, and European Shorthair cats are discussed as a group here. The origin of these breeds and indeed the South American cat the Brazilian Shorthair are all in the same cat, the European Shorthair and I include the British Shorthair under that description.

As an outsider to the cat fancy you might think that the three cats above are similar because the names are similar. You might also think that they are the same cat breed but just bred in different parts of the world. That is not quite the case, however.

European Shorthair cat
European Shorthair cat

I have already written about the American Shorthair cat and the British Shorthair cats. They are similar looking cats. They are nice sensible looking cats and when they are show cats they can be seriously glamorous too. The 2008 TICA best kitten is an American Shorthair called KELLOGGS LOVE ECHOES ON - glamor on four legs.. He is a classic silver tabby (see another American Shorthair tabby - this page also shows another silver tabby show cat, you'll be impressed by). They are meant to have calm personalities, which helps in the show ring, all that competitive competition you know, it gets quite nerve racking for us show cats.

This is an American SH:
Photo: Helmi Flick with her permission.

This is a British SH:
Photo: Helmi Flick with her permission.

But what of the European Shorthair cat? How does this cat breed fit into the scene, with these two well know breeds occupying a lot of space in the cat fancy already? The first thing to do is a comparison of the associations to see which ones recognize which breed. This is what I found, but it may not, despite considerable care, be complete:

American Shorthair
Recognized by all the North American cat associations. TICA, which is international, also recognizes this breed

British Shorthair
Recognized by all North American cat associations and the GCCF in the UK. TICA, which is international, also recognizes this breed

European Shorthair
Recognized by the Europe located cat association FIFe

This tells us right away about the differences in American Shorthair, British Shorthair, and European Shorthair cats. The European Shorthair is a lot less established, in terms of formal recognition, than the other two shorthair cats. The history (below) tells a different story.


When were the three breeds, American Shorthair, British Shorthair, and European Shorthair cats, created? The American SH began in 1966, the British SH in the 1870s and the European SH 1982 (formally).

I have used the date of formal recognition of the European Shorthair as the date of creation in this instance. Although this is misleading. The European Shorthair is the latest of the these three shorthair cat breeds on the block in respect of recognition by the major associations (it seems to me). However, the European Shorthair as a cat breed began at a similar time to the British Shorthair. While the British Shorthair was being "created" from domestic shorthaired mixed breed cats in the England at the beginning of the 1900s the Europeans were doing the same thing on the continent and importing British Shorthairs from England to improve their blood lines.

Sweden were also developing a shorthaired cat from imported British Shorthairs. These were crossed with sturdy local cats. The Swedes did not cross the imported British Shorthairs with Persian cats as was the case in England. Through following different breeding programs in the UK, Sweden and Continental Europe, whilst retaining the same breed standard it was time eventually to regularise the situation which meant the creation of the European Shorthair cat as distinct breed from the British SH.

The concept of creating a purebred and pedigreed cat from a mixed breed domestic cat is commonly encountered particularly early on in the history of the cat fancy. For example it happened to the Norwegian Forest cat . The Egytpian Mau is still a feral cat in Egypt and a glamorous show cat in the West. As discussed it also happened to the British Shorthair cat in the late 1800s in England. In theory any type of cat can become a purebred cat provided the cat associations agree and the rules applied.

As to the American Shorthair cat this breed also has its foundations in the British SH as the first American SHs were created from the decendents of Brit SHs imported into north America in the 1600s with the European settlers. The development of the American SH in the 1900s would have followed a different but similar course to the Brit SHs.


As mentioned, in England the British Shorthair cat was outcrossed with the cobby Persian so the cat is more cobby than the European SH. This is apparent in the photographs. The British SH was also referred to as a European Shorthair cat, causing confusion. In contrast, there was and is a desire to keep the European SH as pure as possible. Yet it has to be accepted that the breed's origins are in mixed-breed cats (meaning impure). Perhaps it is more accurate that the formal breeding programs of this cat (c.f. informal breeding of non-purebred cats) are such that the original appearance and character is being retained. Finland also produces high quality European SHs apparently. The European SH is not cobby (due to the Persian influence) but is muscular and strongly built nonetheless.

As I have written about the American and the British SHs (see links above) I won't repeat it here. I'll be building a page on the European in due course. But in brief the European SH has 58 colors and the classic tabby is the favorite (see cat coats tabby). As this is also a Scandinavian cat the coats are more suited to that climate and the European SH is thought to be the part of the history of the Norwegian Forest cat and other breeds (Siberian ? Chartreux for example).

A very quick outline look at the breed standards give clues as to the difference between the American Shorthair, British Shorthair, and European Shorthair cats:

American Shorthair
The CFA breed standard for this cat is I believe, in a general sense, somewhere between the British (cobby) and the European (balanced). The CFA say that this is a "working cat". No part of the anatomy should be exaggerated. Although the cat should be strongly built.

British Shorthair
The CFA says that this cat should be compact with medium to short legs and a rounded head (round and massive). That right away gives us the clue as to the general shape of this cat breed. The original British Shorthaired domestic cats from which this breed was developed are very similar to the modern Brit SHs except less cobby and less rounded. The breeding of the cat over the past century has created that more rounded appearance.

European Shorthair
I am going to simply refer to the opening paragraph of the FIFe standard in which they say that this breed "can be compared to any kind of domestic cat". In other words this is like the Moggie mixed bred cat that can by the way compete at championship shows and has its own class (see Household Pets - Mixed breed cats). It also means that the European Shorthair cat is truer to the original appearance of the original British SHs before they became purebred cats.

American Shorthair, British Shorthair, and European Shorthair cats - Source for European SH - Finnish European Shorthair Cat Club.


Picture of European Shorthair cat is published under Wikimedia® commons license - Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 License. Author is Ba'Gamnan. See Wikipedia license generally.

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