Siamese Cat Kinked Tail

It was entirely normal for original Siamese cats to have kinked tails. The Siamese cat was referred to as "The Royal Cat of Siam". Mrs Vyvyan who lived in Dover, Kent, UK says that the only purebred Siamese cats in Siam (now Thailand) were at the King's Palace. In other words all the others were not purebred. That makes sense because it was the time of the beginning of the cat fancy and the breeding of purebred cats. Certainly in Siam if a cat was deemed to be purebred is was not assessed as such through cat association records but by observation and/or the cat being confined to a certain area - perhaps the King's Palace.

It is believed, she says, that the original pair that were imported into England came from the Palace and that importation happened with great difficulty because they were rare even in Siam and the king wanted to keep them. Mrs Vyvyan was the person who imported them. She was living in China at the time and the cats reached her in 1886. She brought "the father, mother and a pair of kittens to England". The history of the importation of the Siamese cat is a little muddled so you will see variations on the theme.

She says that, "most of the kittens have a kink in the tail". She goes on to say that the kink varies in its position on the tail; the middle of the tail, close to the body (towards the base of the tail) or towards the tip of the tail forming a "hook".

Mr Harrison Weir, the founder of the cat fancy and the first cat show, says that Mrs Vyvyan's description of the kink tallies with the descriptions of Charles Darwin, the famous naturalist who created the theory of evolution of the species. In his studies and writings he referred to cats with shortened tails.

At page 47 of Mr. Darwin's book, "The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication," vol.i, page 47, he writes that throughout the area of the Malayan Archipelago, Siam (Thailand), Pequan (no idea where that is - it's an outdated name) and 'Burmah' (Myanmar) "all the cats have truncated tails about half the proper length, often with a sort of knob at the end".

Darwin also refers to the "Madagascar cat", which he says has a "twisted tail".  This observation is confirmed by another scientist who says that the "Malay cat" has a tail that is half the normal length and contorted into a sort of knot, which cannot be straightened.

Harrison Weir makes the point that the kinked Siamese cat tail is reminiscent of the truncated tails referred to by Darwin. They are both "defects" for want of a better description in a cat's tail. Incidentally Mr Weir also speculates that the Manx cat might have originated in the Malayan short tailed cat.

Clearly in that part of the world, the Far East, a genetic mutation has taken place that was, and probably still is, widespread which affects cats' tails. The genetic mutation that shortens the tail may be linked to the mutation that causes the Siamese cat's tail to kink. I don't know of any science to support that, however.

Breeders in the West, selectively bred out the kinked tail. They did not like it. It did not conform with western notions of beauty. They also modified the appearance of the original Siamese cat to extreme proportions in an attempt to "refine it". I am afraid that they failed in that task as judged by public opinion.

It is interesting to speculate what would have happened if the breeders had decided to keep the kinked tail and made a feature out of it.

Source: there are many sources for this. The main source is Harrison Weir's Our Cats and all about them first published in 1889, now published by Read Country Books.
Siamese Cat Kinked Tail Siamese Cat Kinked Tail Reviewed by Michael Broad on May 07, 2012 Rating: 5

6 comments:

Unknown said...

I just finished reading your article, and really enjoyed it, thank you. You can see some fun cat books at fun2readbooks.com where you can also hear the cat stories for the same price as a paperback book, and they are fun to listen to.

Michael Broad said...

Thanks Vince. I'll have a look at the books.

Anonymous said...

I moved to Thailand about 10 years ago. My wife and I adopted a few stray cats (and dogs) over the years. The first cat (who basically walked into our yard and decided to stay) has the hooked tail you described. It isn't a Siamese cat in terms of breed. I always kinda wondered about him. According to Thai custom, there is something unlucky about that kind of tail, but he is a sweet cat and seems to have brought us luck. :-)
Thanks for the article.

Michael Broad said...

Thanks for your insight into the sort of cats one sees in Thailand. I did not know that the kinked tail was unlucky.

Anonymous said...

Growing up in Western North Dakota, we often had cats born on the farm with "crooked" tails. Reportedly, this phenomenon begin with a white tom cat that came from Vashon Island Washington in the early 1960s. The tom cat I vividly remember (probably a son to the original tom) was all white, more of a square shaped and looked as if his tail was only a couple inches long but it was curled up in a rectangular fashion. We predominately ended up with pure white cats and most of them had long tails with one or two crooks in them. Bonnie O.

Michael Broad said...

Looks like the white tom cat spread his seed far and wide! I guess this how Siamese cats in Asia began to have kinked tails. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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