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Dragon Li vs Tabby: What’s the Difference? (With Pictures)

Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Christian Adams

The Dragon Li is a rare purebred cat from China, which is one of a large number of breeds that can potentially have a tabby coat. The Dragon Li hails from China, where it is believed to have self-evolved from a Chinese Mountain Cat. It is generally considered a friendly, loving cat that makes a great companion and is suitable for living with children of all ages: many of the same attributes that are also attributed to the tabby cat.

Although the Tabby cat is not actually a breed of cat, it is often considered one. In fact, the tabby is a type of distinct marking found on cats of different breeds. The markings are recognizable by most for their brown background and gold rings or stripes. It is the “M” on the cat’s head that truly signifies that it is a Tabby, however. Although the Tabby isn’t a breed, owners describe tabbies as being mischievous and highly inquisitive. They are also said to be intelligent, trainable, and are revered as being hardy and generally healthy cats.

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Visual Differences

Dragon Li vs Tabby side by side
Image Credit: (L) phichak, Shutterstock | (R) Lana Leon, Shutterstock

At a Glance

Dragon Li
  • Average height (adult): 10–14 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 9–12 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12–15 years
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Usually
  • Trainability: Intelligent and easy to train
  • Average height (adult): 10–16 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 10–14 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12–20 years
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Often
  • Trainability: Intelligent and easy to train

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Dragon Li Overview

The Dragon Li is a rare breed of cat that hails from China and is a rare breed outside its home country. The Ancient Chinese breed is known for his Tabby coat and also for his intelligence, vocalization, and his loving nature. He is considered a healthy and hardy breed (although he may be prone to dysplasia) and will thrive with company.


There is some skepticism surrounding the history of the Li Hua Mao. It is claimed that the breed originates from the Chinese Mountain Cat and that the breed domesticated itself over several generations. Since then, it has undergone some selective breeding to be accepted as part of cat associations around the world. While there are some that do not believe the breed’s heritage, it has not been disproven and it remains the most often-cited origin of the breed. Other than this, the breed is considered the unofficial national cat of China and was once utilized as a vermin-catching working breed.


If you are lucky enough to find a Chinese Dragon Li breeder, you can expect a cat that is loving and friendly. The breed is sociable and will get along with family members of all ages and including other animals. He is loving and sweet. Although he may not grow up to spend his entire time on your lap, he will be close to the family. He enjoys playing and he will appreciate those that put in time and effort with him.


It is possible to train a Chinese Hua Li, although it will obviously take time and patience. However, this breed is intelligent, enjoys playing, and can be persuaded to do what you want with enough food-based bribery. You may be able to teach your Dragon Li to perform a few simple tasks as well as some more complicated instructions.

Health & Care

Very little of this breed is really known outside China because of its rarity, so the Dragon Li may have other physical conditions and likely health complaints that we do not know about. However, it is known for being prone to gingivitis and elbow dysplasia. They have a life expectancy of up to 15 years, but with a good diet, good exercise, and a healthy life, there is no reason that they can’t reach 20 years old.

Suitable For

This breed of cat is best suited to families that are looking for a loving new family member, or a dedicated single owner that will have the time and inclination to dedicate to their cat’s playtime. Grooming isn’t too challenging, but this breed is a natural hunter, so he may not be suitable for squeamish owners if he is allowed time outside to hunt.

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Tabby Overview

tabby close up
Image Credit: guvo59, Pixabay

The tabby coat is one of the most common cat coat markings and is also one of the best recognized. It can include classic, mackerel, spotted, and patched tabby markings but, regardless of the exact variant, most Tabbies have the characteristic “M” on their forehead. There are various myths and stories of where this originated from, and while the Tabby isn’t a breed, owners often credit them as being one. They are described as fun, loving, and intelligent cats that make good pets for families and those with other pets.


The word “tabby” comes from the Middle Eastern word Atabi, which was a type of striped silk that came from Attabiah. Once the material made its way over to Britain, the similarity was recognized, and the Tiger cat was soon referred to as the Tabi cat.

The origin of the breed’s “M” on their forehead is the subject of several myths and stories. Christian folklore tells us that Mary, Jesus’ mother, gave it to the cat as thanks for comforting baby Jesus. Another story claims that it stands for Mau, which was the Ancient Egyptian word for cat. Islamic legend claims that the “M” stands for Muezza: a cat that protected Mohammed from poisonous snakes.


The Tabby cat’s personality does depend on his breed, as well as his individual characteristics, but owners will tell you that their Tabbies are inquisitive, playful, intelligent, and sweet. They will also tell you that they will gladly live with families of all ages and with other cats and dogs.

tabby sitting
Image Credit: alex_dorohov, Pixabay


Tabbies are intelligent and love their owners. As such, they can be trained to learn some basic commands, as well as some more complicated and complex instructions.

Suitable For

The Tabby cat is considered friendly and loving, playful and inquisitive. Because he isn’t a specific breed, it is impossible to say exactly what characteristics he will have, but Tabbies are generally considered suitable for any family or individual owner. They are not usually hypoallergenic and do not require too much in the way of regular grooming so are considered easy to care for.

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Which Breed Is Right for You?

The Chinese Dragon Li is a rare breed that is friendly, will settle with most families, and can be trained to follow basic commands and a handful of more complex instructions. He has a tabby coat and is one of many breeds that may have the distinct coat markings of the Tabby. The Tabby is not a single breed, but owners of this type of cat will tell you that they are friendly and loving, energetic and inquisitive. Thus, these two share a lot of the same attributes. The rarity of the Dragon Li means that, unless you specifically want a Dragon Li, the Tabby will be the better choice for you.

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Featured Image Credit: Pxhere, Pixabay/  CNuisin, Shutterstock

About the Author

Christian Adams
Christian Adams
Christian is the Editor-in-Chief of Excited Cats and one of its original and primary contributors. A lifelong cat lover, now based in South East Asia, Christian and his wife are the proud parents of an 11-year-old son and four rescue cats: Trixie, Chloe, Sparky, and Chopper.

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