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Calico British Shorthair Cat: Facts, Origin & History (With Pictures)

Written by: Kit Copson

Last Updated on June 27, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

british shorthair calico cat

Calico British Shorthair Cat: Facts, Origin & History (With Pictures)

If you’re new to calico cats, these are cats with tri-color coats. Calico cats are generally orange, white, and black, but multiple color variations are possible. This means you can get calico cats with brown, cream, blue-black, and red coloring. Rather than being a breed of cat, calico is a type of coat coloring that several cat breeds—including the Persian, Maine Coon, Siberian, and British Shorthair—can have.

The British Shorthair is generally considered a sweet, even-tempered companion, This, coupled with their owl-like eyes, heavy builds, and plush coats makes for a very much-loved feline. They’re also a pretty old breed, so let’s dive into the history of these magnificent cats.

divider-catclaw1 The Earliest Records of Calico British Shorthairs in History

It’s thought by some that the British Shorthair’s ancestors were probably ancient Roman and Egyptian domestic cats. Cats matching the British Shorthair’s description have been linked to Ancient Rome in historical records.

Others are of the opinion that the British Shorthair’s ancestors actually came from France, where they were said to have been raised by monks in the 16th century. There, they were used as rat catchers in the monastery cellars. If this theory is correct, British Shorthairs were exported out of France to Britain on ships. On these ships, they were also put to work as rat catchers.

Calico British Shorthair
Image Credit: Nynke Van Holten, Shutterstock

How Calico British Shorthairs Gained Popularity

When the British Shorthair’s ancestors reached Britain, their beauty coupled with their dignified demeanor made these cats very popular. In the 19th century, British breeding programs were bringing the British Shorthair, as we know it today, to life. These programs sought to develop a cat with an air of dignity both in demeanor and appearance.

The late 19th century also marked the beginning of British Shorthairs appearing in cat shows, which no doubt brought them more into the spotlight. One British Shorthair even won “Best in Show” at the Crystal Palace cat show in London in 1871. The recipient of the title was 14 years old at the time.

British Shorthairs first made their way to the U.S. in the early 20th century. Their popularity took a hit during the First World War, but breeding programs recommenced after the war, and the British Shorthair’s development took off once again.

Post-war breeding programs were made difficult by the lack of true British Shorthairs that were left, but these cats were mated with various other breeds so that the British Shorthair’s development could continue.

Formal Recognition of the Calico British Shorthair

The British Shorthair was first recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association in May 1980. According to the breed standard, a wide variety of coat color types are accepted, including calico, tabby, and tortie (tortoiseshell). British Shorthairs with calico coloring can be regular calico, dilute calico, van calico, or van dilute calico.

The CFA also describes the “standard” British Shorthair as a cat with a round and massive head, a round face, a medium and broad nose, and a medium to large body that is well-knit and powerful. The coat is described as very dense and short, while the eyes are described as large, round, and well-opened.

Cat ball divider 1Top 3 Unique Facts About the Calico British Shorthair

1. Many Breeds Were Used to Develop the British Shorthair

Not only are British Shorthairs really diverse in terms of coat colors and patterns, but several cat breeds were also used in their development post-World War I. These include the Persian, Russian Blue, Karthauser, and Chartreux.


2. Male Calico Cats Are Incredibly Rare

Though many cat breeds can have calico coloring, finding a male calico is like finding a needle in a haystack. This is because tri-color cats need two X chromosomes—something female cats have. The male cat’s genetic pattern is XY. Exceptionally, a male cat can be born with XXY chromosomes and be calico as a result, but this doesn’t happen very often.

Calico British Shorthair
Image Credit: Ashley McCauliff, Shutterstock

3. British Shorthairs Take a While to Become Fully-Grown

While most kittens are done growing at around 1 year old, British Shorthairs can take at least 3 years to be fully grown—5 years in some cases.

Cat ball divider 1Does a Calico British Shorthair Make a Good Pet?

Whatever color or coat pattern your British Shorthair has, they’re highly likely to be a fantastic companion for the whole family. Though all cats differ in terms of temperament, British Shorthairs are famous for enjoying life in the slow lane and being docile, funny, and dignified yet very loving. This makes them the perfect apartment cats, as long as they have everything they need to stay active and content.

Moreover, the British Shorthair is considered a generally healthy cat breed that has no breed-specific conditions. These cats are low to moderate shedders and weekly brushing is fine as a rule, but get ready to crack out the grooming tools a bit more often during shedding seasons.

divider-catclaw1 Conclusion

Though there is more than one theory as to how British Shorthairs came to be, one thing’s for sure: These cats have been loving companions for centuries. Their ancestors were well-liked for their mild temperaments and unique appearance, and, though the British Shorthair almost went extinct during World War I, dedicated breeders managed to revive this very special cat breed.

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Featured Image Credit: Filtrovany_Fotographer, Pixabay

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