Folklore on the Manx Cat

Folklore on the Manx Cat

An account by Joseph Train (1844)

According to my friend, Mr. Forbes, the only quadruped peculiar to the Island of which it can boast, is the tail-less cat, called in Manks, “Stubbin” and in English, “a Rumpy.”

This is, he thinks, an accidental variety of the common species ‘felis catus’, frequently showing no traces of caudal vertebrae and others merely a rudimental substitute for it. There is a tradition still current in the Island that the first rumpy cat seen there was cast ashore from a foreign vessel which was wrecked on the rocks at Spanish Head, but at what period no one pretends to say. A modern author speaks with more certainty by affirming that the rumpy is the genuine aboriginal cat of the Island.

As a mouser, the rumpy is preferred to all others of its kind. Formerly when cats were scarce in Europe, the rumpy would have brought a high price. In Wales the value of a cat was fixed by law and the same regulation extended to the Isle of Man, when under the rule of the Cambrian Princes. The Manks rumpy resembles somewhat in appearance the cats said by Sir Stamford Raffles to be peculiar to the Malayan Archipelago.

Of late years, many rumpies have been carried out of the Island as curiosities by visitors. I have had one in my possession for upwards of four years – a circumstance which has afforded me an opportunity of observing the habits of the animal.

My observations on the structure and habits of the specimen in my possession leave little doubt on my mind of its being a mule, or crosses between the female cat and the buck rabbit. In August, 1837, I procured a female rumpy kitten direct from the Island. Both in its appearance and habits it differs much from the common house cat: the head is smaller in proportion and the body is short; a fud or brush like that of a rabbit, about an inch in length, extending from the lower vertebra is the only indication it has of a tail.

The hind legs are considerably longer than those of the common cat, and, in comparison with the fore legs, bear a marked similarity in proportion to those of the rabbit. Like this animal too, when about to fight, it springs from the ground and strikes with its fore and hind feet at the same time. The common cat strikes only with its fore paws, standing on its hind legs. The rumpy discharges its urine in a standing posture, like a rabbit, and can be carried by the ears apparently without pain. Like every species of the feline it is carnivorous and fond of fish and is an implacable enemy to rats and mice.

My little oddity was six months old before it saw a mouse but when a dead one was exhibited, it instantly displayed all the characteristics of a practiced mouser. It has never had any offspring, although the common cat propagates its species when about twelve months’ old. Indeed, on this subject, although I have made many inquiries I have not been able to establish a single instance in which a female rumpy was known to produce young.

My opinion, as to the origin of the rumpy, has been strengthened by a coincident circumstance connected with this district. A few years ago, John Cunningham, Esq, of Hensol, in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, stocked a piece of waste land on his estate with rabbits, which multiplied rapidly. In the immediate neighourhood of this warren rumpy cats are now plentiful, although previously altogether unknown in the locality. Not a doubt seems to exist as to the nature of their origin.

I am afraid the known facilities which exist in the Isle of Man for giving effect to this opinion as to the origin of the rumpy, may go far to dissipate the cherished belief of the Islanders, in its being a distinct genus. At the same time I am far from wishing my statements to be understood as settling the question. My opportunities of observation have induced this general opinion of their origin, but, as it is possible many local objections may be taken to its reception, I would willingly avail myself of any authenticated communication on this head, before the final publication of my work. I have no wish, apart from the discovery of truth, to deprive the Island of this, or any of its peculiarities.”

 

Manx Fairy Tale by Sophia Morrison (1911)

How the Manx Cat lost her Tail

When Noah was calling the animals into the Ark, there was one cat who was out mousing and took no notice when he was calling to her. She was a good mouser, but this time she had trouble to find a mouse and she took a notion that she wouldn’t go into the Ark without one.

So at last, when Noah had all the animals safe inside, and he saw the rain beginning to fall, and no sign of her coming in, he said:

“Who’s out is out, and who’s in is in!”

And with that he was just closing the door when the cat came running up, half drowned-that’s why cats hate the water and just squeezed in, in time. But Noah had slammed the door as she ran in and it cut off her tail, so she got in without it, and that is why Manx cats have no tails to this day. That cat said:

Bee bo bend it
My tail’s ended
And I’ll go to Mann
And get copper nails
And mend it!

 

By W Walter Gill from Manx Dialect, Words & Phrases (1934)

Stubbin” is or was a general name for a tail-less cat. “Bunny” is bestowed on many members of the Manx cat breed and well befits their peculiar build. There are still upholders of the theory that the Manx cat is the result of a cross between an ordinary cat and the wild rabbit. Other natural historians reject this hypothesis with scorn and aver that the first rumpy swam ashore at Spanish Head from a wrecked vessel of the Armada.

Daunee” is a call to a cat and is occasionally used as a name. It may be a familiar form of the Manx “dhoan“, light brown or ginger.


(photo source:  http://bit.ly/1mrkOOO)

Bernadette Weyde

Bernadette Weyde

I'm a web designer, amateur historian and keen gardener and I enjoy bringing Manx history, folklore and poetry to a modern audience.


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