The Kurilian Bobtail, a natural cat breed with some unusual characteristics, arose on the Sakhalin and Kuril Islands.
The Kurilian Bobtail is a wild-looking cat with a broad-chested, muscular body. Males weigh up to 15 pounds and females typically range from 8-11 when full grown.
The Kurilian Bobtail’s head is a large modified wedge with walnut-shaped eyes and ears that slope forward slightly. Its back legs are long, giving the hindquarters a rabbit-like appearance, and its fur is short or medium-long, silky, and not prone to matting. Fur colours and patterns include:
- Tabby (including smoke, silver, and calico)
- Tabby with White
The Kurilian Bobtail’s most distinctive feature, its “pom-pom” tail, comes in several shapes:
- Spiral (half-bagel or fish-hook shape)
- Snag (kinked)
- Whisk (zigzag)
- Delayed Bobtail (straight at the base but ending with a hook)
The Delayed Bobtail is considered a fault for show purposes, though cats with this tail type may be used for breeding in some cases.
Tail lengths range from 5-13 centimeters with varying numbers of kinks and directional changes. A Kurilian’s tail is like fingerprints, with no two exactly alike.
Kurilian Bobtail History
Among the few natural cat breeds in existence, the Kurilian bobtail originated on the Kuril Islands (an archipelago encompassing more than 50 volcanic islands spanning a stretch between the Japanese island of Hokkaido and the Russian peninsula of Kamchatka) and Sakhalin Island in Russia. Kurilian Bobtails lived on these islands for more than 200 years, where they ran in packs like wolves. They didn’t make their way into central Russia until the 1900s, when they were transported by scientists and military men.
Svetlana Ponomareva of the Alexander-Fred cattery notes that the first Kurilian bobtail breeders, Tatiana Botcharova and Lilia Ivanova, were fiercely competitive, and each suffered setbacks due to mismanagement. Botcharova ended up taking on more cats than she could care for properly and many of her kittens became ill. She has since started over with a smaller number of cats. Ivanova had the opposite problem, using so few cats that close inbreeding eventually led to a loss of vitality, but her original cats did become the foundation for many modern catteries in Russia.
The Kurilian Bobtail has yet to make a significant impact in North America. According to The International Cat Association, there are fewer than 100 in the U.S. However, its worldwide fan base is steadily increasing, so there may be more Kurilian Bobtail breeders in North America in the future.
There is another breed called the Karelian Bobtail that originated in the St. Petersburg area of western Russia. Despite the similarity of its name, this breed resulted from an entirely different mutation that gave rise to a recessive bobtail gene (the bobtail gene is dominant in the Kurilian, so all of its kittens have bobbed tails). Also, the Karelian is closer in appearance to the Norwegian Forest Cat, whereas the Kurilian more closely resembles the Siberian.
Kurilian Bobtail Personality
Kurilian Bobtails tend to have trusting, friendly natures. This breed encompasses the best of both worlds, being both affectionate and independent.
Intelligent, inquisitive, and playful, Kurilian Bobtails are known as gentle clowns. They are active cats that enjoy climbing and surveying their domains from the highest perches available. In their native habitat, they are also known to be excellent swimmers, able to catch fish as large as 5 kg easily. Because the Kurilian Bobtail evolved to be a skilled fishing cat, most love of water, and may even jump into the bathtub with their owners. They are also inclined to play with other water sources, such as dripping faucets.
The Kurilian Bobtail is among the doglike cat breeds, adaptable, gregarious, trainable, and easygoing. These cats tolerate change better than most felines, and the majority adapt well to children, dogs, and other cats. Most Kurilian Bobtails are not lap cats, but many enjoy lying at their owners’ feet like dogs.
Kurilian Bobtails are not talkative by nature, but they do make musical trilling sounds that resemble bird calls.
Interestingly, male Kurilian Bobtails usually make good fathers, tending to their kittens alongside the kittens’ mothers.
Kurilian Bobtail Health
The Kurilian Bobtail is typically healthy. It differs from the Manx in that the gene responsible for the bobbed tail or lack of a tail in the Manx can trigger health problems in some cases, whereas the Kurilian’s bobtail gene is not associated with any medical issues.
Differences Between the Kurilian Bobtail and the Japanese Bobtail
Although some have argued that the Kurilian Bobtail is simply the Japanese Bobtail with a different name, according to Sharon Berg of FogForest Bobtails Cattery, there are a number of differences between the two:
- The Kurilian Bobtail is larger and more solid, compact, and muscular, whereas the Japanese Bobtail tends to be longer and leaner.
- The Japanese Bobtail has high cheekbones, whereas the cheeks are set lower and are wider on the Kurilian Bobtail.
- The Kurilian Bobtail has a rounded head, whereas the Japanese Bobtail has a triangular head.
- The Japanese Bobtail has oval, slightly slanted eyes, whereas the Kurilian Bobtail has rounded eyes.
- The Japanese Bobtail has taller ears with narrower bases than the Kurilian Bobtail.
- The Kurilian Bobtail has longer hind legs, which sets its rump higher (a good stance for high jumping).
- The Kurilian Bobtail has a dense coat, a visible undercoat, and in some cases a decorative ruff, whereas the Japanese Bobtail has a minimal undercoat and no ruff.
- The Japanese Bobtail has delicate oval paws, whereas the Kurilian Bobtail has sturdy, round paws.
- Berg, S. (2005). “The Characteristics of the Kurilian Bobtail” and “The comparative description of the Kurilian Bobtail and Japanese Bobtail.” Kurilian Bobtail Fanciers Association, Kurilian.info.
- Furholt, G. (2010). “Kurilian Bobtail.” RGJCats.com.
- Ponomareva, S. (2005). “Kurilian Bobtail.” Kurilian Bobtail Fanciers Association, Kurilian.info.
- The International Cat Association. (n.d.). “Kurilian Bobtail.” TICA.org.