Tuesday, 4 December 2018

CARL WRITES: 23/10/18 - Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

Read the original story here.

"I think it’s possible this might be an Oriental Shorthair, also known as the Rainbow Cat and occasionally “Dobby Cat”. However, the most appropriate title applied to the melanistic variety of this unusual breed must be the Oriental Panther Cat.

Originating from Thailand and belonging to the Siamese ‘family’ breed, Oriental Shorthairs are long-bodied cats with a sleek and muscular appearance, longish necks and slender tapered tails. They weigh between five and ten pounds and can be found in various solid colours such as white, blue (really grey), brown, chocolate, chestnut and of course jet black; and in many distinct patterns such as tabby, tortoiseshell, bicolour and even tricolour.

As a member of the Himalayan family of breeds, the Oriental Shorthair typically display peculiar “wedge-shaped” heads, tapering from the edge of the nose downward forming a triangle, making them appear angular and distinctive enough to seem almost panther-like when observed lineally. They also have characteristic long ears tipped at the top and rounded at the bottom and differ from the Oriental Longhaired version (recorded since 1995 – CFA) simply by possessing a pair of recessive long hair producing genes – in other words they are exactly the same breed just displaying variability in fur length.

The aforementioned jet black variety of the shorthair, the “Oriental Panther”, almost deserves its otherwise misleading name, as this beautiful shiny black domestic cat is rather pantherine in appearance, and can become quite aggressive. Today, these impressive domestic cats are popular pets and if allowed to roam freely, could very well be mistaken for small or juvenile panthers by would be eyewitnesses.

Oriental Panther Cats (or closely related breeds and/or crossbreeds) might potentially make up a small percentage of mysterious British big black cat reports. They are also a noticeably vocal breed that can emit deeper more aggressive sounds than typical domestic’s; that might make them seem larger and more intimidating than they actually are.

Mr Tom Pitt said “you don’t expect to see that sort of thing, It was the morning and I was barely awake”. This suggests there were probably unusual features visible, which were briefly observed and concluded to relate to the cat’s bulk when in reality might have had more to do with the total length of the animal, which compared to typical domestic cats is reasonably exaggerated in Oriental Shorthairs.

There is unfortunately little in the published photograph to accurately indicate the cat’s dimensions, and Mr Pitt is quoted as saying “It ran into the woods after that. I think we startled it, it was all so quick.”. Basically it was a brief encounter that convinced Mr Pitt it was not simply a typical domestic cat – and going by the photograph he might have been right.

As previously mentioned, Oriental Shorthairs are both sleek and muscular, with pronounced wedge shaped triangular heads, large ears tipped at the top and rounded at the bottom, large paws, longish necks, and slender tails ending in a point – with the possible exception of the dramatically pronounced base of the ears, all of these features can easily be observed in the cat in Mr Pitt’s photograph.

Mr Pitt said that he felt the animal he witnessed resembled a domestic cat but was noticeably larger (longer?) than what would typically be expected in domestic cats. This description along with the features clearly visible in the published photograph suggest a black Oriental Cat or another closely related breed/crossbreed might be responsible.

The mysterious cat photographed by Dog walker Mr Pitt at the Essendon end of the Hatfield House Grounds is definitely not that of a leopard or a jaguar (the two usual suspects for black mysterious cats in Britain), but also doesn’t seem to be that a typical domestic cat either. Therefore, I believe it’s reasonable to speculate that an unusual looking domestic cat breed such as an Oriental Panther Cat, or a closely related domestic breed of similar appearance, might have been misidentified as a black panther (Panthera pardus) from a distance.

Probably another genuine misidentification and definitely not any big cat species."

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