I had the exceptional privilege of meeting Nikki Horner of Shawnee Cattery, Lousiville, KY several years ago and to see some of her cats that began this man made breed. It was Nikki who set out to create a breed to be a "parlor panther", which was to be a solid black cat that resembled its larger cousin the wild panther. No wild blood was used, however, during Nikkiís long years of dedicated endeavor.
As we chatted about her struggles, I found her to be so enthusiastic, deeply devoted and totally emersed in her chosen journey. Established in 1945 her cattery gained a reputation for producing outstanding American Shorthairs, Burmese, Exotics Shorthairs, Himalayans, Persians and Siamese. Then the idea struck to create a new breed of a "Burmese" of a different color. Starting in 1953 she decided to breed a non-pedigreed black Domestic Shorthair to a Sable Burmese. The resulting kittens grew to have thick coats, but looked exactly like a poor-quality American Shorthair. Their eye color was not right, their coats too long and their body type was Ďbig and horsey". Since they didnít fulfill the form and shape she had in her minds eye, more years were spent with the Burmese and American Shorthair breeds, trying to develop her fantasy into a real animal. Finally a pedigreed black American Shorthair, female, Shawnee Obsidian and a Grand Champion Shawnee Cassius Clay, a Sable Burmese male were mated and the reality of her dream was personified in the resulting kittens. This was the litter that began the Traditional Bombay breed. Most of the breeds features come from the Traditional Burmese. Because her new breed looked like the black leopard of India, she named it after the city of Bombay. She said, "It just sort of fell into place."
As is the challenge of any breeder, Nikki went through the difficult process of selective breeding to make her creation breed true consistently. The by product was kittens who had to be spay, neutered and found homes, as they didnít fit the mold. Between 1966 and 1972 27 Traditional Bombay litters (106 kittens total) were produced. Friends of friends or friends were recruited to provide homes for the little black cats, who were not acceptable breeding candidates of a breed that wasnít accepted at the time. Nikki wrote in her breed profile in the November 1991 Cat Fanciersí Almanac, "Cat breeding to me is an artistic endeavor. You could say all breeders are artists striving for a living masterpiece of fur."
It took years to finally get the breed to have harmony of parts and features. Eventually the ideal look she wanted was achieved. She got totally black cats, with short, polished, shiny coats, large copper eyes, and their own body and head shapes. This made them separate and distinct from any other black cat. She nick named her invention the, "Patent-Leather Kids With The New-Penny Eyes".
Eighteen years after her first Traditional Bombay breeding Nikki Horner achieved acceptance of her breed in 1976. By 1980 most of the cat associations had accepted her breed. Glibly she commented to me, "If I knew it was going to take so long, I wouldnít have tried it in the first place." In another interview she is quoted saying, "It took a long time, I never really realized how much work Iíd have to do. If I had, I wouldnít have done it, But now Iím glad I did." We discussed the usual politics in the other cat associations and how it bars progress with healthy, long lived breeds. She commented about how much outright abuse she endured from the other cat associations. The breed was attacked with such comments as, "It was a joke in the cat fancy", "a CFA all-breed Judge said, "Donít waste your time", "the breed was awful, hopeless, irredeemable". In fact, for a while Nikki took a break from showing to ease the stress and tension she was put under. All in all she prevailed and went on to enjoy showing her Traditional Bombays. She purchased a sister to "Road of Fameís Luv It Black" and showed that Traditional Bombay to 22nd. Best Cat in 1988.
In 1992 Nikki Horner made this prophetic statement, "Even with all the cats and wins Iíve had through the years, when Iím gone nobodyís going to remember. But the Bombay will still be here." Nikki passed away a few years ago. Even though others may be involved with the breed, we at TCA, Inc. give full recognition to Nikki Horner, the originator of this most admired breed.
Did you always want to own a panther, then the Traditional Bombay is for you. Since they are extremely agile and intelligent, they can be leash trained, naturally fetch and love to guard their home. Being affectionate, gentle, easy going, loving, and sweet natured, this is a very endearing breed. As long as it is positive, they are agreeable to just about any suggestion from their human companions. Curiosity and devotion makes them enjoy playing with their preferred person, yet they are not overly active or verbal. They take a very common sense attitude toward life with the ability to get their feelings across when they have something to say.
Their craving for constant companionship and attention makes them follow their chosen person everywhere to get it. Any nap on your part, finds your lap occupied by your cuddly Traditional Bombay, purring loudly, gazing into your eyes soulfully, paws kneading gently. They are nose rubbers and head bumpers, who love to be held and enjoy being cradled. You wonít be lonely with a Traditional Bombay.They are not aloof or independent.
Toys are greatly enjoyed and certainly get a work out. But their best love is to play with people. They play gently. Unlike other cats, who just pull and tear a toy apart, the Traditional Bombayís toys usually last for several months.
An easy-going nature allows them to get along with almost any cat and most dogs. All in all they do prefer the company of people most. Even strangers to the household receive their "hog the stage", "pay me attention" approach.
The Traditional Bombay is a harmony of the laid-back, even-tempered style of the American Shorthair and the slightly talkative, playful, very smart Burmese.
Tight coats make them desirable as totally indoor cats.
The Traditional Bombay is exceptionally hardy.
The crossings back to the original two breeds (Burmese & Black American Shorthair) still used today to keep the breed healthy and to avoid genetic problems, creates a balancing act for breeders. When a black American Shorthair is bred to a Sable Burmese, all of the kittens will be black but will carry the recessive sable gene. If both parents carry the sable gene, about 25 % of the Traditional Bombay kittens will be born sable brown. Since the Breed Standard calls for black color only, these sable brown kittens canís be considered "Burmese" or "Bombays". Body type also gets effected. Breeding back to the American Shorthair often produces kittens with an American Shorthair body type, rather than the preferred Traditional Burmese style. The nose is often too long and the body not compact enough. The American Shorthair influence also thickens the coat too. These difficulties can be discouraging to a breeder, which may account for the rarity of Traditional Bombays.
Tragically the very same degeneration of the breed has been done to the Traditional Bombay as has been done to the Burmese, Persian and Himalayan breeds. All of the other cat associations have changed this very normal looking breed into a pug nosed, smushed faced, deformed cat. When contemporary/extreme Burmese are used Thiamine deficiency, heart disease, and cranial deformities are among the genetic problems that creep in. TCA, Inc. does not support this faction of the Traditional Bombay breed.
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