Is My Black Cat a Bombay Cat?

By: Laurie L. Dove  | 

Bombay cat
The Cat Fancier's Association describes the Bombay as a "patent leather kid with new penny eyes." Dmitry Serebryakov/TASS/Getty Images

Bombay cats are all black, but not all black cats are Bombay cats. This is because color alone doesn't determine a cat's breed of origin. Rather, Bombay cats — like all members of a proven breeding line — have either ancestors of the same breed or an ancestor that includes crossbreeding to achieve the breed standard. And that's where the Bombay cat's history gets really interesting.

In 1953, the same year Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated as president of the United States, a woman named Nikki Horner set about creating a new breed of cat in Louisville, Kentucky. Horner mated two cats — a black American Shorthair and a sable Burmese female — to achieve a specific, third trait. In this case, Horner was determined to recreate the copper-colored eyes, shiny black coat and sturdy-but-elegant frame of an Indian black panther, but in miniature form.

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By the 1960s, Horner's cats were consistent carriers of the characteristics they have now become known for, including a notably and completely black appearance. Even the paw pads of a Bombay cat are black. This is all to contrast the cat's astoundingly gold- or copper-colored round eyes, which leads the Cat Fancier's Association to describe the Bombay as a "patent leather kid with new penny eyes."

While the Cat Fancier's Association, which is the world's largest cat breed registry, recognized the Bombay breed officially in 1970 and accepted the breed for championship status in 1976, the numbers of Bombay cats today remains relatively small.

Those who know and love Bombay cats report the breed is loving, affectionate and a bit dog-like in its recreational activities. Bombays have been known to enjoy a game of fetch or a walk on a leash. They weigh in at around 12 pounds (5 kilograms), but males may grow larger and may exhibit the hypnotic sway of a panther when they walk.

In addition to the American Bombay, which is generally the result of a Bombay-to-Bombay breeding or of a Bombay-to-Burmese breeding, a British Bombay version breeds Burmese to British Shorthairs. The American Bombay (often called simply, "Bombay") is recognized as a distinct breed certified to compete in official championships by the American Cat Fanciers' Association, the Cat Fanciers Association, the Cat Fanciers' Federation and the International Cat Association. The British Bombay is, as of 2020, still considered an experimental breed.

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