An apparently extinct breed known from the turn of the century. Similar to the modern Sphynx Cat: A long body and tail, with a wedge-shaped head and large ears.
Domestic Breed: An apparently extinct breed known from the turn of the century.
Appearance: Similar to the modern Sphynx Cat: A long body and tail, with a wedge-shaped head and large ears. They did, however, differ from the Sphynx Cat in two ways: In the winter they managed to grow a little hair on their backs and tails, but this was shed in the summer; also, they had long whiskers.
History: In 1902 an American couple, Mr and Mrs F.J. Shinick, living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, were presented with a pair of hairless cats by local Pueblo Indians. They were told by Jesuit priests that these cats were the last survivors of an ancient Aztec breed of cat.
The male was called Dick and the female Nellie. Mrs Shinick reported that 'Nellie has a very small head, large amber eyes, and long whiskers and eyebrows....Dick was a very powerful cat and could whip any dog alone. His courage, no doubt, was the cause of his death...one night he got out and several dogs killed him.' This happened before the male had become sexually mature, so that the pair were never able to breed. Mrs Shinick searched all over New Mexico for a hairless mate for Nellie, but without success. Sadly, she concluded 'I fear the breed is extinct.'
For some reason, it did not occur to her to mate Nellie with a normally haired male and then back-cross to her in an attempt to continue the line .Nor is it clear what she did with Nellie, although a report in the following year, 1903, suggests that she may have sold the female to an English cat-lover. In that year Charles Lane, in his book Rabbits Cats and Cavies, shows an illustration of a Mexican Hairless Cat called Jesuit, with the caption: 'Believed to be the only specimen ever exhibited in England. Owner, Hon. Mrs McLaren Morrison.' He says he hopes this 'may prove they are not quite extinct.' It seems likely that 'Jesuit' was in reality a re-named Nellie, brought to England at great expense to cause a sensation at major cat shows. This view is strengthened by the comments in a letter, dated 1902, sent by the Shinicks to an English cat exhibitor: 'I have priced Nellie at $300. She is too valuable a pet for me to keep in a small town. Many wealthy ladies would value her at her weight in gold if they knew what a very rare pet she is. I think in your position she would be a very good investment to exhibit at cat shows and other select events, as she doubtless is the only hairless cat now known.'
If Nellie did cross the Atlantic and become Jesuit, she may well have introduced a wider public to the Mexican Hairless breed, but there are no records that she was ever used for breeding, and it would appear that, after her day, the Mexican Hairless Cat finally vanished without trace.
Some authors referred to this breed as the 'New Mexican Hairless' because earlier hairless examples of domestic cats from Latin America had been described by naturalists as far back as 1830. As in several other instances, in different parts of the world (including France, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Morocco and Australia), these naked mutant cats appeared and then soon vanished. Only the modern Sphynx Cat has been treated seriously as a potential pedigree breed.
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