The history of the Bombay Cat

Cat breeders are an experimental lot, creating distinctive new breeds either by building on natural genetic mutations or by crossing breeds to achieve a new look, color or pattern. The Bombay, named for the exotic port city of India, has no connection with the subcontinent but was created from crosses between sable Burmese and black American Shorthairs to resemble a black panther in miniature.

Breeder Nikki Horner of Louisville, Kentucky, is credited with developing the Bombay, starting in the late 1950s. Her goal was a sleek, shiny black cat with a muscular body and friendly temperament. British breeders achieved the same look and personality with crosses of Burmese and black domestic shorthairs.

Little is known about the background of Horner’s extensive and very successful Burmese breeding programme. She crossed Burmese to black American Shorthairs as early as the mid-1950s, although her account of the first crossings are inconsistent. In 1953 she had bred a non-pedigreed black Domestic Shorthair to a Sable (i.e. Brown) Burmese. The kittens developed thick coats and looked like poor-quality American Shorthairs. Eventually she mated a female black American Shorthair, Shawnee Obsidian to Brown Burmese male Shawnee Cassius Clay and produced black Burmese-type kittens.

In 1958 the first Bombay-type cats appeared as an attempt to create a mini-black-panther using Burmese and American Shorthairs, but the results were apparently unsatisfactory and she didn’t develop the breed further at that that point.

In the mid-1960s, Horner made another attempt using her Brown Burmese male Shawnee Cassius Clay, his son Shawnee Little Brown Jug and grandson Shawnee Colonel Casey. The black American Shorthair males were David Copperfield of Shawnee and Shawnee Shot in the Dark. Their ancestors and some of the descendants are show in the family tree on this page. Some of the early Bombays were given away to people who would exhibit them and promote the new breed before it qualified for championship competition.

In 1970 the CFA recognised the Bombay and in 1976 it advanced to Championship status in 1976. That year, Horner retired from breeding and showing, and dispersed her cattery, but this was to be a temporary break.

She resumed showing, with Bombays, in the late 1980s, but by then Shawnee Cattery was co-owned by cattery manager Judy Scruggs who may have been doing the actual breeding. Horner herself was in failing health and died in April 1995. The larger size and muscular build of some modern American Bombays comes from Horner’s 4th generation ”experiments” that started with an unusually large silver-furred, Sable [Brown] Burmese female between 1983 – 86.

Today the breed is recognized by almost all cat associations, in FIFe the breed is preliminary recognized..

To maintain their body type and coat texture, Bombays may be outcrossed to sable Burmese, burmese pointed Bombays and  black American Shorthairs.

Article written by Nikki Horner