Myths of the Raas Cat

Cat of the Month ~ May 2017

The Raas cat is a native animal on the Indonesian island of Raas in East Java. The Rass Cat is also known as a Busok or Buso Madura (or just Madura) cat. It is said that the Raas cat is from a pure breed line without mixed genes from other cat races. However this cat is not yet recognised by Tica as a cat breed.

Blue Raas Cat
Blue coated Raas cat
Photograph: Indonesian Wikipedia, GFDL

Raas village cats are considered very special and are highly protected by local inhabitants who, it is said, prevent export of these cats from the island shores. They are known to the islanders as either “Cat Buso” (grey cat), or “Cat Madura” (blue cat). It is believed the blue-gray or Maew Boran stock had been taken to the island on trading ships many years ago.

The Madura breed is now in decline and this has been documented in a study carried out by Lesley Morgan (ACF – Australia) and Dr. Ronny Rachman Noor (Faculty of Animal Science, Bogor Agricultural University). The study also concluded that these cats may be descended from the Korat cat breed and that they are now a closed colony of bobtailed blue cats. It appears that the declining numbers of cats of this type on both Raas and on Madura suggest a high degree of in-breeding and weakening of the breed. A further trait of these cats is that some have cinnamon coat color. These are rarer to find and known as Amethyst Raas.

Amethyst Raas Cat
Amethyst Raas Cat.
Photograph: Indonesian Wikipedia, GFDL
The study continues: ‘…the cats posture and the triangular facial shape are similar to the ‘leopard’. The cats are large with a medium length tail with a visible bend or kink at the end. The true Madura cat (buso) is solid gray often with lavender nose leather. A few so-called Madura cats found on Madura Island have brown sepia, mink and colourpoint patterns as well as blue bi-colours. This is due to mating with local cats in the region’. The study goes on to mention the variety of cross-bred cats found on the surrounding islands, including; Korat, Burmese, Tonkinese (mink) and Siamese. Each of these had kinked tails typical of the Raas cat which further shows that cross breeding has occurred.
‘Busok’ (Blue cats) from Raas Island are kept on the neighbouring Island of Madura
Photograph: Indonesian Wikipedia, GFDL

There are several myths surrounding the Raas breed. It is said that:

  • the Raas cat is believed to have a sixth sense
  • the true Madurese paint (i.e. cat) originating from Raas Island, may only be kept by ‘important’ people such as religious leaders and high ranking government officials.
  • anyone attempting to smuggle a cat from Raas island (especially if they are an unmarried person,) will find … “their boat sinking!”
  • if the said person survives the shipwreck then that person will instead be dogged with misfortune.

For more information on the Raas cat visit the official Site of the Raas Cat. Please note that a web page translation may be required.

Black Panther

Black panthers exist in nature as a variant of several species of larger cat. The black colouration of these cats is caused by a genetic (specifically melanistic) variation in color often present due to adaptations to the environment in which the cat lives.
Cat of the Month ~ April 2012
Black Panther – In this case a melanistic leopard, which is the most common type
Photograph: creative commons licence

Examples of the black panther include:

  • Black Jaguars (Panthera Onca), found in Latin America and North America.
  • Black Leopards (Panthera Pardus), found in Asia and Africa.
  • Black Tigers (Panthera Tigris), found in Asia (and very rare).
  • Black Cougars (Puma Concolor), believed to exist in North America but never recorded.
When examined closely, all of these black panthers will in fact show their source cat markings underneath their black colouration. Their skin will look similar to a sheet of printed silk which has been stretched across their frame. This effect is known as “ghost striping”. The black skin is known to be an advantage in regions of dense forest (for instance) as it provides camouflage in the dark environment, and will allow the creature to hunt and stalk almost invisible to their prey. Another benefit of melanism, (recent, preliminary studies also suggest) is that melanism might be linked to beneficial mutations in the immune system, effectively giving these animals a longer and healithier life. It is interesting that melanistic and non-melanistic kittens can be part of the same litter. Several of the Black panther types are now described in more detail: Black Leopard Black leopards are reported in most densely forested areas in southwestern China, Myanmar, Assam and Nepal, from Travancore and other parts of southern India, and are said to be common in Java and the southern part of the Malay Peninsula where they may be more numerous than spotted leopards. They are less common in tropical Africa, but have been reported in Ethiopia, in the forests of Mount Kenya and in the Aberdares. The fur colour of these cats has been recorded as showing a mixture of blue, black, gray, and purple. Melanistic leopards are the most common form of black panther kept in captivity. and they have been selectively bred for decades for Zoos and the exotic pet trade. It is said that black Leopards are smaller and more lightly built than normally pigmented individuals. It is a myth that black leopards are often rejected by their mothers at an early age because of their color. In actuality it has been shown that poor temperament has been bred into the captive strains as a side-effect of inbreeding and it is this poor temperament that leads to problems of maternal care (in captivity only). The Cobweb Panther In the early 1980s, Glasgow Zoo acquired a 10 year old black leopard, nicknamed the Cobweb Panther, from Dublin Zoo. She was exhibited for several years before being moved to the Madrid Zoo. This leopard had a uniformly black coat profusely sprinkled with white hairs as though draped with spider webs. The condition appeared to be vitiligo; as she aged, the white became more extensive. Since then, other “cobweb panthers” have been reported and photographed in zoos. The Black Jaguar Jaguars produce either wholly black or wholly spotted cubs. Also a pair of spotted jaguars can only produce spotted cubs. Where melanistic genes appear in breeding pairs there can be many gradations in the colours produced in the resulting cubs. The allele genes are responsible for this wide variation in colour from dark charcoal rather to jet black. The black jaguar was considered a separate species by indigenous peoples. The British author, naturalist and ornithologist W. H. Hudson wrote: The jaguar is a beautiful creature, the ground-color of the fur a rich golden-red tan, abundantly marked with black rings, enclosing one or two small spots within. This is the typical coloring, and it varies little in the temperate regions; in the hot region the Indians recognise three strongly marked varieties, which they regard as distinct species – the one described; the smaller Jaguar, less aquatic in his habits and marked with spots, not rings; and, thirdly, the black variety. They scout the notion that their terrible “black tiger” is a mere melanic variation, like the black leopard of the Old World and the wild black rabbit. They regard it as wholly distinct, and affirm that it is larger and much more dangerous than the spotted jaguar; that they recognise it by its cry; that it belongs to the terra firma rather than to the water-side; finally, that black pairs with black, and that the cubs are invariably black. Nevertheless, naturalists have been obliged to make it specifically one with Felis onca [Panthera onca], the familiar spotted jaguar, since, when stripped of its hide, it is found to be anatomically as much like that beast as the black is like the spotted leopard. The Black Cougar There are no authenticated cases of truly melanistic Cougars (Pumas). Melanistic Cougars have never been photographed or captured in the wild and none has ever been bred in Captivity. There is wide consensus among breeders and biologists that the animal does not in fact exist. However, Black Cougars have been reported in Kentucky and in the Carolinas. There have also been reports of glossy black cougars from Kansas, Texas and eastern Nebraska. These have come to be known as the “North American Black Panther”. Sightings are currently attributed to errors in species identification by non-experts, and also by the incorrect estimation of the size of these cats when observed in the wild. Footnote: Of course black cats in general are the subject of countless folk tales, myths and anecdotes. Sightings of large black cats have been seen the world over in regions where there are no big cats known to exist at all. For example, here in the United Kingdom more than 2,000 large black cats have now been sighted in the Midlands (near here in fact [Ed]) on Cannock Chase. Finally, within the folklore of the native American Choctaw which has existed for centuries, Black panthers feature prominently, where, along with the owl, they are often thought to symbolize Death.

[source article: Wikipedia]

Tiger

Cat of the Month ~ June 2011
The tiger is the largest of the four Big Cats in the genus Panthera. Panthera Tigris is native to much of eastern and southern Asia though its range has been diminishing steadily for many years.

large Sumatran tiger
An adult Sumatran Tiger stalks prey in the forest
Photograph: No Credit for this Image
The largest (Siberian) tigers measure up to 3.3 metres (11 feet) in total length and weigh up to 300 kilograms (660 pounds). The most numerous tiger subspecies is the Bengal tiger. Tigers have a lifespan of ten to fifteen years in the wild, but can live longer than twenty years in captivity. They are a highly adaptable cat, and range from the Siberian coniferous forests (taiga) to the open grasslands of India and the Indonesian tropical mangrove swamps. Tigers are territorial and generally solitary animals, requiring large areas of deep dense vegetation (in which to hide and stalk, by means of its camouflaged colouring), proximity to drinking water, and of course an abundance of prey. Tigers are often found bathing in ponds, lakes, and rivers (especially in the heat of the day). Together with the jaguar, the tiger is a strong swimmer and is able to carry large prey animals through water as it swims (no doubt using its sharp teeth (which grow up to 5 inches in length) and extremely strong jaws to grip the prey carcass. Incidentally, the word “tiger” is taken from the Greek word ‘Tigris’, which is possibly derived from a Persian source meaning “arrow”, a reference to the animal’s speed (not its sharp teeth).

Sadly, the tiger is an extremely endangered species, primarily due to human intervention (in deforestation and fragmentation in their habitat and also because of human hunting) but also due to the dangers of everyday existence. For example, only fifty percent of Tiger cubs survive to independence from their mother, which occurs at around two years of age. Also only 40 percent of these survivors live to establish a territory and begin to produce young. The risk of mortality continues to be high even for territorial adults, especially for males, which must defend their territories from other males. Consequently (with the human threat coupled with the everyday dangers of life) three of the nine subspecies of modern tiger have now gone extinct, and the remaining six are classified as endangered, some critically so.

a tiger runs in the snow
Tiger ~ clawing the powder snow as it runs
Photograph: Creative Commons
Tigers are among the most recognisable, and are in fact the most popular, of the world’s animals. They have featured prominently in ancient mythology and folklore, and continue to be depicted in modern texts and videos. Tigers appear on many flags and as mascots for sporting teams. Tigers are the national animal of several Asian nations, including India.

Tigers typically have rusty-reddish to brown coats, a whitish underbelly to rear area and a white ruff that surrounds the lower jaw, neck and chin. Of course the tiger is well known for its stripes. These can vary in colour from brown or grey to pure black. The form and density of stripes differs between all the subspecies (as well as the ground coloration of the fur). The pattern of stripes is unique to each animal, these unique markings can be used by researchers to identify individuals (both in the wild and captivity).. Unusually, the stripe pattern is also found on the skin of the tiger (shown when the fur is removed). It is believed but not proven that most tigers have over one hundred stripes around the body. Continue reading

Bobcat

Cat of the Month ~ January 2011
The bobcat (Lynx Rufus) is a North American mammal of the cat family. With twelve recognized subspecies, its habitat ranges from southern Canada to northern Mexico, including much of the continental United States. An adaptable and thriving predator that inhabits mixed deciduous-coniferous and hardwood forests it has a preference for brushy and rocky areas, as well as semi-desert, urban boundaries, and swampland.
Bobcat ~ a fierce and aggressive hunter.
Photograph: Ohio.gov ~ Department of Natural Resources
A healthy bobcat is strong-bodied, slender and sturdy. It’s a medium-sized feline, with a short, “bobbed” tail (around six inches in length), a prominent face ruff and tufts of black hair on its pointed ears. The sides and flanks are usually yellowish-brown or reddish-brown with distinct or faint black spots. Also it has distinctive black bars on its forelegs. The back is often tawny-coloured with a dark mid-dorsal line. The tail may have one to several indistinct dark bands and a tip that is black on top but which is white on the underside. The coat varies from light ruddy brown through grey to again white on the underbelly (like the tail). With whiskered face and black long-tufted ears the bobcat resembles the other species of the mid-sized Lynx genus. It is smaller than the Canadian Lynx, with which it shares parts of its range, but can grow from four to eight times the size of an average domestic cat, reaching a hefty 40 pounds in weigh and 37 inches long! The bobcats preferred prey list is extensive, including rabbits, hares, woodchucks, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles and other small rodents and birds. It will also hunt anything from insects and reptiles to deer and pronghorn antelope (though usually a weak or injured animal will be chosen). A very strong and aggressive hunter the bobcat may also take small domestic goats or lambs, poultry, small pigs, sheep and house cats, as well as stealing from traps set by humans. It has also been known to eat vegetation, but this is rare. Prey selection depends on location and habitat, season, and abundance (of course). Bobcats are most active just after dusk and before dawn, when they will inevitably begin the hunt for food. They are secretive, solitary and seldom observed, tending to hunt and travel in areas of thick cover. Bobcats rely on their keen eyesight and hearing (and a tenacious patience) for locating and stalking enemies and prey. Following a kill bobcats may cache, or cover, the body of their prey with leaves, grass or snow. This is a common trait in other feline species that are known to store their kills for future consumption when food is sparse. [teaserbreak] Like most cats bobcats are territorial and largely solitary, although they will allow overlap of territory with nearby cats. At its territorial boundaries the bobcat will use claw marks and deposits of urine or faeces as a semi-permanent indicator of its presence. Territorial and home ranges have been shown in studies to vary from eight to twenty square miles in size. Females tend to have smaller and more exclusive ranges than males. Daily movements of one to four miles are common. Bobcat tracks have an overall round appearance with four round toe pads in both front and rear prints. There is a fifth toe on the forefoot; however, it does not leave an impression because it is raised high on the foot. The claws do not leave an impression either because they are usually retracted.
Bobcat ~ on the prowl
Photograph: Wikipedia
When breeding Bobcats often have more than one mate and do not form lasting pair bonds. They breed between January and May and have a gestation period of about two months. Females may breed before they are one year old but generally do not produce a litter until they are two years old. Dens are located in caves, rock crevices, hollow logs and trees, or beneath windfall. The den may be lined with dry leaves, moss or grass, which is formed into a shallow depression by the female. The same den site may be used for several years in a row. Kittens are born with two to three per litter and their survival is (of course) linked to food abundance. When food is plentiful, many young survive; however a scarcity of food results in heavy mortality to kittens. Kittens weigh 10 to 12 ounces at birth and are born blind (their eyes remaining closed for three to eleven days. Kittens nurse for about 60 days and remain with the female until the following spring. Males do not participate in raising the young. At about four weeks of age, kittens begin to leave the den and take solid food provided by the female. Juvenile bobcats leave the females territory before she gives birth to a litter the following year. Historically bobcats have not been protected from human destruction, as they were for many years viewed as a threat to agriculture and more desirable game species. In addition, deforestation in many regions has reduced the habitat available to bobcats (and indeed to many other cat breeds and wildlife species throughout the world). Though Bobcats don’t necessarily need mature forest to thrive they do flourish in areas with thick undergrowth. A further concern in the 1970s was a large increase in the value of bobcat pelts. This raised concerns that they could be over hunted but (fortunately) at that time the bobcat was reclassified as a protected fur bearer in many regions, with more controlled hunting and trapping seasons. Conversely, housing and commercial development have decreased the amount of suitable habitat further still! Although the bobcat has been subject to extensive hunting by humans, both for sport and fur, its population has proven to be resilient and stable. This elusive predator features in Native American mythology and the folklore of European settlers. Bobcat attacks on people are virtually unknown and they are not a significant carrier of disease. Hopefully this majestic creature to behold will continue to live alongside us in their often hidden retreats.