曼赤肯是自然演變出來的侏儒品種貓，他們有很特別的短腿。我們今天所知道的這個品種，源自於路易斯安那州的Rayville。1983年 一位音樂教師Sandra Hochenedel發現了兩隻貓躲在他的小貨車底下，他原以為是牛頭犬。
1956年，德國Hamburg的Max Von Egon Thiel如此描述了他在1953年他在Stalingrad看到的一隻貓。他有很特別的短腿，但並沒有任何肢體上的障礙，並與其他正常體型的仔貓玩在一起。他注意到這隻貓坐在牠的臀部上，把它的前腿舉在空中，與老鼠防禦敵人的姿勢相當類似。由於這樣的行為，這種貓被該筆者稱為”史達林格勒袋鼠貓”。 在他返回德國的前一天，這貓被一位俄 國的 醫師帶回去了，從此斷了消息。然而根據這樣的描述，無疑代表了這個特徵仍存在於英國。
1995年，曼赤肯首次在美國被國際貓協TICA 承認為新品種，目前更被其他國家與協會承認。依據Laurie Bobskill，國際曼赤肯社群主席，提出在美國發現有19種類似曼赤肯的變種，全都與黑莓Blackbarry的血緣無關。培育曼赤肯的人們因此得到了鼓舞，因為這平息了曼赤肯是家貓變種的爭議。諷刺的是，對於這品種的爭議，也增加了這個品種貓的數量。由於華爾街日報、人民日報、與其他的出版品的報導，對於曼赤肯的需求已然相當龐大，在等待名單中的人數眾多，但供應卻有限。
培育者聲稱曼赤肯可以做任何其他貓可以做的事，除了跳到書櫃的最上層以外 (好吧，這是在最近有篇報導之前的事。 有報導一隻曼赤肯在一個六呎高的書架上玩鴕鳥的羽毛，在跳上書櫃時毫不感到麻煩。雖然他嘴巴裡咬著羽毛的樣子很不優雅。) 許多曼赤肯可以跳上廚房流理台，同時其他貓咪卻要走更多的路。
有些事對曼赤肯來說是無法定義的 – 你必須親自看過才能了解他們的吸引力。一隻從不會長大的小貓，他們似乎從來不會長大、容易受傷害、並且溫暖人心。事實上是他們強壯、堅韌、靈敏、喜歡跑來跑去，對他們的身高來說，他們可以跳的極高。
對於他們自己來說，面對圍繞在牠們周圍的爭議，他們總是像自己一樣 –貓，自信、傑出。 曼赤肯有像喜鵲一樣的習性，常常到處蒐集小小的、閃亮的東西，找個地方藏起來以供日後玩樂。這些”小強盜”有著比其他貓種更多的好奇心，在家裡沒有不會有他們沒探索過的地方。
Munchkins are naturally occurring dwarf cats, which means they have unusually short legs. The breed as we know it today began in Rayville , Louisiana . In 1983 music teacher Sandra Hochenedel discovered two cats hiding under a pickup truck where they had been cornered by a bulldog.
Hochenedel rescued the cats and took them home, later noticing two things—both were pregnant, and both had short, stubby legs. She called them Munchkins after the little people in The Wizard of Oz. She kept Blackberry, the black cat, and gave away Blueberry, the gray. When Blackberry produced her first litter, Hochenedel gave one short-legged kitten, named Toulouse , to her friend Kay LaFrance, who lived in Monroe , Louisiana .
Since LaFrance’s cats were allowed free access to the outdoors and were not altered, a feral population of Munchkins occurred around Monroe , where they apparently competed very well with their long-legged friends for prey and mating opportunities.
Hochenedel and LaFrance contacted Dr. Solveig Pflueger, chairperson of TICA’s genetics committee in USA . Her studies determined that the short legs were the result of a dominant genetic mutation affecting the long bones of the legs. This mutation apparently occurred spontaneously within the feline gene pool. Any cat that possesses this gene will exhibit the short legs. A cat that has received the Munchkin gene from one parent will produce Munchkin kittens at an approximate ratio of one Munchkin to one normal kitten.
Cats with short legs are not new to the scientific world: An English Veterinary Record of 1944, contains an entry by Dr H.E.Williams-Jones who describes four generations of cats with short limbs, including an 8 1/2 year old black female, documented as having had an extremely healthy life.
Her dam, great dam, and some of her progeny were similar in appearance. The cat’s movements were described as ferret-like, but other than the short legs the cats were reported to be normal in every way. Unfortunately, these cats seem to have disappeared during World War II, not surprising in that many feline bloodlines, even established ones, disappeared completely during this period of deprivation.
In 1956, Max Von Egon Thiel of Hamburg , Germany , described a cat that he had first seen in Stalingrad in 1953. The cat had unusually short legs but was in no way functionally hindered and was seen playing among its normal siblings and other young cats. At times it was noted to sit on its haunches with it’s front legs in the air, similar to the alert stance of a rabbit. Because of this behaviour, the cat was dubbed the “ Stalingrad kangaroo cat” by the author.
The day before he was to return to Germany , the cat was taken away by a Russian physician and there is no further information about the cat available. However, based on the description, this undoubtedly represents the same trait seen previously in Great Britain .
In a paper published by Dr Pflueger, (Jan ’99), she states: “One concern I had when I first began working with Munchkins in 1990, was that there might be a risk for malformed homozygous kittens. This was not an unreasonable fear based on the lethality of homozygous achondroplasia in humans. However, I have bred Munchkin to Munchkin, including very close inbreeding, without producing anything vaguely resembling the phenotype of homozygous achrondroplasia. There is sufficient data at this point to suggest that abnormal homozygotes similar to human achondroplasia are unlikely to appear with future breedings.” She further states, “I believe that Munchkins are happy healthy cats and that they have a future as a Championship breed. I am not aware of any reason that would lead me to believe otherwise.”
In 1995, Munchkins were first recognized as a new breed in the States under The International Cat Association and are now recognized in many countries around the world. According to Laurie Bobskill, breeder and president of the International Munchkin Society, 19 separate Munchkin-like mutations have been found in the United States , all unrelated to Blackberry’s lines. Breeders find this encouraging, because it gives credence to the contention that this mutation is a viable variation of Felis catus. Ironically, the controversy surrounding the breed, likened to the sports car of the cat fancy, has contributed to its growing popularity. Because of articles in The Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, and other publications, public demand for Munchkins has been great, the waiting lists long, and the supply limited.
Munchkins love to wrestle and play with their long-legged feline friends, happily unaware that there’s anything different about them. Nor do their feline companions treat them like members of the vertically challenged. Munchkins also adore dogs both big and small. One owner reported that her Munchkin likes to hide and then leap out on her dog’s back and manages to hang on while the dog races round the room!
Fanciers assert Munchkins can do anything an ordinary cat can do, except leap to the top of the bookcase. (Well, that is until recently when it was reported that one Munchkin spied an Ostrich feather on the top shelf of a six foot bookcase and shimmed up there without any trouble whatsoever, although her descent with feather firmly clenched in her jaws, was not quite so graceful!) Many Munchkins can jump onto the kitchen counter, while others take a more scenic route.
There is something indefinable about a Munchkin – you really have to see them for yourself to understand their appeal. Maybe it’s a maternal thing; a kitten that never grows up. They appear to be small and vulnerable and tend to melt one’s heart. Truth is that they are strong and robust, evidenced by their agility, speed over the ground and, for their height, extremely powerful jumpers!
For their part, Munchkins, oblivious to the controversy surrounding them, go on being just what they are—cats—self-assured and outgoing. Munchkins are also known as “magpies,” often borrowing small, shiny objects and stash them away for later play. These little ‘rug-huggers’ have more than their fair share of curiosity and there is no part of the home that does not get thoroughly explored and investigated.
As well as having sweet natures, Munchkins are affectionate, outgoing and intelligent. They love company, especially that of children with whom they seem to be especially popular. They are exceptionally playful and get along well with other cats, dogs and pets. And yes, they are amusing to watch which is a real bonus in anyone’s life. Proficient hunters, Munchkins love a good game of catnip mouse or feather teaser, but when playtime is over, they want a warm lap to snuggle into and strokes from a loving hand, like any other domestic cat.