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The British Shorthair Colours And Patterns

Breed standard

Described by the GCCF in its General Type Standards as compact, muscular, well-balanced and powerful, the British Shorthair has a deep body, full, broad chest and short legs.  Paws are rounded and the tail should be round-tipped thick at the base. The head has a good width between small ears, cheeks and big expressive eyes.  These facial features are completed by a firm chin and short, broad nose. The overall appearance should be one of alertness and perfect physical condition.

The self or single colours of the British Shorthair are found in blue, black, white, chocolate, red, cream, lilac, cinnamon and fawn. Added to this are the many non-self colours (more than one colour), such as tortoiseshells, tabbies and spotties, bi-colours, tri-colours, colourpointeds, smokes and tipped series.

 In the Self British Shorthair the coat is of a single colour, sound to the roots, with no tabby markings and, with the exception of the Self White BSH, no white hairs anywhere.  Eye colour should be copper, orange or deep gold, with the exception of the blue-eyed White (both eyes blue) or odd-eyed White (one copper, orange or deep gold eye, one blue eye)

 The best known of all colours is the British Blue, being light to medium blue-grey with contrasting copper, orange or deep gold eyes. It has attracted admirers for more than a century and proved to be one of the most popular British colours of all time.

 Add red, cream or white to any of the self colours and you have an attractive mix. These are known as Non-Self.  Perhaps most popular is the Blue Cream or Dilute Tortie, while the Black Tortie is a longtime favourite. The newer colours are also producing chocolate-torties, lilac-torties, cinnamon-torties and fawn torties)   Adding white will produce the bi-colours and tri-colours.


This colour is becoming more popular as they are a very attractive cat. The top coat is any of the Self or Tortoiseshell colours but has a contrasting undercoat of silver which is often only apparent when the coat is parted through movement. 


This is a genetically silver variety of British Shorthair in which the colour is restricted to the ends of the fur in the form of tipping and the undercoat is so pale as to appear white.  Tipping should be evenly distributed, and can look like a ‘frosting’ of colour on the coat.  The Golden Tipped is the non-silver version of the British Tipped in which the coat is a rich golden apricot colour, sound to the roots, with black/dark-brown tipping.  The Black and Golden Tipped cats have green eyes, with all other colours of tipped having copper, orange or deep gold.  ‘Tippies’, as they are affectionately known, have outlining to their eyes known as mascara lines, and their brick-red noses are also outlined in colour appropriate to the colour of the coat tipping.  Several new variations of colour are currently appearing on the show-bench and are proving to be popular.

Tabby and Spotted

The British Shorthair cat has three main patterns defined under the ‘Tabby’ heading.  The Classic Tabby, The Mackeral Tabby and the Spotted.  The Classic and Mackeral patterns differ only in the body markings.  The Classic Tabby has a black line running down the spine with another black line running parallel on each side.  Each flank should have an ‘oyster-shaped’ patch which should be surrounded by one or more unbroken rings.  ‘Butterfly wing’ markings appear on the shoulders.  The Mackeral Tabby should have a narrow unbroken spine line, on either side of which is a broken spine line from which the narrow lines which form the Mackeral pattern run vertically down the body.  These lines should be as narrow and numerous as possible.  The Spotted has the same head pattern as the Classic and Mackeral tabbies but the pattern on the body should consist of numerous, well-defined oval, round or rosette-shaped spots. 

The Tabby and Spotted patterned British Shorthair is available in all colours, both Silver and Non-Silver, although the Black Silver Tabby and Black Silver Spotted are the most well-known and sought after. 

One of the oldest pattern colours, the British Red Tabby, has deep mahogany red markings on a red ground colour whilst the Brown Tabby has dense black markings on a copper-brown colour.  Other colours to have been added include the ,Blue Tabby, with deep blue markings on a biscuit ground, Chocolate Tabby with deep chocolate markings on a bronze ground and the more dilute Lilac Tabby with lilac markings on a beige ground. 

Bi-Colours and Tri-Colours

Short haired cats with white markings have been around for a very long time. The tri-coloured tortoiseshell and white, with its patched black, red and white coat, has the longest history and for many years was the only recognised British Shorthair breed with white markings. They appeared at the earliest cat shows and were a great favourite on the British show scene.  Bi-colours were a later development ‘with patches of one self colour and white.  Symmetry of design is desirable with the colour/white ratio paramount for showing.’  The Tri-colours have patches of two self colours with white. 


Are a predominantly white cat with patches of colour on the head and a fully coloured tail. 

British Colourpointed

It is getting on for 40 years now since the Himalayan gene was introduced from longhaired lines, creating a blue-eyed British with contrasting points and lighter coloured bodies that is now well established. All self points colours are possible, as well as tortie points and a wide variety of tabby pointed colours.