Furball Meets Futball
The Brazilian Shorthair is an average-sized cat that upon first glance might not seem especially distinctive. Sporting a wide variety of coat colors and patterns, these cats can easily be mistaken for any number of breeds or even strays – the latter isn’t surprising, as today’s Brazilian Shorthair was once (and in many locales still is) the common street cat of Brazil.
Like the domestic cats in North America, Australia, and other world regions colonized by European explorers, the ancestors of the Brazilian Shorthair arrived in their new lands aboard cargo and passenger ships as early as the 16th century. Cats were appreciated not only for their companionship on long ocean voyages but for their proven vermin-hunting abilities. Portugal was one of the leaders in early exploration and colonization but in one respect they differed from their northern European competitors: their ship’s cats were local Portuguese cats mainly descended from the ancient Iberian Wildcat.
Genes inherited from the Iberian subspecies of the European Wildcat may have helped those Portuguese ship’s cats get a head start on acclimatizing to their new tropical home, as Wildcats in southern Europe evolved thinner coats appropriate to milder winters. Half a millenium later, the cats of Brazil have lost much of their outer fur coat leaving them better able to tolerate hot weather. Now basically a single-coated cat, these lithe creatures are also remarkably soft and silky to the touch.