Thursday, June 30, 2011

Isle of Man Stamps – Tales of the Tailless



The Isle of Man Post Office has recently issued a set of six stamps featuring artwork from a series of distinctive Manx cat postcards entitled ‘Tales of the Tailless’ together with a Presentation Pack and a First Day Cover.

Manx cats are synonymous with the Isle of Man and have become a timeless symbol of the Island. Their distinctive characteristics often become an animated topic of conversation and shrewd exportation has found many willing homes for our feline friends across the world.

Still to be found freely roaming the highways and byways of the Isle of Man, a Manx cat revealed his hunting prowess at a cat show in Calgary when he became the victor at the World Mousing Championship in 1964. Their talent for mousing was also put to the test in the House of Lords during the early 1940s and in the Home Office a couple of decades later. ‘Peta’ was a gift from the Island in 1964 that enjoyed diplomatic status, but invaded 10 Downing Street and ‘roughed up’ a resident Siamese cat owned by Britain’s Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

Despite their portrayal in cartoon animation as dim-witted creatures (Stimpson J. Cat and Mayor Manx) their characteristics tend to show a cat which is tough, determined and bright.

Manx cats come in many guises, ranging from Dimple Rumpies with no tail through to Rumpy Risers, Stumpies and Longies who carry a full length tail, but Manx qualities. Typically they will feature a round, large head with distinctive ears and exceptionally high hind quarters with a hopping gait hidden under a thick, luscious double coat of fur.

They have a tendency to pop up in the most unlikely places, acting as a companion for royalty on the royal yacht Britannia and enjoying the freedom of roaming the famous studios of Walt Disney. ‘Manxie’ (who was completely black) was a gift from the Isle of Man to the successful entrepreneur in 1933 when it was hoped to inspire the creation of a ‘Manx playmate’ for the popular Mickey Mouse. Coverage of his departure in the Isle of Man Examiner included a revealing interview with ‘Manxie’ who was placed in the care of the ship’s butcher for the voyage.

Latterly Manx cats have been associated with projects for endangered animals. Two of them were adopted by the extraordinary gorilla Koko of the Gorilla Foundation and a Manx cat called Zoë is used as a logo for the US based Zoë Foundation which seeks to preserve endangered tigers.


Valerie Caine © June 2011


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