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Home > Cats > Cat Breeds > Calico British Shorthair: Facts, Origin & History (With Pictures)

Calico British Shorthair: Facts, Origin & History (With Pictures)

british shorthair calico cat

Breed Overview


9–12 inches


7–17 pounds


12–17 years



Suitable for:

Families and first-time cat owners


Affectionate, gentle, adaptable

A Calico British Shorthair is a specific color variety of the British Shorthair cat breed. Calico cats are characterized by their distinct tri-colored coat pattern, which includes white, black, and orange (or sometimes cream) patches.

The British Shorthair breed is known for its stocky build, round face, and dense, plush coat, which can come in various colors and patterns. Calico British Shorthairs have a white base coat with patches of orange and black fur, creating a unique and eye-catching tri-colored pattern.

They are known for their friendly and outgoing temperament and are typically affectionate, gentle, and adaptable cats. They are a good choice for families and first-time cat owners, as they are generally low-maintenance and easy to care for.


Calico British Shorthair Characteristics

High-energy cat will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy cats require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a cat to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train cats are more willing and skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Cats that are harder to train are usually more stubborn and will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some cat breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every cat will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds' potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some cat breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other animals. More social cats have a tendency to rub up on strangers for scratches, while less social cats shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your cat and expose them to lots of different situations.

The Earliest Records of Calico British Shorthairs in History

Tabby white british shorthair cat in front of wooden shed looking to the side in sunlight
Image By: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

The British Shorthair has ancient origins—probably as far back as ancient Rome. At this time, they were kept mainly for their hunting ability, which allowed them to keep rodents and other pests out of fields and grain stores.

Later, the breed ended up in Britain after the Roman invasion. There, the breed interbred with the native cats to create a new, shorthaired breed still utilized mainly for farming. The cats were used to control rodent populations in homes and on farms.

This breed was solely utilized for practical purposes for much of its history. Therefore, they tend to be healthy, as unhealthy cats wouldn’t have survived long.

We don’t know precisely when these cats began exhibiting calico patterning. However, this coloration has appeared throughout history in many different cultures, which wasn’t uncommon in the ancient world. Furthermore, this breed is recognized as coming in calico by all kennel clubs, so, likely, the coloration was around in the breed from a very early point.

How the Calico British Shorthair Gained Popularity

The Calico British Shorthair began gaining popularity as the rest of the breed did. Essentially, this was done through the efforts of breeders and clubs associated with the breed. However, the breed has always been decently popular in the British Isles. They’re known for their easygoing temperament and friendly nature, which has led to them becoming rather famous cats.

They don’t come in calico as often as other colorations. However, enough breeders produce Calico British Shorthair cats that they aren’t entirely unknown. Many cat lovers choose this coloration because it is more unique and eye-catching.

Formal Recognition of the Calico British Shorthair

The British Shorthair was first recognized by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in 1901. This UK cat club established the breed’s standard, which lays out their physical attributes and temperament. This was the earliest time this breed’s standard was written down, so it gave breeders something to aim for, making the breed more standardized.

The breed began to be imported into the United States in the early 1900s. The Cat Fanciers’ Association recognized the feline in 1906. After that, the breed grew in popularity until it became one of the more popular cats in the states.

More colors were introduced in the UK in 1957, as the breed standard was refined and selective breeding occurred. The calico coloration was included in this update, as well as several others. All major breed standards recognize British Shorthairs as coming in a calico coloration.

british shorthair cat with calico color that has a flat expression
Image Credit: arrivalinsky, Shutterstock


Top 5 Facts About Calico British Shorthairs

1. They’re almost exclusively female.

Calico cats are almost exclusively female due to how their coloration trait gets passed. The gene responsible for the calico coloration is carried on the X chromosome, and cats must inherit two of these traits to get the coloration. Males only have one X chromosome, so they can never be calico.

Rarely, male cats may mutate and inherit two X chromosomes and a Y chromosome. The Y chromosome will make the cat male, but they can also inherit two X chromosomes to become calico. Usually, these males are sterile.

2. They’re one of the few original cats from the UK.

There are very few native cats in the UK, but the British Shorthair is one of them. Initially, these cats came from Rome. However, they developed independently for centuries, which led to them becoming their breed.

3. “Torties” are a type of calico.

Calico British Shorthair cats can also be torties or tortoiseshells, depending on how the calico pattern is set up. If their pattern is primarily orange and black, they’ll probably be called “tortie”—not calico. However, technically, these color patterns are the same. The only difference is that calico cats have a different spotting gene, leading to white spots throughout their body.

4. They’re one of the oldest cat breeds.

British Shorthairs came from Rome, and are one of the oldest cat breeds. However, much of their development occurred in Britain, hence their name.

5. They have excellent hunting skills.

These felines have excellent hunting skills. They spent much of their past as mousers on farms and inside homes. Therefore, they were bred for their hunting abilities. Today, they’re still great hunters.


Do Calico British Shorthairs Make a Good Pet?

These felines are well known for their independent nature, making them an excellent option for those looking for a low-maintenance cat. Calico British Shorthairs can make excellent pets like any other British Shorthair. The color of their fur does not have any bearing on their personality or behavior. What’s important is the individual cat’s temperament, which can vary from one cat to another regardless of its coat color.

British Shorthairs, including calicos, are known for their calm, gentle nature and make great companions for families with children and other pets. They are generally easygoing and adapt well to new environments and routines. They are also independent and can entertain themselves when their owners are not around.

Like all cats, British Shorthairs require proper care, including regular vet check-ups, a healthy diet, and a clean living environment. They are generally low-maintenance cats and do not require a lot of grooming, although regular brushing can help keep their coat healthy and shiny.



Calico British Shorthairs are independent, exciting cats that can make great companions. They’re perfect for those who want a low-maintenance feline that can be left alone for much of the day. These felines are pretty healthy, too, so they’re a better option than some of the niche breeds.

Nearly every cat fanciers’ association recognizes calico as a possible color for this feline. Calico cats have a coat that is a mix of white, black, and orange, with large patches of each color. The pattern is the result of a genetic mutation that affects the X chromosome, and as a result, calico cats are almost always female.

The British Shorthair is a popular breed worldwide, known for its calm, gentle nature and plush, dense coat. While the breed’s history as a working cat may have ended, they remain beloved pets in households worldwide, including those with calico coloring.

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Featured Image Credit: Oleksandr Volchanskyi, Shutterstock

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