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Tabby Markings:

  • The word tabby is believed to have originated from the word 'Atabi', which was a fabric woven in the Attibiya quarter of Baghdad. The fabric had a striped look.
  • Harrison Weir, the man who started the first cat show, wrote that gradually the fabric 'tabby' came to mean the type of cat that we know as a tabby.
  • There are 4 basic tabby patterns:
    • Striped (or Mackerel)
    • Spotted
    • Classic
    • Abyssinian
  • The striped tabby has a dark stripe down the back. It has stripes running from the top of the back down to the stomach in straight narrow lines. It has stripes around the neck, legs and tail. The lines form an M on the cat's forehead.
  • The spotted tabby follows the same pattern, except the stripes are broken up into spotted lines.
  • The classic tabby has stripes running around the neck, legs and tail. But unlike the striped tabby, the lines on the side bend, forming sideway's V's. There is more than one line running down the top of the back, also. But, the classic tabby does have an M on its forehead too.
  • The Abyssinian tabby pattern shows only a few stripes around the lower legs, a dark tail tip, and a few bars along the back leg flanks.
  • There will be individual variations of these 4 patterns.
  • Tabbies can be in many colors -- grey (silver) and black, red and cream, brown and black, blue and cream, and light and dark cream
  • The tabby coloration is complex, the result of the interaction of several genes. One gene, called Agouti controls the background. Another gene controls the pattern of stripes (or spots). Other genes control the colors (cream, silver, etc.).
  • Most tabbies have short hair, but they can be long-haired too.

Source: A Standard Guide to Cat Breeds, Richard H. Gebhardt, Grace Pond, and Dr. Ivor Raleigh, Eds., McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1979, pp. 28-29.