Cats are like no other domesticated animal. A cat can be aloof one minute, watching you from her perch above the television; affectionate the next minute as she rubs her head along your feet and ankles; and then revert to her wild state, slashing your bare flesh with her extended claws (out comes the antiseptic and an adhesive bandage yet again). But despite their moodiness and their frequent reversion to assault cat, their owners would find it difficult to part with them.
No surprise, then, that cats feature prominently on coins from around the world. And no entity has issued more cat coins than the Isle of Man.
The first of its breed
According to archaeology.about.com/, “Genetic analysis suggests that all domestic cats derive from at least five founder cats from the Fertile Crescent region, from whence they (or rather their descendants) were transported around the world.” Some of the first evidence for domestic cats (Felis catus) are found on Cyprus dating to 7500 B.C., placing their emergence well after that of dogs. Archaeologists have found evidence of ritual burials of cats dating as early as 9,500 years ago. Many speculate that wild cats were first drawn near humans because of the small rodents that feasted on people’s agricultural stores.
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According to archaeology.about.com/, “The first illustration of a cat with a collar appears on an Egyptian tomb in Saqqara, dated to the 5th dynasty (Old Kingdom, ca 2500-2350 BC). By the 12th dynasty (Middle Kingdom, ca 1976-1793 BC), cats are definitely domesticated, and the animals appear frequently in Egyptian art paintings and mummies.”
While domestic cats have appeared in paintings, sculptures and other artwork for thousands of years, their appearance on coins is a recent development, most widely practice by the Isle of Man.
The Isle of Man is a self-governing Crown dependency located in the Irish Sea between Ireland and Great Britain. It is famous for the Isle of Man TT Race, a prestigious motorcycle race where riders propel themselves on a road-track that circles the island at ridiculous speeds (and subject of another coin series), and for the Manx cat, a breed of cat with a naturally occurring mutation resulting in very short tail or no tail at all.
In 1970, the island issued a circulating crown coin depicting a Manx cat on the reverse. The cat is shown in profile to the left, with its head pointing toward its left side and slightly to the rear. The cat’s lack of a tail is clearly evident in the presentation.
The island followed up with a second denomination of circulating coin in 1975, when it issued a 25-penny coin also featuring a Manx cat on the reverse. It, too, is shown in profile, though its body is angled away from the viewer more than on the older coin. This presentation also makes the cat’s distinctive lack of a tail clearly evident.