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In the 1890's, breeders of Manx were few, and those that were, were usually dedicated to the breed. Numbered amongst the breeders/owners of Manx in the early 1890's were Mr. & Mrs. Sam Woodiwiss, Mr. E. Sydney Woodiwiss, Mr. Jungbluth, Mr. & Mrs. H.C.Brooke, and Mrs. L. Herring, followed a little later, by Lady Alexander, Miss Samuels, Mrs. Moseley, Mr. Gambier Bolton, Miss Cochran and Miss Jay.
Mr. and Mrs. H.C. Brooke, had already developed a wide reputation as connoisseurs of curious pets, with a taste in dogs, wolves, cats, and even rare breeds of rat. They were especially fond of the foreign dog varieties, and Mr. Brooke, together with Mr. G.R. Krehl, were responsible for introducing the ancient breed of the 'Dogue du Bordeaux' into Great Britain. Their cache of foreign dog varieties included the Mexican Hairless, the Esquimax, the Dogue du Bordeaux, the French Toy Bulldog, an Australian Wild Dingo, a Russian grey Wolf, and even a white Siberian Wolf.
It therefore comes as no surprise that their natural cat breed of choice was the unusual tailless specimen, a naturally occurring inhabitant from the Isle of Man; although they were also great supporters of the rare Abyssinian cat, with its uniquely ticked coat, of which Mr. Brooke states "greatly resembles the wild cat of Egypt.(Felis Chaus)."4
The Brooke's had already purchased, bred, reared and successfully shown a number of Manx cats, before acquiring 'Bonhaki' from fellow Manx breeder, Mr. Jungbluth. Their initial stud male, was 'Kater' (NCC:3252), born in June 1894, who had also been bred by Mr. Jungbluth, and from 'Kater' they had bred their own very show-worthy brown classic tabby Manx male, 'Katzenjammer' (NCC:3253), born in April, 1896.
But with his appearance in late 1897 and from his debut show as a kitten in early 1898, the silver classic tabby 'Bonhaki' was quickly assessed by those in the know, as being a standard-bearer for his breed. When he died at the tender age of only twenty-seven months in February 1900, he had already claimed five championships and a reputation that was unlikely to be matched within his own variety. As a kitten at that milestone Botanic Show of 1898, he instantly attracted the attention of the Princess of Wales, (later Queen Alexandra). 'Bonhaki' must have made quite an impression, as it is indeed noteworthy, that later, around 1903, her husband, then as His Majesty King Edward VII, set about purchasing two breeding pair of Manx cats.
Unknown Unknown | Unknown Bonhaki, Nov-1897, Silver Tabby Manx, M | Unknown Unknown Unknown
Although we are clearly informed that the breeder of 'Bonhaki' was Mr. Jungbluth, we have absolutely no information with regard to his parentage, which is listed as 'unknown'. The fact that we know he was bred by a fancier, indicates that neither of his parents were registered, but that they were part of a planned breeding program. This was not uncommon in the case of Manx, many of whom, like 'Bonhaki', were themselves registered, but without any known pedigree. In many cases, where details are recorded, the description of parents is limited to only their colour. For example, "by Black Manx, out of Black Manx". In some cases, even of the cats which were themselves registered, they were duly listed with their gender and as owned by such and such a person, but without even having their own colour or patterns recorded!
'Bonhaki' appears in the register of The National Cat Club, under registration number 3258, on page 20 of Volume 5, covering the period 1896 to 1899. His birth date is recorded as 'November, 1897 and his owner is listed as Mrs. H.C. Brooke.
As to the Brookes' widely acknowledged expertise in regard to the Manx breed, we are left in no doubt by Miss Simpson, who gives us the following anecdote, with the intention of demonstrating that she too was able to recognise a quality Manx kitten when she saw one:
"A friend of mine living in London took compassion on a little stray black kitten who came crying for food. She fed him, and repeatedly tried to find poor pussy's owner, but in vain. I was appealed to, to know what had better be done, and when I saw the little black fellow, I strongly recommended my friend to keep it and exhibit it at the next large show, as I considered he would go in and win easily. She followed my advice in the latter respect, but placed too low a figure on 'Nig,' as she declared she did not wish to go in for Manx. I warned her he would be sold, and sure enough, that clever and astute judge of cats of uncommon breeds, Mrs. H.C. Brooke, snapped him up at catalogue price; and since then he has blossomed forth into a champion, and, as 'King Clinkie' has taken highest honours whenever shown. It is only just to state that Mrs. Brooke most generously handed over some of her winnings to 'King Clinkie's' former owner."1
(Editor's note:) 'King Clinkie' was destined some time later to reside at Bishopsgate, where he supplemented Lady Marcus Beresford's breeding program for Manx cats.
As the parentage of 'Bonhaki' is unknown, there is no method whereby we may verify whether he had either full, or sire, or dam siblings.
Of 'Bonhaki's' closeness to the Standard, and subsequent success on the Show bench, we need look no further than to a description given by his very proud joint owner, Mr. H.C. Brooke, in Frances Simpson's 'The Book of The Cat' (1903) in which he relates the following:
"To illustrate the breed, I may perhaps be accused of egotism in giving a portrait of one of our own cats, but as he is dead it is less invidious than if living specimens were selected, and as they were awarded the very highest prizes by the very greatest authorities they may safely be taken as near perfection. The silver tabby 'Champion and Premier Bonhaki' was bred by Mr. Jungbluth, one of the keepers of the monkey house at the Zoo. He made his debut at the Botanic Gardens as a kitten, when he was much admired by the then Princess of Wales, and Mr. Wain awarded him the championship. This success he followed up by winning four others under various judges, and died at the early age of twenty-seven months."1
In an earlier interview with Mr. Brooke recorded in 1901, he had this to say about 'Bonhaki', and his early successes:
"My wife and I both like cats, and our notable silver tabby (the only silver Manx shown*) was a great pet with us. Then again, the 'Champion Bonhaki' won five championships and five firsts, besides specials. Queen Alexandra honoured him with a Royal pat at the N.C.C. Show at the Botanic Gardens in 1898."4
(*Editors note: 'Bonhaki' was the only silver tabby shown up until that time. Others would follow, such as Miss Florence Dresser's 'Bonhaki Jnr' and Mr. Gambier Bolton's 'Manx Silverwing').
Of his five Championships, four are recorded in the Register of The National Cat Club as: 1st, Championship, Premier and Specials, Botanic, 1898; 1st, Championship and Premier C.P.,1898; 1st, Championship and Premiership Botanic, 1899; 1st and Championship Brighton N.C.C., 1899.2
'Bonhaki' was successful as a sire, but information on his progeny is sketchy at best. However, we can find partial records for the following:
'BONHAKI JUNIOR' (aka 'Bonhaki II), Silver Tabby Manx male, born 24th July, 1899.
"The death of 'Bonhaki Junior', a Silver Tabby Manx owned by Miss Dresser, and winner of many prizes, and as far as is known, the only son of the late celebrated Champion and Premier Bonhaki."7
His wins are recorded as: 3rd, Crystal Palace 1900; 1st Botanic, 1901; 2nd, Crystal Palace 1901, 2nd Victoria Hall, 1902; and 3rd, Botanic, 1902.
'CHELSWORTH DEEMSTER', Black male Manx, born 3rd August, 1899.
'DACHSHASE', Black female Manx, born December, 1899.(Our Cats: 1900) Her name also appears as 'Dachhase' in the CCR, and as 'Dach Hase' in NCC.v6.
At the time of writing it is unclear as to whether any further progeny were produced from either 'Bonhaki' himself or his listed sons and daughter. But to date, none have been traced.
It is a sad, but true, fact that some earthly treasures are at best only loaned to us for a very short time. If we are fortunate enough to recognise them while we have them, we learn to love them and appreciate their beauty, and all the while they teach us about the seemingly limitless possibilities that are open to us. It is only when, like wisps they are gone, that we truly begin to realise the immensity of their value, and how fortunate was our experience in having them in our lives. It should teach us not to take any gift for granted and to continually reassess our opportunities.
'Bonhaki' was like a number of valuable cats, he shone like a star from the beginning, and like a meteor, he blazed a short but bright trail and was gone. In the time he was with Mr. and Mrs. Brooke, he set a new high standard for the Manx, and demonstrated that a Manx cat could hold its own in the show ring, against any other breed.
Registers associated with this article include The Incorporated Cat Fanciers Association of Great Britain (TICFAGB), National Cat Club (NCC), The Cat Club (CCR), Beresford Cat Club (BCC), Feline Federation Francaise (FFF), Siamese Cat Registry (SCR), US Register & Studbook for Cats (USR)including Supplement(USRS), The Studbook of the American Cat Association (ACA), and the Studbook & Register of the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA).
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