The Bombay resembles a miniature black leopard, with a glossy jet-black coat and brilliant copper eyes, combining the body style and personality of the Burmese with the solid coloration of the black American Shorthair. This well-balanced breed is medium in size, muscular in development, and moderate in body style. The Bombay has surprising weight for its size. The legs are in proportion to the body and the tail, which is straight, medium in length, and neither short nor whippy. Adult males weigh 8 to 11 pounds; adult females weigh 6 to 9 pounds.
The head is pleasingly rounded with no sharp angles. The face is full with considerable breadth between the eyes, blending gently into a broad, well-developed, moderately rounded muzzle that maintains the rounded contours of the head but doesn’t have a snubbed look. In profile, there’s a visible moderate stop. The eyes are set far apart and have a rounded aperture. The medium-sized, alert ears tilt slightly forward and are set well apart on the rounded skull. They’re broad at the base and have slightly rounded tips.
The Bombay comes in one color: black to the roots. The lustrous, close-lying coat is fine, short, and satin-like in texture, and has a shimmering patent leather sheen. The nose leather and paw pads are also black. The eye color ranges from gold to copper—the greater the depth and brilliance, the better. Allowable outcross breeds are generally black American Shorthairs and sable Burmese. In TICA, the Bombay is part of the Burmese breed group; the ASH is not an accepted outcross.
The Bombay is a human-made hybrid, the inspiration of the late Nikki Horner, who wanted to leave a living legacy in fur when she went to meet her champion show cats at the Rainbow Bridge. A breeder and exhibitor since the age of 16, Horner bred American Shorthairs, Burmese, Exotics, Himalayans, Persians and Siamese over her long, successful career in the cat fancy.
But Horner decided she wanted a greater challenge—to create her own breed. Looking at the sable Burmese and the black American Shorthair (she was breeding both at the time), she imagined a Burmese with a sleek black coat and snapping copper eyes—sort of a mini-panther.
Her first attempt to breed her dream cat in 1958 was a disappointment. The kittens of those first litters, the product of crosses between non-pedigreed black domestic shorthairs and sable Burmese, were all black, since the black is dominant over the sable color of the Burmese. However, the overall look didn’t match Horner’s master plan. The kittens looked more like poor American Shorthairs than like black Burmese. Their coats were too long, their eye color wasn’t bright, and their body type, Homer noted, was "big and horsey."
In 1965, she decided to give her mini-panther another try. This time, she chose her breeding stock more carefully, using a good-quality black American Shorthair female and one of her best sable Burmese males. Between 1966 and 1972, Horner bred 27 litters, eventually achieving the look she wanted—a breed with the body type and short, polished coat of the Burmese and the American’s copper-colored eyes and black coat.
Horner’s success in the show ring with recognized breeds didn’t ensure success for her creation. Burmese breeders wanted nothing to do with the Bombay, and Horner had trouble finding breeders and fanciers who were interested in breeding and exhibiting her cats. Most wanted to wait until the breed was recognized before buying one, and without the support of other breeders, recognition would never come.
Finally, Horner gathered enough Bombay breeders to qualify for CFA registration, which CFA granted in 1970. Meeting the requirements for provisional show status took until 1974, since Horner had to recruit additional breeders, create a breed club, and register at least 100 examples of the breed. Finally, the Bombay achieved championship status in 1976. Most of the other associations in existence at that time accepted the Bombay by 1980.
Acceptance didn’t mean popularity, however. At first, the cat fancy was generally unimpressed with the Bombay. Breeders Herb and Suzanne Zwecker were instrumental in bringing the Bombay some of the respect it deserved. They started over with fresh stock, since they thought the original lines were too inbred, and bred a non-pedigreed black domestic shorthair male to one of their sable Burmese females. In due time they produced the breakthrough cat for the breed—Road to Fame’s Luv It Black, a Bombay who was named CFA’s Second Best Cat and Best Shorthair in 1985. While still a rare breed (in 2014, the Bombay ranked 35th out of the 41 breeds CFA recognizes for championship, according to the registration totals), the Bombay has won over the opposition and gained acceptance with all North American cat associations.