Have you ever wondered why so many different looking cats are still called tabbies?
There are several varieties of Tabbies, but the most common form is the classic or blotched tabby with clearly defined broad stripes on a lighter, greyish agouti ground. In cat show, classic tabby judges look for evenly spread bars on the legs and rings on the tail. The stripes on the neck and upper chest form necklaces and lines run over the back of the head to meet the shoulder markings. On each of the cat's side, there should be a 'bull's-eye' consisting of one or more rings enclosing a light patch. As in all tabbies, the frown marks on the forehead should form a distinct 'M' shape.
In mackerel tabbies, the markings are narrower. They extend down the spine, where they are met with vertical stripes running down the sides of the body. As in the classic tabby, the bands of color on the legs should be evenly spaced and meet body markings with 'necklaces' at the neck and chest and a barrel tail.
In the spotted tabby the mackerel stripes or broken up into areas reminiscent of spotted wildcat species such as the lynx and the pampas cat. The spots a very difficult to maintain inbreeding and kittens often show the mackerel stripes or a mixture of spots and stripes. Ideally, the spot should be around an evenly distributed, but in most spotted yabbies they are of varying shape, size, and spacing.
The ticked tabby, also called the Abyssinian tabby (but not exclusive to that breed) has an on over agouti coat but with tabby markings on the face and sometimes also on the legs and tail. The body hairs are flecked with the ground and marking colors.
The basic color of the markings of all tabbies is black the B gene being present in the genotype, but this is, by convention, always called brown and the term 'black-tabby' is never used. Black can be modified by dilution genes to blue, chocolate brown, cinnamon and lilac (lavender). The orange gene O is responsible for red and cream tabbies.
The Jaguarundi of South America is believed to be the least cat-like of cats. It is otter-like in shape and very good at swimming and climbing. This breed lives in the rainforest.
(Excerpts from "The Encyclopedia of the Cat")
I paint portraits of many tabby cats and have always wondered why the darker ones are still called tabbies. After doing some reading I figured I share my findings with you as well.