Cats, Roosters and Hemingway in Key West

Key West is an island of lore. Hemingway, six toed cats and wild roosters. An unusual combination? Perhaps. But think about it:


Key West

Six toed cat at Hemingway’s House in Key West

Key west is famous for the six toes cats that roam the Hemingway House grounds. They are all descended from the original Snow White, which was given to Hemingway by a sea captain, Stanley Dexter. About half the cats at the Hemingway House are polydactyl (with an extra digit, most likely the front paws). This particular fellow was exceptionally friendly.


Roosters (or more accurately Cubalaya Chickens)

Key West roosters

Red topped Cubalaya rooster, Key West

Rosters roam freely through out Key West.

I was curious how this came to be, so I did a bit of research. The Cubalya chicken was originally bred in Cuba. They were a cross of a variety of Spanish Filipino Fowls often used for cock fighting.

As Cubans immigrated to Key West, the roosters came as well. In the 1970’s cock fighting was made illegal. This plus chicken owners moving on or off the island led to numerous birds being set free. Forties years of breeding, and voila! Roosters roam at will in Key West!


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Earnest Hemingway Credit: Wikipedia


Ernest Hemingway is the glue that ties these disparate topics together. His love of his 6 toed cats brings people to his home on Key West, where, en route, one meets the roaming roosters.

Hemingway’s love of casts well known and should you visit the Hemingway Home in Key West, you’ll see how easy it is to love these polydactyl creatures.


This gallery has a number of architectural, landscape and food pictures too! Enjoy!

If you go:

And should you be curious for a bit more information:

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

A wonderful novel of Hemingways early days as an up and coming writerin Paris. One of my favorite recent reads.

From Amazon:

“A beautiful portrait of being in Paris in the glittering 1920s—as a wife and as one’s own woman.”—Entertainment Weekly
A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures the love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald…
A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY People • Chicago Tribune • NPR • The Philadelphia Inquirer • Kirkus Reviews • The Toronto Sun • BookPage

Hemingway’s Cats
From Amazon:

Ernest Hemingway always had cats as companions, from the ones he adored as a child in Illinois and Michigan, to the more than 30 he had as an adult in Paris, Key West, Cuba, and Idaho. All are chronicled and most are pictured here, along with revelations of how they fit into the many twists and turns of his life and loves. In 1943 Ernest Hemingway, living in the Finca in Cuba with his third wife and eleven cats, wrote to his first wife:

“One cat just leads to another… The place is so damned big it doesn’t really seem as though there were many cats until you see them all moving like a mass migration at feeding time.”


To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway

From Amazon:

To Have and Have Not is the dramatic, brutal story of Harry Morgan,an honest boast owner who is forced into running contraband between Cuba and Key West as a means of keeping his crumbling family financially afloat. His adventures lead him into the world of the wealthy and dissipated yachtsmen who swarm the region, and involve him in a strange and unlikely love affair.

Played, of course, by Lauren Bacall in the movie version:


More On Florida:

Weekend in Ft. Lauderdale
11 Things To Do In St. Augustine
Little Havana, Miami
The Sanderlings of Florida
Cats, Roosters and Hemingway In Key West
St. Augustine
Traveling the Timeline of Now
A Cuban Inspired Culinary Tour in Miami’s Little Havana

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Key West

Cats, Roosters and Hemingway in Key West


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