# Cage (graph theory)

In the mathematical area of graph theory, a cage is a regular graph that has as few vertices as possible for its girth.

Formally, an (r,g)-graph is defined to be a graph in which each vertex has exactly r neighbors, and in which the shortest cycle has length exactly g. It is known that an (r,g)-graph exists for any combination of r ≥ 2 and g ≥ 3. An (r,g)-cage is an (r,g)-graph with the fewest possible number of vertices, among all (r,g)-graphs.

If a Moore graph exists with degree r and girth g, it must be a cage. Moreover, the bounds on the sizes of Moore graphs generalize to cages: any cage with odd girth g must have at least

${\displaystyle 1+r\sum _{i=0}^{(g-3)/2}(r-1)^{i}}$

vertices, and any cage with even girth g must have at least

${\displaystyle 2\sum _{i=0}^{(g-2)/2}(r-1)^{i}}$

vertices. Any (r,g)-graph with exactly this many vertices is by definition a Moore graph and therefore automatically a cage.

There may exist multiple cages for a given combination of r and g. For instance there are three nonisomorphic (3,10)-cages, each with 70 vertices : the Balaban 10-cage, the Harries graph and the Harries–Wong graph. But there is only one (3,11)-cage : the Balaban 11-cage (with 112 vertices).

## Known cages

A degree-one graph has no cycle, and a connected degree-two graph has girth equal to its number of vertices, so cages are only of interest for r ≥ 3. The (r,3)-cage is a complete graph Kr+1 on r+1 vertices, and the (r,4)-cage is a complete bipartite graph Kr,r on 2r vertices.

Other notable cages include the Moore graphs:

The numbers of vertices in the known (r,g) cages, for values of r > 2 and g > 2, other than projective planes and generalized polygons, are:

g
r
3456789101112
3 46101424305870112126
4 5819266780728
5 61030421702730
6 71240623127812
7 8145090

## Asymptotics

For large values of g, the Moore bound implies that the number n of vertices must grow at least singly exponentially as a function of g. Equivalently, g can be at most proportional to the logarithm of n. More precisely,

${\displaystyle g\leq 2\log _{r-1}n+O(1).}$

It is believed that this bound is tight or close to tight (Bollobás & Szemerédi 2002). The best known lower bounds on g are also logarithmic, but with a smaller constant factor (implying that n grows singly exponentially but at a higher rate than the Moore bound). Specifically, the Ramanujan graphs (Lubotzky, Phillips & Sarnak 1988) satisfy the bound

${\displaystyle g\geq {\frac {4}{3}}\log _{r-1}n+O(1).}$

This bound was improved slightly by Lazebnik, Ustimenko & Woldar (1995).

It is unlikely that these graphs are themselves cages, but their existence gives an upper bound to the number of vertices needed in a cage.

## References

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• Bollobás, Béla; Szemerédi, Endre (2002), "Girth of sparse graphs", Journal of Graph Theory, 39 (3): 194–200, doi:10.1002/jgt.10023, MR 1883596.
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• Erdős, Paul; Rényi, Alfréd; Sós, Vera T. (1966), "On a problem of graph theory" (PDF), Studia Sci. Math. Hungar., 1: 215–235, archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-09, retrieved 2010-02-23.
• Hartsfield, Nora; Ringel, Gerhard (1990), Pearls in Graph Theory: A Comprehensive Introduction, Academic Press, pp. 77–81, ISBN 0-12-328552-6.
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• Lazebnik, F.; Ustimenko, V. A.; Woldar, A. J. (1995), "A new series of dense graphs of high girth", Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, New Series, 32 (1): 73–79, arXiv:math/9501231, doi:10.1090/S0273-0979-1995-00569-0, MR 1284775.
• Lubotzky, A.; Phillips, R.; Sarnak, P. (1988), "Ramanujan graphs", Combinatorica, 8 (3): 261–277, doi:10.1007/BF02126799, MR 0963118.
• Tutte, W. T. (1947), "A family of cubical graphs", Proc. Cambridge Philos. Soc., 43 (4): 459–474, Bibcode:1947PCPS...43..459T, doi:10.1017/S0305004100023720.