Bengal (cat)

Bengal (cat)

Infobox Catbreed
name = Bengal

imagecaption = Two male Bengals
country = United States
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The Bengal is a relatively new hybrid breed of cat developed to have a gentle and friendly temperament, while exhibiting the "wild" markings (such as large spots, rosettes, and a light/white belly), and body structure reminiscent of the wild Asian Leopard Cat ("Prionailurus bengalensis"). [ Bengal Cat] Animal World, Information Resource: Exotic Pets & Animals. Retrieved on: January 18 2008] In other words, a Bengal cat has a desirable "wild" appearance with a gentle domestic cat temperament, provided it is separated by at least three generations from the original crossing between a domestic and Asian Leopard Cat.

The name "Bengal" was derived from the taxonomic name of the Asian Leopard Cat (ALC), as shown above, and not from the more widely known Bengal Tiger species, which is unrelated to the Bengal's ancestry.


The world's first official cat show, held at The Crystal Palace in London on 13 July 1871, gave birth to the modern Cat Fancies. The breeds shown were the Persian, Angoras, Manx, Abyssinian, the Royal Cats of Siam, and domestic cats crossed with wild cats (hybrids). It is believed that those first displayed hybrids were based on Ocelots, not ALCs, but it shows that the first Cat Fancy happily embraced hybrids.

The earliest mention of an ALC/domestic cross was in 1934 in a Belgian scientific journal, and in 1941 a Japanese cat publication printed an article about one that was kept as a pet. (As a point of interest, Jean Mill/Sugden, the person that was later to become the greatest influence of the development of the modern Bengal, submitted a term paper for her genetics class at UC Davis on the subject of cross breeding cats in 1946.)

The 1960s was a period when many well known breeders, including Jean Sugden, produced ALC/domestic crosses, but records indicate that none of them took it past the F2 stage. Several zoos in Europe also produced a number of F1 ALC crosses. During this period there was an epidemic of feline leukemia and it became known that many wild cats seemed to have a natural immunity to the disease. As a result of this, Loyola University would start a research program in the 1970s to investigate if this natural immunity could be bred in or replicated.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s there a great deal of activity with hybrids, but there was no significant effort to create an actual breed from them. A number of Cat clubs formed that oriented on hybrids and a few oriented specifically on something William Engler, a member of the Long Island Ocelot Club and a breeder, called a Bengal.

Club newsletters detailing the production of Bengals and Safaris started being published and members of these clubs bred some second and third generation Bengals. These were registered with the American Cat Fanciers Association (A.C.F.A.) in 1977 as experimental and were shown at several A.C.F.A. cat shows throughout the 1970s.

Around this time, Jean Sugden resurfaced again (although she had remarried and was now Jean Mill), and the following quote explains her increased interest in renewing her breeding efforts.

..I deliberately crossed leopard cats with domestic cats for several important reasons. At that time, wild cats were being exploited for the fur market. Nursing female leopard cats defending their nests were shot for their pelts, and the cubs were shipped off to pet stores worldwide. Unsuspecting cat lovers bought them, unaware of the danger, their unpleasant elimination habits and the unsuitability of keeping wild cats as pets.Most of the wild kittens from this era ended up in zoos or escaped onto city streets. I hoped that by putting a leopard coat on a domestic cat, the pet trade could be safely satisfied. If fashionable women could be dissuaded from wearing furs that look like friends' pets, the diminished demand would result in less poaching of wild species.

She contacted Dr. Willard Centerwall in Riverside who had produced a number of F1s using domestic tabbies at Loma Linda University for his Centerwall project into Feline Leukemia. Once the F1s had donated blood samples for his research, he needed homes for them. He gave Jean 4 hybrids. She later received another 5 hybrids from another source, but originally from the same Centerwall project.

Contrary to popular belief, Jean did not use local domestics to create her first Bengals. She felt the ALC was a genetically superior animal and wished to avoid weakening this element. Around 1982, the Mills made a trip to India where a zoo curator showed them a feral Indian Mau. This was how the famous rosetted domestic called "Millwood Tory of Delhi" came to be found in virtually all Bengal pedigrees.

Credit also needs to be given at this point to Greg and Elizabeth Kent, who developed their own line of Bengals using ALCs and Egyptian Maus. This was a very successful line and many modern Bengals will find it in their pedigree.

Jean Mills and the Kents worked hard to popularize the breed, and when the public saw the result of their work, word spread quickly. As the number of breeders and owners grew, it led to the formation of T.I.C.A.'s Bengal Breed Section. T.I.C.A. adopted the first written breed standard in 1986 and the first Bengal Bulletin was published in Nov/Dec 1988.

Shortly after The International Bengal Cat Society (T.I.B.C.S.), the Bengal Breeders Alliance (B.B.A.) and the Authentic Bengal Cat League (A.B.C.L.) were formed. These organizations exist to promote good breeding practices, discourage unscrupulous breeders, and attempt to educate people about the Bengal breed.

The breed is now T.I.C.A.'s most popular registered breed but it is still not fully recognized by some modern cat fancies. This is somewhat ironic considering all modern Cat Fancies can trace their existence to the original show held in 1871, a show that welcomed hybrids.

New developments

*The British government agency DEFRA has proposed revising regulations under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act to remove licencing requirements for keeping of Bengal cats in the United Kingdom. [ [ Bengal cats and the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.] Defra, UK - Wildlife & Countryside]

There are currently three varieties of domestic cat being developed from the Bengal:

*The Serengeti Cat - developed from crosses with Oriental or Siamese with the aim to produce a domestic cat mimicking the appearance of an African Serval, without actually incorporating Serval genes by hybridization.
*The Toyger - developed from crosses with domestic cats with the aim to produce a striped "toy Tiger".
*The Cheetoh - an attempt to blend two existing domestic breeds of spotted cats with defined characteristics (Bengal and Ocicat), into a third.


There is a common misconception that Bengals are large cats, but they typically fall within the size range of a conventional domestic feline. Females are generally in the 7 to 10 pound range and males fall between 9 and 12 pounds. There has been the odd male that reaches 15 – 18 pounds but this is rare. They are large-boned, well-muscled cats with the male in particular being extremely muscular. Non-altered males often continue to put on muscle mass up to two years of age.Fact|date=August 2008 The face of a typical Bengal features a series of distinct horizontal stripes, popularly known as "mascara", which extend from alongside the eye to the back of the neck. The sides and top of the body are marked with spots, usually rosetted like those of the jaguar. The remainder of the body - including the legs and tail - consists of symmetrical stripes.Bengals can have either spotted or marbled coat patterns. Spots with at least two colors present (rosettes) are particularly desirable. The following colors and patterns are recognized and eligible for competition: Brown Spotted Tabby, Brown Marbled Tabby, Seal Sepia Spotted Tabby, Seal Sepia Marbled Tabby, Seal Mink Spotted Tabby, Seal Mink Marbled Tabby, Seal Spotted Lynx Point and Seal Marbled Lynx Point. Silver was also recently accepted as a color variation eligible for championship status. Blue and Melanistic (black) are additional colors that occur, but are not yet recognized by most associations that accept the Bengal breed.

Bengal cats are the only breed of cat which displays the gold or pearl dusting effect usually called glitter. Its pelt has a rich smooth satin or silk feel. Even the voice of the Bengal is different from that of other domestic cats. Males and females are extremely vocal. Life expectancy is 12 to 16 years.


Bengal cats are a hybrid breed developed over several generations through a program of selectively crossbreeding domestic cats, possessing desired features, with Asian Leopard Cats and ALC hybrids. In the first three generations, males are almost always infertile (by Haldane's rule), though there have been the occasional, but rare F3 studs capable of reproduction. Early generation females are typically fertile, and responsible for continuing the genetic contributions of the ALC to the next generation.

The modern SBT Bengal gene pool contains genes sourced from many varieties of domestic cats - mainly Egyptian Maus, American Shorthair, Abyssinian, Ocicat, and domestic shorthaired cats. It is commonly accepted that the breed was developed by Jean Mill of California in the 1970s; today, Bengal breeders exist throughout the world. Many breeders are presently working to develop specific characteristics in the breed, often by backcrossing foundation cats with particularly vivid markings. The ALC comprises several subspecies, and consequently, they can have considerable variations in their appearance.

The first three filial generations (F1 - F3) of these hybrid animals are referred to as the "foundation" generations. A Bengal cat with an ALC parent is called an F1 Bengal, short for first filial. An F1 then bred with a domestic male yields an F2, or second filial. Kittens from an F2 female and another domestic cat are then termed F3. Kittens from a subsequent F3 mating with a domestic are F4s. The F4 and later generations are considered domestic cats, are designated as Stud Book Tradition (SBT) Bengals, and can be shown and registered. Any SBT Bengal is at least four generations removed from the ALC. Founders (F1-F3) are typically reserved for breeding purposes or the specialty pet home environment.

ee also

*Leopard Cat


External links

* [ The International Bengal Cat Society]
* [ Picture Chart of Bengal Colors & Patterns]
* [ Bengal Genetics]
* [ WildExpressions - Detailed history of the Bengal]
* [ History of the Bengal]
* [ Messybeast - History of hybrids]

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