The dream of owning a wild cat with a domestic disposition is a dream as old as time. Very few people have been able to successfully tame wild cats, and even fewer to keep them as pets.
Enter, Jean Mill. Jean began to create the Bengals of today in the 1970's. Her breeding programme began with Asian Leopard Cat (ALC from herein) cross domestic cat matings. Why the ALC? Because research into their apparent immunity to Feline Leukaemia was being carried out extensively in the USA. As part of the tests, The ALC was bred with domestic cats. The kittens from the resulting litters were to become Jean's foundation cats and the ones from which her programme began.
The generations of bengals are measured in "F" numbers.
An F1, the parent is an ALC
An F2, a grandparent is an ALC
An F3, a great grandparent is an ALC
An F4, a great great grandparent is an ALC.
Any cats which rank lower than F4 are NOT Bengals. They are foundation Bengal Variants.
Males within the first two generations are infertile. Thus calling for further out crossing (most of which is done using American Shorthairs and Egyptian Maus). Female fertility can also be unpredictable in the low generations.
But, with a great many thanks, breeders in the US persued their dreams and created the cats which we now call Bengals. A domestic cat which has inherited it's unique pelt texture and wild appearance from the ALC.
However, the higher generations have their own quirks and have a rather distinctive meow. They are inquisitive and active cats and love affection. They are excellent with other pets and they have reliable temperaments. Only F4's and above can be shown in the UK with the GCCF.
If what you are looking for is a wild cat or a mini leopard, then the Bengal is not for you.
COAT PATTERNS AND COLOURS
Possibly, the more favoured of the coat patterns. This is the most striking of patterns and the ones with the most resemblance of the ALC. The colour of the spots can range from a muted brown to a black. The undertone/background of the pelt should be as contrasted to the spots as possible (i.e. light brown background with black spots). The spots should be randomly distributed throughout the pelt. Stripes can occur in bengals - this is not desired. Stripes do naturally appear on the legs, face, neck and shoulders but should not be on the body. If you want a cat with stripes like a Tiger then we recommend the purchase of a Toyger.
Rosettes are what many breeders are now aiming for. Rosettes are spots which are outlined with a darker colour (i.e. a brown spot with a black outline), reminiscent of the leopard. These rosettes also help make the Bengal look that little bit wilder and more exotic. Lighter or white coloured bellies with spots should also be aimed for in any breeding programme.
The markings of snow bengals are much more muted and subtle than that of the brown and silver.
Embrionic Rosettes : the Arrowhead Rosettes: the Doughnut Rosettes :
markings show signs of markings are shaped like the markings are another present colour. arrows and point to the completely surrounded
end of the body by a dark outline
As mentioned before, Bengals are based on ALC cross domestic matings. With the introduction of a tabby gene, the marbled bengal was created - so called due to its resemblance of marble. Marbles must still have spotted bellies and can have rosettes on their hindquarters and shoulders. Many people believe that the marble plays an important role in the formation of rosettes. The markings of the marble should be as unlike the classic tabby pattern (eg. British Shorthair) as possible.
As with the spotted pattern, snow bengals are much more muted and subtle than the other colours.
The most popular of the colours can range from an off-yellow to a dark brown. The spots or marble, as mentioned, ranging from a muted brown to a black with the contrast between the two being as defined as possible. It is possible for the pelt of a Bengal to take up to a year to fully develop in colour.
The snow colour can range from white to an almost silver. Seal Lynx and Mink snow bengals can often look closer to silver than white but DO NOT carry the silver gene so are therfore snow. Snows are registered under two types, the Blue Eyed Snow and the Any Other Colour eyed Snow (AOC). The Blue eyed snows tend to have lighter markings whereas the AOC's can have more of a contrast of markings.
A colour that is strongly believed to occur naturally due to the early outcorsses to Egyptian Maus and American shorthairs. Many Silver Bengals have come from much later outcrossing to the British Shorthairs, Maus etc and although these are perfectly acceptable, they are not TRUE silver Bengals. There are, in fact, very few true silvers around. The silver gene is one that is dominant. Basically, if the cat is not silver, then it cannot ever produce a silver. It is not a gene which can be carried, like the snow or brown. However Silvers can carry the brown gene, so a silver to silver could produce some browns. Silver Bengals cannot be registered with the GCCF.
This colour is becoming a little more popular with keen enthusiasts, however they are not recognised by the GCCF. The blue Bengal is more of a grey and like the snow, the markings and contrast can be more muted and subtle.
A colour which ocurrs naturally due to the recssive non agouti gene. It happens in the wild, the most common being the black leopard. Although they have no markings they are undeniably Bengal - see "type" below. The first Bengal ever bred was black.
TICKING AND TIPPING
These must not be confused with glittering and are considered as a fault in the breed. They do not detract any aesthetics for pets but should not be used in a breeding programme. Ticking is the term used when individual hairs develop a white band. Tipping is where the hairs develop a white tip. Neither of these can be outgrown and do not fade.
Glittering is the name given when the individual hairs of the cat have a translucent coating. This causes the background colour of the cat to be reflected up the hair - in the fashion of a fibre optic - and cause a glittered effect. Again this aids in the wild and exotic appearance. Snows can also be glittered, which can create a very striking look known as pearl dusting.
Most kittens go through their "fuzzy" stage. This is a method of natural defence that they inherit from their ALC ancestors. Fuzzies are, well ... fuzzy little grey hairs which detract from the outline/markings of the kitten. This is normally gone by 3-6 months of age.
“Type” in the Bengal
You will often hear breeders and judges proclaim a Bengal has good type. But what does this mean? Generally, type is what makes a breed a breed, what makes it stand out from other breeds. In the Bengal, you could be forgiven for thinking we are talking about markings but we are actually talking about shape, structure and conformation to the standard. Whilst breeders are constantly striving for markings – which are also hugely important to the breed – they should not forget that the Bengal, were it without it’s striking markings, should still look like a Bengal. This is one of the many reasons I believe melanistic Bengals should be given more appreciation, they epitomise type as they have no markings yet are undeniably Bengal. How do you assess or define type? Basically, learn the standard and note the particular traits which add up to making the breed what it is and how it differs from other breeds. In the Bengal these include, the smaller rounded ears; the head being well rounded with ears set wide; the puffy nose leather and pronounced whisker pads; the body which is to be long and sleek yet robust; the slightly higher hindquarters; the thick tail with rounded tip; the strong muscular medium length legs and the dense luxurious coat with glitter giving sheen – a trait unique to the Bengal, inherited from its wild ancestors, and can be found in melanistics. All that should build a picture in your mind of the Bengal and like a potter with a perfect model, it can now be painted. The markings in the Bengal are of great importance and something breeders strive to improve all the time. However it is not markings alone which make our breed stand out. Would you buy a Faberge if it was made from shell?