Bengal domestic cats trace back to experimental crosses between common domestic cats and the Asian Leopard Cat (ALC), felis bengalensis (from which the name “Bengal” derives). Often sold in pet stores in the early 20th century, these beautiful leopard-cat kittens looked like tiny leopards but grew into untouchable, non-tamable cats unsuitable as pets. In the early 1960’s, Jean Mill owned a female ALC and gave her a solid black, domestic male as a companion. To everyone’s surprise, the two produced a tiny, hybrid kitten which a year later produced a second-generation hybrid. This line died out, but encouraged by the success, and dreaming of a tiny domestic leopard breed, in 1980 Jean Mill obtained several
first-generation kittens from Dr. Willard Centerwall at Loma Linda University who had hybridized the two species in his studies of apparent leukemia protection enjoyed by the ALC. Two of these female hybrids, Praline and Pennybank, became the first foundation cats in early Bengal history. The newly formed, genetics oriented International Cat Association (TICA) welcomed Bengals into their registry, and into their New Breed classes at gigantic INCAT shows all over the country. Exhibitors and visitors crowded around Jean Mill’s cages to delight in viewing this stunning new breed. TICA judges were fascinated by the genetic possibilities of working with heretofore unknown gene components.
The genetics was indeed challenging! Early domestic partners of the original ALC males were of unknown heritage and brought a wide range of recessive genes to the crosses, such as long hair, dilute colors, solids, colour point pattern, and the classic tabby pattern. But when the latter met with the leopard spots, the result was a dramatic “smearing” of the spots into odd, startling patterns of black, rust, and light tan combinations. Kittens looked like richly colored Easter eggs! And each kitten was unique! They were called “marbles”, were included in the Bengal registry, and were given their own classes at the shows. One of the early genetic contributors to the new breed was a young domestic male from New Delhi, India (Millwood Tory of Delhi), who brought gorgeous emerald green eyes, a spotted coat without stripes, glistening, thick fur (now called “glittered pelt”), and a “hot” orange colour. These characteristics were unknown in the American cat gene pool before that. Early Bengals were carefully bred for sweet temperaments and also exhibited intelligence and unique behaviors tracing back to the wild ancestor.
The possibility of developing a friendly, people-oriented, domestic cat, uniquely beautiful and leopard-like, inspired and challenged creative breeders world-wide to join the effort. Bengals are still very much “under construction” and still offer the challenge of adding spectacular beauty to the world.
A Living Masterpiece With A Wild Heritage
Imagine having a beautiful rosetted and luxuriously coated leopard cat with a loving
personality in a size that is practical for your lap and living room! A cat with the loving, dependable temperament of the domestic cat and the physical features distinctive to a small born free jungle creature. The Bengal cat visibly appears different from other domestic cats. Alert to its surroundings; very loving and friendly, curious, and a very muscular and solid build. A wide nose with prominent whisker pads and large oval, almost round eyes in a slightly small head give the Bengal a wild appearance and expressive nocturnal look. Relatively short ears with wide base and rounded tips add to its distinctive and unique appearance. The coat area is one of the most distinguishing features of the Bengal cat. It is short and dense, displaying either a randomly spotted or marbled pattern, and has a uniquely soft and silky feel. Its thick, low-set, medium-length tail adds balance and a wild look to the cat’s appearance.
The original foundation cats used to develop the domestic Bengal were created by crossing Asian Leopard Cats with domestic cats. The Asian Leopard Cat is a very small species, timid and non-threatening by nature, with genetic similarity to domestic cats. After four generations of domestic breeding, a breed of cat is developed that has the temperament of the nicest of house cats, and a stunningly beautiful coat.
Purrsonality and Temperament
The temperament of this remarkable cat is unique and incredibly captivating. Bengal
kittens present themselves as very self confident, outgoing, intelligent, loving and quick to learn. They bond well with humans of all ages and a wide variety of family pets, such as cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets (seemingly, anything that is friendly and will play with them). Easily amused, they consider anything and everything a potential toy. Most will instinctively do such things as play fetch, hide and seek, and entertain themselves playing some form of soccer with an endless variety of items, such as, your favorite pen, pencils, straws and anything they can carry from place to place. Essentially, they think of their world as a big playground. Favourite TV programs are sports, such as football or golf, which provide a ball to chase on the screen. Bengals claim the best seats in the house and the most comfortable place on your bed. Friendly and ready to show off, they will greet guests at the door. With proper discipline (e.g., water pistols and oral commands), they are quick learners and soon
know the parameters of their living environment. Be warned, however, … if allowed, they will train their people when and how to feed them, to turn water on at the faucets when thirsty, and move over in the shower to allow them to have “their” rightful share of space.
Cave Spring, Georgia