Colour: Leopard; Marble; Snow Leopard; Snow Marble; Sorrel (= Golden); Mink.
Bengal cats are intelligent, agile, alert, active, athletic, cunning, curious, busy, powerful, determined, outgoing, social, loving, affectionate, confident and independent. They are fond of water and have been known to jump into bathtubs to join their owners. They also love climbing and indulge in endless bouts of play-hunting.
Domestic Breed: Originally christened the 'Leopardette' and also referred to by some authors as the 'Bengali'. It originated from a cross between a wild Asian Leopard Cat (Felis bengalensis) and a domestic cat. It is therefore a hybrid cat, and one would expect all the offspring to be infertile. Surprisingly, although the first male offspring did prove to be infertile, the females did not, and it was possible to use them in a planned breeding programme to develop the new breed.
Appearance: A large cat for a domestic breed, with the females weighing ten to twelve pounds and the males as much as twenty-two pounds ( = 10 kgs). It has a powerful, muscular body with high hind quarters, large feet and a characteristically spotted coat. Even the belly is spotted. The black spots are usually solid, but occasionally they appear as dark rosettes. The tail-tip is black. The main difference between the coat of the wild cat and this new domestic hybrid is found on the ear and the tail. The ear of the domestic animal lacks the vivid white patch ringed with black that is seen in the wild ancestor, and the domestic tail lacks the wild cat spotting.
History: It is believed that, over the centuries, there have been many matings between wild Leopard Cats in tropical Asia and the domestic cats taken to that region. But none of these hybrids were ever kept and developed as a special breed. Then, in 1963, an American geneticist, Mrs Jean Sugden, of Yuma, Arizona, crossed a female Leopard Cat which she had obtained from a pet shop in the late 1950s, with a black shorthaired domestic male. A female offspring from this mating, called Kinkin, was then bred back to its wild father and this resulted in some plain and some spotted offspring. This could have been the start of a new, spotted breed, but the project was abandoned when Mrs Sugden was widowed.
Then, in the late 1970s, Dr Willard Centerwall, a geneticist working at the University of California, began a breeding programme that involved crossing Leopard Cats with shorthaired domestic cats as part of a study of feline leukemia. Jean Sudgen, now Mrs Jean Mill following her re-marriage, and living in Covina, near Los Angeles, acquired eight female hybrids from Dr Centerwall in 1981 and used these as the foundation stock for a new Bengal Cat project. As before, it was her aim to combine the markings of a wild Leopard Cat with the friendly temperament of a tame domestic cat. The female hybrids were mated with a red feral domestic cat that had been found living rough in the rhinoceros enclosure of Delhi Zoo, and a brown spotted tabby found in a Los Angeles cat shelter. From these unlikely beginnings, the new breed of domesticated Bengal Cats was developed.
Several other American breeders were also active, and one in particular, Dr Gregg Kent, was successful in producing crosses between a male Leopard Cat and a female Egyptian Mau. Other domestic breeds used from time to time include the Ocicat, the Abyssinian, the Bombay and the British Shorthair.
In 1983 TICA accepted the domesticated Bengal Cat for registration as a new breed and it was first exhibited at cat shows in 1984-85. It achieved National Championship status in 1990-91.
By 1989 there were estimated to be about 200 Bengal Cats in existence. In the early 1990s some were imported into Britain, where their value was put at £2500 each, making them the most expensive domestic cats in the country at that time. (One British owner, who spent £100,000 assembling his family of Bengals, claimed to have refused an offer of £12,000 for one particular animal). Since then, with increased interest and further breeding, the numbers have risen dramatically and the initial high values have fallen. There are now thought to be as many as 500 in Britain and, according to a TICA estimate in 1995, there are at least 9,000 domestic Bengal Cats registered with cat clubs worldwide today.
Personality: Terms used to describe this breed include: intelligent, agile, alert, active, athletic, cunning, curious, busy, powerful, determined, outgoing, social, loving, affectionate, confident and independent. They are fond of water and have been known to jump into bathtubs to join their owners. They also love climbing and indulge in endless bouts of play-hunting. Their vocalizations differ from the ordinary domestic cat, containing several 'wild' elements.
Colour forms: Leopard; Marble; Snow Leopard; Snow Marble; Sorrel (= Golden); Mink.
1991. Johnson, G. Getting to Know the Bengal Cat. Gogees Cattery, Greenwell Springs, Los Angeles.
1995. Rice, D. Bengal Cats. A Complete Pet Owner's Guide. Barron's, Hauppauge, New York.
1995. Edwards, A. The Bengal Cat. in: All About Cats. December 1995. p.17-23.
Mill, J. History of the Bengal Cat. Wildom Quarterly.
Maggitti, P. The Bengal. Cats Magazine.
Several breed clubs already exist for the Bengal Cat, including:
Bengal Breeders Alliance. Address: P.O.Box 6028, Great Falls, MT 59406, USA. or P.O.Box 2387, Park City, UT 84060, USA.
Bengal Cat Club. Address: Dovecote House, 1 Thornton Avenue, Warsash, Southampton, Hampshire, SO31 9FL, England.
Bengal Cat Club of Great Britain. Address: 15 Princes Road, Dartford, Kent, DAB 3HJ, England.
Ocicat and Bengal Cat Cub. Address: The Braes, 160 Hermitage Road, Woking, Surrey, England.
International Bengal Cat Society (TIBCS). Address: PO Box 403, Powell, Ohio, 43065-0403, USA; or 19726 E.Colimar R., Box 123, Rowlands Height, California 91748, USA. (The TIBCS publishes a bi-monthly newsletter, the Bengal Bulletin).
Authentic Bengal Cat Club (ABC). Address: PO Box 1653, Roseburg, Oregon 97470, USA. (The ABC also publishes a bi-monthly newsletter))
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