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Bengal Cat Origins
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BENGAL CAT ORIGINS
The Bengal cat was originally christened the "leopardette" and
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 program to develop the new breed.
In the late 70's Dr. Willard Centerwall, a geneticist working at the
University of California, began a breeding program that involved crossing
Leopard Cats with short-haired domestic cats as part of a study of feline
leukemia. Mrs. Jean Mill, also a geneticist, 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 worked on the Bengal breed. 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 achieved National
Championship status in 1990-91.
EXPENSIVE: By 1989 there were estimated to be about 200 Bengal cats in
existence. According to the Cat World Encyclopedia by Morris, in the early
1990's some were imported into Britain, where their value was put at 2,500 lbs,
or about 3,750 dollars each, making them the most expensive domestic cats in the
country at that time. One British owner who spent about 150,000 dollars
assembling his family of Bengals, claimed to have refused an offer of 18,000 for
one particular animal.
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.
VOICE: Their vocalizations differ from the ordinary domestic cat, containing
several "wild" elements. An odd raspy noise is unique to the
Bengal. When given a treat or toy, you will think you are at the Zoo with
their growling. The growling doesn't mean they will harm you. I have one
unusually "growley" female I have held as long as an hour to see if
she would quit. Sheba finally fell asleep in my arms, but she never scratched or
HEALTH: the health of the Bengal cats is excellent! No other breed has
as healthy cats as the Bengal breed. The wild blood in the Bengal likely
has given the Bengal cat his good health.
Patterns: Spotted and Marble. All Bengals should show a well defined color
pattern by the time they are four weeks old. The belly must be spotted. Clear
colors and sharp contrast are desirable.
Seal Lynx Point
SIZE: Bengals are A large cat, with the females weighing 7-10 lb, and
the males as much as 18 lb. It has a powerful, muscular body with high
hindquarters, 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. It
must have at least 3 rings, however, to be classified as a Bengal. .