The Origin of Bengals

By on 5-18-2012 in Uncategorized

The Origin of Bengals

Today we learn how the Bengal cat breed began. I have a Bengal mix (seems crossed with some Siamese or Oriental), and another that already crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Bengals are strikingly beautiful — I know, they’re cats, duh! — but they’re way more than exotic good looks. They have an interesting, albeit very short and recent, history. If you want a cat that has wild characteristics but can reside within your domestic kitty family, the Bengal may be for you.

Bengal cat yawn

Bengal cat yawn (Photo credit: aaipodpics)

According to Petwave:

The Bengal is a relatively new companion breed. It was created by crossing a domestic cat with a wild Asian Leopard Cat, with the goal being to transfer the wild cat’s exotic markings to a new, tame domestic breed. Today’s Bengals are long, sleek and muscular cats of medium size. They come in a number of different coat colors and patterns. All Bengals have spots, marbling and/or swirls, and many look remarkably like a tiny wild leopard.

Something a bit…well…gross is that attempts at the breed started with incest:

The first outcross behind the Bengal occurred in 1963. It was orchestrated by an American geneticist named Jean Mill-Sugden. She crossed a domestic male with a wild female Asian Leopard Cat – a breed that was and remains indigenous to southeastern Asia. The mating produced only one kitten – a female named “Kinkin” – who ended up being fostered by the mother of a purely domestic litter. Kinkin eventually was bred back to her father, producing several spotted offspring.

However, a successful and consistently reproducing pure Bengal breed was not established in America until the 1980’s. In 1981, Ms. Mill-Sugden and another geneticist, Dr. Willard Centerwall, began a serious breeding program to develop the domestic Bengal breed. Crossing domestic cats with wild cats was and still is controversial. Acceptance of the Bengal required its breeders to breed out most of its wild tendencies and develop a cat that reliably reproduced in terms of temperament and type. The first generation, or F1, cats produced from one wild and one domestic parent were often unpredictable and inconsistent in physique. However, thoughtful, well-planned crosses, re-crosses and outcrosses eventually created a breed unique among domestic cats. That is today’s Bengal.

A breed standard for the Bengal was published in 1988. Today, this breed has a large number of enthusiasts and devotees around the world, although it has not yet been officially recognized by the American Cat Fanciers’ Association.

There you have it — it’s a wild cat but not completely.

English: Pet Bengal cat, Stella, showing spott...

English: Pet Bengal cat, Stella, showing spotting patterns and rosetting of spots typical of the Bengal breed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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