The Bengal cat is a relatively new (started in earnest in the mid-1980's), exotic breed of domestic cat originally created by the breeding of the small, wild Asian Leopard Cat to a domestic cat such as the Abyssinan, American Shorthair, Burmese, or Egyptian Mau. The Bengal breed allows those of us who love and admire wild cats to live with and enjoy their beauty and uniqueness in our own homes, while also benefiting from the domestic Bengal's loving, friendly, playful disposition.
Bengals must be four or more generations removed from their wild Asian Leopard Cat ancestor, and have three consecutive generations of Bengal to Bengal breeding in order to be eligible to be shown in T.I.C.A. (registration paperwork will reflect "SBT" in the registration number, which means the cat has "studbook status".) Currently, SBT Bengals can be shown in T.I.C.A., U.F.O., A.C.F.A., I.C.E. and a few other Cat Associations, some for Championship Titles. The early generation Bengals, which we refer to as "Foundation or Filial Bengals", such as F-1, F-2 or F-3 (one, two or three generations, respectively, removed from the Asian Leopard Cat) are best left to specialized breeders or properly prepared and informed owners who are equipped to take care of them. F-4's and beyond, or SBT's, are the true domestic Bengal. They usually make the best pets, and when they are carefully bred within highly selective and loving breeding programs, make delightfully affectionate, stunningly gorgeous family companions!!
Above is a wonderful photo by Jean Mill of Millwood Bengals, of some of the original cats who were so instrumental in the creation of the domestic Bengal cat of today. Pictured left to right: Tory of Delhi (sometimes known as Toby of Delhi; he is the cat responsible for the glitter trait); Millwood Praline; Millwood Pennybank, and Millwood Rorschach.
Jean Mill wrote of Delhi: "Delhi was a domestic cat found running loose under the rhinoseros at the New Delhi zoo in 1984. He was better spotted (NO ribstripes!) and more glittery-rufous than I had ever seen in America. He was used mostly with F1 queens at first (after several frustrating years of vainly trying to breed them to F1 males), but also gave his robust blood to the inbred traditional Egyptian Mau breed to make what was subsequently called 'Indian Maus'. In E. Mau pedigrees, he is TOBY and is registered by CFA and TICA as a Mau."
Domestic Bengals are no different than any other domestic cat when it comes to care and feeding. Female Bengals average from 7 to 11 pounds at maturity, while the more heavily muscled males can average from 11 to 18 pounds at maturity. Bengal owners delight in the intelligence, playfulness, and affectionate natures of their companions, and also love to talk about their athleticism, leaping ability and the dexterity with which they use their paws. Many Bengals also have an instinctive love of water, and have been known to climb in the shower or bathtub with their humans!!
Of the 37 species of wild cats worldwide, small wild cats make up 30 of those 37. The "Felis bengalensis", or leopard cat species, is very common in areas such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and eastern and southern Asia. ALC's are currently listed on Appendix I and II of CITES. The wild leopard cat, while still quite numerous, is being forced to live in ever smaller areas due to growing human population and land development encroaching upon their natural habitats. There have been over 10 subspecies (plus certain individual ALC's that were captive bred) used in the Bengal breeding program, each contributing many different and unique characteristics. The Domestic Bengal received its name from the scientific Latin name "Prionaliurus bengalensis" for Asian Leopard Cat.
Weighing between 5 and 15 pounds (Amur leopard cats average 18 pounds), the leopard cat has a very long body type compared to the domestic cat, as well as far more striking coloring and markings including such physical traits as rosetted and random spots, and a thick, soft, distinctive pelt. Small, round ears and a whited underbelly are also beautiful characteristics of this species. The leopard cat can be found in areas ranging from desert to dense forests, and their markings can vary accordingly.
With their small head, rounded ears (which have a white spot on the back of them called "ocelli"), the leopard cat's unique appearance also comes from their large, amber, nocturnal eyes, and 2 black "mascara" stripes running from the corners of the eyes. Almost all leopard cats have 4 striped bands that run from their foreheads to behind their necks, ringed tails with black tips, black spots on white bellies, and distinctive, rosetted spots on pelts that vary from tawny brown, golden, grey, to bright orange-red backgrounds, with the spots being usually chocolate brown to black.
In the wild, leopard cats hunt reptiles, fish, rodents, birds and insects. Leopard cats are not naturally aggressive animals; in fact, they are slightly shy and highly intelligent. It is primarily their shyness as well as certain behavior and temperament traits that keep them from doing well with humans, who usually have expectations of closeness and domestic cat behavior patterns that the ALC cannot meet as a pet or household companion.
CLICK HERE to read portions of "MILESTONES AT MILLWOOD"© by Jean Mill (founder of the Bengal breed), as she takes us through the early days, struggles and triumphs of her vision.
CLICK HERE to see our photo gallery of ASIAN LEOPARD CATS.
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