EXCERPTS FROM "MILESTONES AT MILLWOOD"
by Jean Mill, Millwood Bengals.
Those of us who enjoy the exquisite wild beauty and unparalleled companionship of the Bengal cat in our hearts, homes and lives today, owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jean Mill. It was her vision, her dream, and her incredible hard work and perseverence that led to the development of the Bengal cat. None of the rest of us can truly understand what she went through, and none of the rest of us have her experience, knowledge and memories. We wanted to share with our readers some excerpts from those wonderful memories that Jean was so kind to capture in writing for the rest of us who follow in her footsteps (or is that pawprints??).
"We can all thank my beautiful ALC "Malaysia", imported from SE Asia in 1961, for her love of a black domestic shorthaired tomcat. Her baby, KinKin ... was a thrilling surprise, for I was unaware of anyone else doing this research. I did not even suspect Malaysia's pregnancy! The male littermate was fatally mauled while being removed for its safety from Malaysia through the bottom of her cardboard nest box, but KinKin was put safely with a newborn Himalayan litter while still birth-wet. She knew from infancy that she was "different". She slept several inches apart from the pile of Himy babies, played differently than they did as they grew older, and looked and sounded foreign. She rarely played roughhouse with the others, but would climb high on the sofa arm and jump on them, then tear off for another 'attack and run' foray. She insisted on eating alone, growling and snarling to keep the others from the food dish, or hiding with a tidbit to eat it privately. Later, she toiletted into the commode, slept in high places, and disdained other cats, but was loving and affectionate with me. Researchers at Cornell University whom I contacted were incredulous, but gave me little hope that she would breed or become pregnant. To everyone's surprise, when bred back to her father (I didn't have another suitable tomcat), she produced a nasty tempered solid black daughter (little panther?) and a sweet natured spotted son. I fantasized about putting him with 50 domestic queens and making hundreds of 'little leopards' like himself to start a new breed. Alas, he was killed by a fall from a shelf onto concrete before I could learn that F2 males are sterile. It was the first of many soul-tearing tragedies which plagued the early efforts. His black sister produced a kitten, but ate it at 2 days of age. When my husband, Bob Sugden, died, I gave Malaysia to the San Diego zoo, and moved to Southern California to an apartment. There KinKin and Pantherette contracted pneumonitus (we didn't have vaccines for it then) and died. Thus ended my early project."
"A new start! In 1980, despite his allergies to cats, Bob Mill agreed to restarting my project in our tree-filled back yard, "...so long as I don't have to look from any window and see cages or smell cats!" In trying to obtain another ALC, I contacted Capt. Zobel of the Calif. Fish and Game, who referred me to Dr. Willard Centerwall in Riverside. Bill was enthusiastic about sharing some F1 kittens he had produced using domestic tabbys at Loma Linda University for his studies into Feline Leukemia. Once the F1s had donated blood samples for his research, he needed homes for them. He gave me Liquid Amber (3/4 ALC), Favie (for Favorite), Shy Sister, and Doughnuts, all his family's pets."
Pictured directly above are two Asian Leopard Cats
"Gordon Meridith had obtained some of Bill's stock earlier for his little zoo in the Mojave desert, but in 1980, was in the hospital, struck down with cancer. He asked Bill to place his cats for him. Bill and I 'rescued' five of Bill's original hybrids (now adult), which I named Praline, Pennybank, Rorschach (greyish charcoal), Raisin Sunday (she was partially leopard spotted but with large white-spotting blazes on face, legs, and lower half), and Wine Vinegar (who ate her only litter). Gordon had bred them to an Abysinnian tom and had some of the F2s, but I didn't know then how difficult F2s are to obtain from F1 queens. Disdaining the 'peppered' look and cramped for space, I didn't take them. Gordon's records were lost, but from his deathbed he described the cats to me and what he could recall about their history. It now fell to me to provide them with appropriate mates if we were to build a new breed of domestic cat. But what would be appropriate?? Which genes would be useful? or dominant? or would trash the bloodline? It seemed too bad to use the genetically frail traditional Maus, Burmese, British Shorthairs, Abys, or other purebred breeds in my new bloodline."
..."The F2 and F3 generation kittens were few and far between. Two days after Christmas in 1983, Destiny was born to Delhi and Praline and we celebrated with 40 guests at an outdoor christening party when he was 12 weeks old! I didn't know then that he might be sterile and rejoice even now that he managed a few litters before trailing off. He was only 25% ALC blood and the world's first beautiful fertile B2T male!! In April of 1986, he and Polyspot (B2T) surprised everyone with a strange kitten with sparkling golden coat and none of the usual ticking. Silk 'n Cinders took my breath away. Here was Delhi's beautiful sparkle and kelly green eyes, but with 'acreage' and large, dark spots. He thrilled me to the bone! A month later, Destiny and Praline had a similarly shiny golden male, Aries, who became the foundation stud at Lionsmountain. The unusual coat later surfaced at Gogees, too, from Millwood kittens of the Cinders line."
Photos courtesy of Jean Mill, Millwood Bengals.
Millwood Penny Ante
CLICK HERE for Jean Mill's complete article and her Millwood Bengals website.
CLICK HERE for our HISTORY OF THE BENGAL, Page 1.
CLICK HERE for our photo gallery of ASIAN LEOPARD CATS.
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