cats are a hybrid breed developed over several generations through a
program of selectively crossbreeding domestic cats, possessing desired
features, with Asian Leopard Cats (ALC) in an attempt to create a
companion with an "exotic" look.
In the first three generations, males are almost always infertile, though there have been the occasional, but rare F3 studs capable of reproduction. Early generation females are typically fertile, and responsible for continuing the genetic contributions of the ALC to the next generation.
The modern SBT Bengal gene pool contains genes sourced from many varieties of domestic cats - mainly Egyptian Maus, American Shorthair, Abyssinian, Ocicat, and domestic shorthaired cats. It is commonly accepted that the breed was developed by Jean Mill of California in the 1970s; today, Bengal breeders exist throughout the world. Many breeders are presently working to develop specific characteristics in the breed, often by backcrossing foundation cats with particularly vivid markings. The ALC comprises several subspecies, and consequently, they can have considerable variations in their appearance.
The first three filial generations (F1 - F3) of these hybrid animals are referred to as the "foundation" generations. A Bengal cat with an ALC parent is called an F1 Bengal, short for first filial. An F1 then bred with a domestic male yields an F2, or second filial. Kittens from an F2 female and another domestic cat are then termed F3. Kittens from a subsequent F3 mating with a domestic are F4s. The F4 and later generations are considered domestic cats, are designated as Stud Book Tradition (SBT) Bengals, and can be shown and registered. Any SBT Bengal is at least four generations removed from the ALC. Founders (F1-F3) are typically reserved for breeding purposes or the specialty pet home environment.
The Bengal's beautiful coat makes it stand out in a crowd. Numerous shades make up the background color of the Bengal, ranging from golden, rust, brown and orange, to sand, buff, or even ivory. Bengal spots also vary in color, from rust or cocoa and chocolate brown to charcoal or black. Some Bengal patterns have inherited striking rosettes or spots made up of more than one color, usually a secondary color forming a dark outlining to the spot.
The second Bengal pattern is called marble. This is created by the combination of rosettes from the Asian Leopard Cat and the domestic classic tabby pattern to produce a "marbleized" look, one or more colors swirled into the base colors. Ideally, both the spotted and marbled patterns should have a horizontal flow rather than a vertical appearance. Since the original purpose for breeding Bengal cats was to try to replicate the look of the exotic spotted Asian Leopard Cat, the dominant spotted pattern is most common.
There is a common misconception that Bengals are large cats, but they typically fall within the size range of a conventional domestic feline. Females are generally in the 7 to 10 pound range and males fall between 9 and 12 pounds. It is not uncommon to have a male that reaches 15 – 18 pounds. They are large-boned, well-muscled cats with the male in particular being extremely muscular. Non-altered males often continue to put on muscle mass up to two years of age.
The Bengal Cat has a happy, active, interactive and extremely intelligent personality. Every domestic cat breed has its unique features, and the exotic heritage of the Bengal cat can be seen in their every day activities. While Bengals will happily search out a lap or stretch out on the sofa next to you during naptime, they are very active during the rest of the day.
The energetic Bengal is not for people who just want a leopard print cat for decoration. Whether they are fishing in the aquarium or playing in their water-bowls, fetching balls for their families, taking walks on a leash or climbing to the top of the highest cupboards, Bengals are constantly on the move and are perfect for anyone who wants to interact and play with their cat daily. The Bengal cat, like many other pets, demands a good deal of attention and affection and enjoys being an integral part of the family.