HISTORY OF THE BENGAL CAT

 

Ziggi out stalking his dinner

Ziggi out hunting

The Bengal Cat originated in Yuma Arizona in 1963 with the first documented crossing between an Asian Leopard Cat (ALC) and a shorthaired black domestic tomcat. The result of this union was Kin Kin, who was then mated back to her father, resulting in the birth of a second generation (F2) litter.

Jean Sugden, who was credited with this first mating had to abandon her breeding project at this point due to the death of her husband but in 1970 Jean (now Jean Mill after remarrying) took up where she left off and obtained eight first generation crosses between an ALC (Felis Bengalensis) and a domestic cat,  from the University of California. They had been used by Dr. Willard Centerwall in research into their  apparent immunity to Feline Leukaemia that is evident in the ALC's. These eight cats, along with a rosetted bright orange feral cat from a zoo in Delhi, became the springboard from which were produced the foundation cats of the Bengal breed that we know today. I have, incidentally, managed to trace Misti and Ziggi's pedigree right back to Maia Wild Heritage, one of the original Centerwall Asian Leopard Cats! 

   

It was found that the males from the first generation (F1's) were always sterile as is common in inter-species matings but on the plus side it was found that some females were fertile and these were then crossed with affectionate domestic tomcats. The resulting kittens (F2’s) were far less aloof and more sociable with humans and some of the F2 males were found to be fertile.

As time went on, more bloodlines were being established by other breeders, notably Dr. Gregg Kent, whose hybridization with an ALC was with an Egyptian Mau female. So the breed gathered momentum, and in 1985 the International Cat Association (TICA) allowed the breed to go on exhibition at their shows in the USA. This caused a tremendous amount of interest and people came from far and wide to view this first hybrid breed of cat. Then in 1992 TICA admitted the F4’s onwards (from this stage they were considered to be domestic cats), Championship status.

The breed has however, not been welcomed so openly by the GCCF, the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in the UK which is the feline equivalent of the Kennel Club. It was only in April of 2006 after years of pushing the breed forward that the Brown Spotted Bengals were eligible to compete at Championship level. 

As of June 2008 the Brown Marbles and the Snow Spotted will have been elevated to Championship status and the Snow Marbles will be at Provisional status. Also from June 2008, the Silver Spotted and Silver Marbles have gone up from ‘Exhibition only’ to Preliminary status which is very exciting for the breed as the Silvers have become more popular over the past few years and are in many breeding lines and producing stunning variations in colour in the more traditional brown spotted and marbles.

It has been an uphill struggle for both breeders and showers alike to establish a foothold on the UK show scene but it is finally coming to fruition thanks to the dedication of a few breeders who’s tireless effort to promote the breed has finally paid off.

I am very proud to be the owner of Grand Premier Admilsh Zabari (Ziggi’s GCCF registered name), who was the first ever male  Bengal in the UK to be awarded a Premier Certificate on the very first day of the breeds Championship eligibility. It was a great day for the Bengal breed and a great day for Ziggi!

 

THE ASIAN LEOPARD CAT

An old print of an Asian Leopard Cat

This is a little piece about the Asian Leopard Cat (ALC), just to enlighten you as to the makeup of this beautiful wild cat that is part of the ancestry of the Bengal Cat.

The ALC is an endangered species found in the forests of South Eastern Asia from India, China, Korea and on the Islands of Borneo, Java, Sumatra and Bali. There are a number of varieties, all displaying variations in both their colour and markings.

They all display the same spotted or ringed thick tail with a black tip, which is always carried low. Having a small head with a narrow muzzle, their round ears display the white spots typical of many wild cats. The colouring of their coats vary depending on which area they come from but generally they have coats which range from shades of golden, tawny and dark brown with spots of brown or black which are sometimes rosetted. They have white undersides that always display brown or black spots. Weighting between 10lbs and 20lbs they are a very nocturnal breed of cat, and unlike most cats they have no fear of water and it is quite normal for them to swim and hunt for food in streams.

This beautiful cat has a naturally timid disposition and prefers to live quite a reclusive life. Although wild, it is very aloof so tends to stay out of the way of trouble. It is a credit to the breeders of today that this aloofness has largely been bred out of the Bengal breed, leaving us, many generations on, with the affectionate and forward going personalities of today’s domestic Bengals.

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