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The History of the Bengal:

The Bengal is a relatively new breed of cat which was first bred in the U.S.A and was originally created by crossing an Asian Leopard Cat with a domestic cat. The domestic Bengal derives its name from the Latin name of its wild ancestor, Felis Bengalensis (Asian Leopard Cat). Whilst the domestic Bengal is similar in appearance to the Asian Leopard cat, and its genetic makeup contains a contribution from that wild cat species, its temperament however is purely domestic.

The goal in developing the domestic Bengal cat breed was to preserve a strong physical resemblance to its beautiful wild ancestor and at the same time the new domestic breed was designed to be a pleasant and trustworthy family companion. Therefore, the conformation of the Bengal is definitely reminiscent of its ancestors.

The Bengal is a large, sleek and very muscular cat with its hind-quarters slightly higher than its shoulders with a thick tail that is carried low. The Bengal should be alert and affectionate and its wild appearance is enhanced by its distinctive spotted or marbled coat. The different coat patterns are either leopard spotted or marbled, on a background colour of brown, or sometimes white.

There is no other breed of cat which displays the gold or pearl dusting effect (glitter) of the Bengal. Its pelt has a rich smooth feel of satin or silk. Even the voice of the Bengal is different from that of other domestic cats. They can coo and chirp, and like to jump and somersault. They also love to play with water!

To sum up, the Bengal is self-assured, affectionate and playful, with the stunning looks of its wild ancestor.

The Asian Leopard Cat:

Here we look into the nature of the Bengal’s wild ancestor. 

leopard cat

The general build of an Asian Leopard Cat (Felis bengalensis) is similar to a normal domestic cat, but with somewhat longer legs and a longer back. They have a relatively small head with a short narrow muzzle, large eyes (because of their nocturnal habits) and a thick tail of about 11 to 14 inches length. Body length varies between 25 to 32 inches, and they weigh between 7 to 15 pounds. Size and weight vary between subspecies in different geographical regions, but the males are generally heavier than the females.
The cats’ beautiful markings, which have in many ways been their downfall by attracting the attention of the fur trade, are striking and show some variation between individuals. All subspecies have a spotted or ringed tail, with a black tail tip, four black bands running from the forehead to the back of the neck, breaking up into elongated spots on the neck and shoulders, often forming a " broken necklace". The round black ears have a white spot on the back, and all cats have a white underside, throat and cheek-flashes. The underparts are spotted on the white background. The body markings can be solid or rosetted and sometimes show marbling.

From Asian Leopard Cat to Bengal

Bengal cats are the descendants of a cross between the Asian Leopard Cat and a domestic cat, originally Egyptian Maus, Abyssians or Ocicats. A first generation cross is called an F1. An F2 is the progeny of one F1 parent and one domestic parent (usually a Bengal these days), and an F3 has one F2 parent and one domestic parent. F1 males are usually sterile, and F2 and F3 males also often have fertility problems. The early stages of breeding programmes are therefore usually carried by crossing female Asian Leopard Cat hybrids with male domestic cats.
The fourth generation removed from the wild and beyond can be considered a domestic animal, and is officially a Bengal, rather than a Leopard Cat hybrid. Given that the breeding programme will have been explicitly aimed at producing good pets, the resulting Bengals should display the beautiful markings and unusual behaviour of the wild cats, whilst inheriting the domestic cat’s social nature and adaptability to human lifestyles.
There is some debate as to whether the ‘F’ hybrid cats are suitable for pets. As they move a couple of generations away from the wild, certain individual hybrid cats with social natures and good ‘upbringings’ certainly make good, if highly specialised pets. Even those which are ‘pet-worthy’ however, are only really suitable for very experienced pet keepers, able to understand and cater for the needs of what is essentially a semi-wild animal, and are by no means appropriate pets for the average family!
Fortunately, the Bengal cat itself, is very suitable as a family pet, and the rest of this web site gives more details on their appearance and behaviour.