HISTORY OF THE BENGAL BREED
ASIAN LEOPARD CAT
In the beginning...............
The Bengal breed was pioneered by Mrs Jean Mill of California, USA. Her
inspiration for the breed began by accident in 1963 when her imported (wild) Asian Leopard Cat; 'Malaysia', mated with her 'friend' - a black domestic tomcat. To the surprise of many, Malaysia fell pregnant and produced two kittens. One kitten survived , however tragedy ended this first project.
The fact that a live kitten resulted from the cross mating of a wild Asian Leopard Cat (ALC) to a domestic cat made the idea of a new breed of 'pet leopard' a real possibility.
Jean Mill made a new and purposeful start for her dream of pet leopards in 1980 when she attained some F1 - first generation - kittens from Dr W Centrewall. Dr Centrewall had managed to breed some ALC x domestic kittens for the purpose of researching feline leukemia resistance in the ALC.
Credit must go to Jean Mill for not weakening the original gene pool by using the genetically weak purebred breeds that were available at the time. Instead she searched for and selected genetically strong, healthy domestics for her initial breeding. One stud is worthy of particular note - 'Tory Of Delhi'. Delhi was a very handsome male with small dark spots, emerald green eyes and a shiny 'glittered' golden orange coat. He was discovered in New Delhi (as well as other similar spotted cats) and imported to California for Jean Mill's project. "Delhi' with his clear spotting and strong genes was also used by Jean to develop a new and revitalised strain of Maus - the 'Indian Mau'.
The first three generations of hybrid kittens were difficult to produce due to the inherent fertility problems involved in crossbreeding with an ALC. Just as crossing a donkey to a horse produces the sterile 'mule', so many of the first hybrids were sterile or nearly so - particualrly the males. Fortunately a few were able to reproduce, at least for a short time.
By the end of 1983 'Destiny' was born to Delhi and Praline (F1). This beautiful spotted male F2 with 25% ALC blood was capable of producing a treasured few litters before going sterile.
By 1986 Destiny (F2) x Polyspot (F2) produced the first shiny golden kitten with a highly glittered clear coat. This male kitten named 'Silk'n'Cinders', was also fertile and had large dark spots, acreage (good spacing between the spots) and lovely emerald green eyes. Later a similar male; ' Aries' and a beautiful, leopard-like female; Penny Ante were also born. Penny Ante was relaxed in temperament and most closely resembled the leopard. Through exposure to the public via cat shows and literature, PennyAnte was a wonderful ambassador for the developing breed.
In 1987 the first spectacular marbled kitten; 'Painted Desert' was born from Silk'n'Cinders. The marble pattern was then added to the new standard due to its beauty and popularity with both judges and the public. The descendants from these early marbles contribruted the outlining gene and horizontal flow which produced the first 'rosetted' spots.
Another ALC; 'Sergura Khan Of Kent', produced the F1 female; 'My Thai' -a large dark spotted girl, from an Egyptian Mau queen. Unfortunately her kittens were mostly sterile excepting 'Gold Medal' , who produced a line of Bengals with whitened tummies.
More ALC males were bought at great expense but were unsuccessful. Many totally ignored the queens or harmed them.
Then came the ALC Kabuki. Although not the most handsome, he was rosetted, colourful and willing to mate. Bred to some F1 queens he produced a fertile healthy line of F2 queens such as Millwood Mirror Mirror and Geisha Girl.
Thus from these early foundation 'hybrids' the Bengal breed was established. Most pedigrees of today trace back to these foundation cats and their cousins. Various other breeders built onto these early foundations and also incorporated the Ocicat and Burmese into the early gene pool. This also brought into the breed a new colour and created the beautiful Snow Bengal.
Today new breeders are continuing foundation breeding by putting new ALC males to pure Bengal queens. Thus fresh bloodlines of high quality cats are gradually being added to the breed.
Creativity, patience, time, perseverance and wholehearted dedication have built the beautiful Bengal of today.