Yet another domestic breed with wild ancestors, the Bengal cat originated from a cross between the domestic cat and the Asian leopard cat. This feline has a wild appearance, but those with at least 4 generations of separation from their wild ancestors have been proven to have the gentle disposition of a regular domestic cat.
Although the name is misleading, this breed has nothing to do with the Bengal tiger. Its name comes from the scientific name for the Asian leopard cat, Prionailurus bengalensis.
This breed was first publicized in 1889 when they appeared in a book written by Harrison Weir, Our Cats and All About Them. There was much skepticism surrounding them at that time, and the first confirmed cross between the domestic feline and the Asian leopard cat was not written about until 1934, in a Belgian publication.
The Japanese publications soon followed in 1941 with a feature about one of these crosses being kept as a pet. One of the earliest lines of these cats included a cross between the Asian leopard cat and the domestic Egyptian Mau. Many Bengals that exist today will find this classic breeding pair in their lineage.
As a breed of cat with hybrid ancestry, some feline registries do not recognize this breed. The Cat Fanciers’ Association, which is one of the largest and most profound cat registries in the world, is one of those that refuses to recognize hybrid cats.
The International Cat Association, however, has more than 60,000 registered individuals of the breed.
The Bengal is one of the wildest looking domestic breeds available. Their underside is often lighter than the rest of their fur, and they have dark spots, stripes, and rosettes.
There are a number of colors that are recognized for the breed, including brown, seal lynx point, silver, and sepia, but all Bengals are classified as either brown-spotted or snow-spotted. Snow Bengals have the same spotted or striped pattern that brown ones do, but can have many other eye colors, including bright blue and deep amber.
Owning A Bengal
Owning a Bengal is not something that a first-time cat owner should seek to do unless there is a guarantee that the kitten is at least four generations away from its wild ancestors. Those that are bred from earlier generations can be more skittish and aloof, while those in the F4 generation or higher are more domestic in demeanor and behavior.
Click the images to see more Bengal cats and kittens: