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-- There is general agreement that establishing the foundation of the present-day "domestic bengal cat" (DBC) belongs to Jean Mill. Her original idea was to produce a feline that had the appearance or "look" of the wild cat (in this instance, the Leopard Cat, or more commonly, the Asian Leopard Cat, abbreviated in the present document as "ALC"), but, as importantly, the calming/sweet temperament of the domestic variety. Others, of course, have added and contributed to the gene pool over the years, creating many different bloodlines, which generally, has enhanced the overall beauty of this fascinating animal. Still, Jean is responsible for the majority of the initial ground work (through her selective breeding programs). What follows, here, is a brief chronological overview, that essentially reflects the sequence of events that led to the development of the DBC.

----In 1963, as the story is told, while living in Yuma, Arizona, Jean bought a female ALC from a pet shop (these cats were readily available in the early-mid 1960's). Because the animal seemed lonely in her outdoor pen, a black short-haired domestic tomcat was added to keep her company. At that time, many experts believed a successful mating between divergent felines could not happen, but a little female hybrid, named "Kin-Kin," was born, nonetheless. This cat, in turn, produced a second generation litter, even though authorities at Cornell University said Kin-Kin was probably sterile (which leads us to believe the experts don't know everything, and perhaps, more importantly, nature always seems to find a way). However, because of the death of her first husband in 1965, Jean moved from Arizona to Claremont, California, but during this transition, gave up her fascinating hobby (no DBC has a genetic link to Jean's first ALC and to Kin-Kin).

----Beginning from 1975, Jean resumed her breeding programs after acquiring eight female ALC hybrids from the late Dr. Willard Centerwall, a physician and geneticist at Loyola University, and later, at UC Davis (in Calfornia). Centerwall was involved in research isolating the genes that are responsible for the ALC's immunity to feline leukemia (FeL). Once he had drawn blood samples from these hybrids, he needed homes for them, and welcomed Jean's offer to keep the cats for further scientific study (and, not surprisingly, for her breeding programs). He also shared her dream of producing, what she called, a "tame toy leopard," and became an enthusiastic supporter of her quest. As an addendum, research, using the blood taken from the ALC and their early generation offspring, has, for many years, been used at the National Institute of Health (NIH); such studies continue today. It is hoped, by examining the differences and changes that occur in the blood of these animals, that a cure for leukemia and similar disorders can be found (both, for man and his feline friend). With the advent of new technologies and techniques to manipulate, and thus, effect change(s) at a genetic and cellular level, cures, may someday be possible (it is noted, that some private catteries in the United States, that have early-generation ALC-hybrid breeding programs, still contribute blood samples to the NIH).

---In 1980, while in India, Mrs. Mill found and brought back to California a male domestic street cat (a kitten). This animal's overall coloring and markings came close to the "look" of the ALC, but also had a coat that was very glittered, with dark hues and shades of orange-redness (rufous type colors). As this cat matured, it was bred to the Centerwall female hybrids, the offspring of which, according to most authorities, became the genetic foundation for the present-day DBC (in a sense, the initial "gene-pool"). Historically, then, one could say, that the "type" or "look" of this beautiful cat, and all its major characteristics, including the glitter and the pelted coat, can be traced to Jean's early generation cats. Such facts are probably true, at least, as they relate to the majority of the DBC bloodlines. However, others, most notably, Doctors Greg and Elizabeth Kent, of Kansas, were also breeding ALC hybrids during this time (initially, with a female domestic Egyptain Mau, and an ALC male named Baghara Khan). Jean took an interest in their hybrid programs, and bred two of her females to Baghara Khan (further enhancing the overall gene pool and intensifying the Bengal type). So, although Jean is credited with laying the foundation for the DBC, others also contributed. Interestingly, the Kent bloodlines are considered, by some, to be the most genetically "pure," thus, more closely approximating the "wild look" of the ALC. This, of course, is a matter of conjecture, and as such, should be put into proper perspective.

---Despite varying opinions, and sometimes, disagreements, concerning the purity of particular ALC hybrid bloodlines, the Bengal Cat remains the only domestic feline whose genetic makeup is directly linked to a wild cat (this is often referred to, as "having wild blood"). Nonetheless, through selective breeding, Jean demonstrated that it was possible to produce hybrids, especially second and later generation felines, that, for the most part, had (1) some of the physical traits and "look" of the ALC, had (2) more predictable and stable temperaments, and had (3) no significant "ill effects" or malformations due to hybridization. It is largely due to her efforts, that TICA (The International Cat Asssociation), in 1984, recognized the Bengal Cat as a distinct domestic breed.

The context of this article, including page layout, was designed and written by IMAGINIQUE BENGAL CATS, Inc.- Its content is copyrighted, and use of the material, in any way, is strictly prohibited (unless permission is granted from the author).- Some of the information in this article was obtained from cat journals, a few "online" sources, and the "The Bengal Bulletin," (March 1995). The majority of information is based on our own knowledge and from discussions with other experienced breeders over the years. However, if you wish to use any of our "text" in an article, or, on your own web site, you are granted permission to do so, but only if you give credit and "list" us as a reference in your writings.

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