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Bengal Cat History:
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-- Genetically, Bengal Cats are sometimes referred to as "domestic/Leopard" hybrids, since they are descendants from a cross between two different breeds or genera (in this case, between the ALC and the domestic shorthair cat). More correctly, however, most authorities list the first three generations as true Leopard Cat Hybrids (a few sources list the first four). Some of the domestic felines used in early breedings to produce these hybrids were the Egyptian and Indian Maus, the Ocicat, the Burmese cat, and non-pedigreed domestic cats. The offspring of these matings were bred back to the ALC to establish, in a sense, the classic or initial foundation cats. As an addendum, it is noted, at least as of 2008, that many states do not allow ALC and other wild cats to be kept as pets, most notably, the states of New York and Georgia. However, some states, that are adopting such policies do allow later generation ALC, beyond F-4, in the home.- Likewise, with special permitting and under "protected species status,"- abandoned wild cats can to be kept in zoo-like environments until suitable and safe habitats can be found for them. Many of these policies, however, are likely to be changed as states begin to crack-down on back-yard breeders (that keep wild animals under poor conditions).- It is our opinion, that all states will probably adopt some form of "protection and use" policies and laws regarding the keeping of wild animals, which in the long run, will help all species, cats or otherwise.
--- It is generally agreed, the first three generation hybrids be referred to as the foundation generations (FG) or foundation Bengals, listed as F1, F2, and F3; some in the trade include the F4 in this category (the "F" designation comes from the latin word filius, meaning son. The genetic meaning of "Filia" refers to a generation or sequence of generations, following the parental generation). F1 to F4 are not considered to be domestic bengals (even though the F4, as an example, is listed at a domesticated level by most authorities). However, despite minor points of contention or disagreement, concerning the "filius" designation, F4 and later generation Bengals are, for all intensive purposes, classified as true domestics. They are also listed and referred to as SBT by official domestic cat organizations and by the general cat fancy (i. e., Studbook Tradition, TICA, 1984), and are eligible to be judged/exhibited at sanctioned cat shows. F1 to F3 cats, on the other hand, cannot be shown because of known or unpredictable behavior (i. e., they can be wild, and sometimes bite. In the early days, this was a problem when judging and examining such cats). Although the language or nomemclature of hybridization can be confusing, cross generational breedings can, nonetheless, be briefly summarized as follows:
F1 - is the cross between the ALC female and a domesticated male Bengal.
F2 - is the second generation cross, the offspring of the F1 and the domestic Bengal.
F3 - is the third generation cross, the offspring of the F2 and a Bengal.
F4 - is the cross between an F3 and a domestic Bengal (i. e., to be considered a true F4, the domestic Bengal must have, at least, an ALC great-great-grandparent in their "bloodlines").
--- In terms of offspring, the breeding of the first three generations usually produces infertile males (these cats are neutered and placed as pets into qualified homes); females are normally fertile. Concerning temperament and structure, any progeny of ALC and FG breedings will inherit, in variable gene combinations, the genetic markers and attributes of their parents. Generally, F1 hybrids have many of the physical features of the ALC, while F2 and F3 felines, and their SBT cousins, have more of a domestic appearance. These observations are not surprising, however, since the further each generation is removed from the ALC, the look of the "wild cat" becomes less (due to the greater influence of the domestic genes). Likewise, since we are injecting, in a sense, a genetic overlay of the domestic cat, creating a more complex gene pool, a preponderance for specific traits can appear (i. e., the domestic genes for some attributes are more easily expressed, become more dominant, or, show dominant tendencies). In fact, if one is not careful in their breeding program(s), the influence and propensity of these genes can sometimes increase to the point where the offspring have very few of the distinguishing characteristics or "look" of the ALC. Here, the gene pool becomes significantly diluted and the primary genetic markers for good Bengal type, fade (literally). Therefore, knowing your "bloodlines," and always maintaining good breeding stock are very important to the successful breeder. (As an addendum, we acknowledge that there are many BACKYARD breeders, the so-called "cat mills."- Here, MONEY is the primary motive, whereas the welfare and betterment of the breed is only an afterthought. This is unfortunate, but in a "free market" society such as ours, not totally unexpected. We can only hope that these people quickly fail, as they discover that the care and overall maintenance of our beloved breed is not an easy undertaking).
--- Due to the genetic influences of the domestic cat, some of the physical traits not seen in the ALC, but which appear quite often in the DBC, are: shorter length bodies, overly large pointy ears that are vertically set, pronounced circular heads, to many vertical markings or bars, faded markings, sharp pointy long tails, and many unwanted colors or color combinations, among others. However, since the original intent of Mrs. Mill was to develop a feline with the "Look" of the wild cat, but with the stable behavior of the domestic, it is nice to know that the genes responsible for good temperament can be easily expressed in later generations (in general, for cats greater then F4). As one would expect, human interaction and early socialization are also very important in overall behavioral development, and their importance should never be underestimated.
--- Briefly, in order to successfully produce and maintain a gene pool for good Bengal type, one should have: (1) a fundamental understanding of their bloodlines and cat genetics (i. e., which characteristics tend to be dominant, and therefore, may be more easily expressed in the offspring), (2) keep accurate/descriptive records and pictures of all breedings, (3) are willing to invest time and financial resources, (4) are judicious in selecting only the best cats for breeding (and know what "best" really means), (5) understand the importance of maintaining a healthy cattery, and (6) are willing, if the need should arise, to enlist help and advice from the more experienced breeder (i. e., help in recognizing traits or genetic tendencies that can increase the chances of producing beautiful cats).- Likewise, one must have realistic expectations (not every kitten is going to be top show or breeder quality), be vigilant in over-seeing their program (have a clear idea where they are going), and have a certain degree ofobjectivity. In this regard, the breeder must be willing to "clean house" when needed (petting-out/replacing non-producing cats, and introducing "new blood" in the process).
Here, a primary goal should always be to improve the breed, so that the offspring are better then the parents. Something as simple as an out-cross to bring better attributes or characteristics into the "gene pool," or a specific line-breeding to maintain good traits, are often necessary. This does not happen overnight and may take many years to accomplish, as well as a lot of patience, hard work, money, the occassional heartache, and quite honestly, a "roll of the dice," sometimes. Simply producing inferior cats to make a quick "buck" is not condoned by the serious and conscientious breeder. This short-sighted mentality, by what is commonly called, the "backyard breeder," only produces cats of poor quality. Such practice, significantly dilutes the gene pool for good bengal type, and, in the long view, is detrimental to the breed. The process, then, to produce beautiful DBC's that have the "ALC look," can be challenging and frustrating at times, and to be honest, is not for everyone.
--- Without going into great detail, solid spots and rosettes, adequate coloring, and to a degree, proper body length, tail, and good whisker pads, are fairly easy to reproduce. On the other hand, producing a good head, which is somewhat rounded, with a strong jaw (no under or overbite), and a small, correctly placed, rounded tipped ear set, can be more difficult (e. g., some breeders prefer a triangular "look" of the head, but if you examine pictures of the ALC you will notice that there is, in general, a degree of roundness in its structure). In the present time, breeding for beautiful natural coloring, clearly defined or differentiated markings (such as rosettes), and no bars, have been the "flavors of the day," and continue to be so. However, now, the emphasis is on producing, as best as possible, a good head, with small, correctly set, non-pointy ears (a challenging endeavor, to be sure). It is interesting to note, that the benefits of the DBC and FG hybrids are important, at least according to some feline experts, who consider them to be the healthiest and most intelligent of cats. Therefore, their contribution to the "gene pool" may have significant influence or hold the "key" to the overall future health of all domestic cats? This, of course, remains to be seen, but it will be interesting to follow future events. ( The picture, above-right, is taken from an issue of the 1995, The Bengal Bulletin, and suggests how ALC and FG cats appear when viewed from the front; the ears, however, are somewhat large in the "f" generation cats depicted. Notice the angular type/placement of the ears or "ear set," the eyes, the degree of roundness and angular structure of the head. The whisker pads are prominent in both the ALC and the domestic Bengal).
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