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Bengal Cat History:
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(THE BENGAL COAT)
-- Although the domesticated Bengal Cat has physical traits resembling those of the forest-dwelling ALC, it is their beautiful coats that make them so appealing. Specifically, cross-breeding these cats has produced markings, pelting, glitter, and for the most part, deeply pigmented color variations that are unique among domestic cats. We will briefly cover these attributes, saving the characteristics of pelting and glitter for the last of our discussion.
COLORS , whether on the background or the foreground markings of the coat, can be in single or multiple/mixed schemes (e. g., the marbled cat has a multiple colored coat, see picture, left). As one would expect, colors can be light or dark, with various shades or hues between (deeply or lightly pigmented are commonly used to define the saturation of color in the coat). Several colors are recognized by TICA , including mink, sepia, brown, seal lynx point, silver, among others.
There are, of course, many color variations that can appear depending on genetic heritage, but for the most part, the many shades and hues of light brown and lightly tanned rufous colors (i. e., shades of "red"), and mixtures of these, are quite common; occassionally, solid colors such as black, and blue-type coats apppear. As one would expect, serious and conscientious breeders are continually striving to maintain some of the "LOOK" of the ALC, while at same time, establish a gene pool that consistently expresses background colors that contrast and highlight the foreground markings (such as, clearly differentiated rosettes or solid spots). To be avoided are bloodlines that express markings and colors that are "washed out," are too darkly saturated, or that significally fade with maturity. This process or task can be difficult to do, and takes many years of specific breeding and experimenting. In this regard, one needs to understand which bloodlines PRODUCE , not only the best color, markings, temperament, and anatomical structure, but more importantly, consistency and uniformity in the offspring.
The foreground MARKINGS that appear on the background color of the coat, such as spots, bars or stripes, and arrangements or mixtures of these, are to an extent, unique to this beautiful cat; markings can appear on the coat in an infinite number of ways, this is called a pattern or patterning. The primary markings are spots and a swirling type colored coat called marbled. The spotted markings are the most prevalent, consisting of solid and rosetted types. Bars and stripes are considered to be secondary markings, since serious breeders want to increase the number and intensity of spots in their "bloodlines," and reduce, as much as possible, the occurrence of the other. Concerning the common spotted varieties, whether they be solid or rosetted, or a combination of the two, should visually standout, with the background color clearly highlighting these markings. There should also be spacing, called acreage, between spots, so that they are easily visualized (but never equally spaced, especially in a vertical plane). Such markings, should appear in the middle-body, extending towards the back and front, with stripes and bars (if they appear), confined to the rear and front of the chest (sometimes, along the shoulder, hip, and leg). Vertical bars on the main body are to be avoided, but appear, from time to time, in most "bloodlines" (vertical bars in the middle of the body are a major fault). Rosetted markings, which are highly desirable, are a lightly colored irregular shaped spot surrounded by a darker outline; these markings sometimes fad as the cat matures. Different sizes and shapes of rosettes, such as arrowhead, cat's paw, and more rounded-shaped types, occur frequently. As you would expect, solid spots, rosettes, and other markings will vary in number, in pattern, in size, in shape, in color, and in type. Likewise, no two cats will have exactly the same markings and patterns. Such variability in attributes are due, exclusively, to the dominant and recesssive nature of genes in the "bloodlines," which, in turn, express the various traits and characteristics observed in the cat (SBT Champion Flare, pictured above-right, is a good example of a rosetted domestic Bengal Cat; note the color of the coat and markings, and the acreage between rosettes).
As previously discussed, all cats have a coat of some description, with certain colors and patterned markings. However, there is something special about the texture, and overall appearance or "look" of the Bengal coat. Here, two primary features or properties are clearly observed:
(1) The overall coat tends to be highly PELTED ( i. e., it is short, compacted, and smooth, with a velvety texture, or a silk-like feel to the touch ). This trait is easily introduced into the gene pool, and although it is observed in other breeds of cats, it is more pronounced in the Bengal. However, the degree of pelting and overall smoothness is variable. Such features are determined by the length and structure of the hairs, and how they are placed on the overall body. In the Bengal, as compared to other cats, the coat is always shorter, more compact, and therefore, the degree of pelting is more evident (a common occurrence, related to pelting, is that the coat of the marbled cat, as an example, is generally, smoother and more tightly compact then that of the spotted Bengal).
(2) When light of sufficient intensity is directed onto the cat, the coat will appear to shine or glow . This phenomena, or more correctly, "effect," is called GLITTER (a "glittered coat"). It is unique to the Bengal Cat, and its characteristics are easily passed from one generation to another, but in varying degrees of intensity. It is produced because the individual hair tips
have a hollow-air-space-type structure that easily refracts light, and when superimposed on a smooth, short, and deeply pigmented background or surface, glows when illuminated. Not all hair tips are glittered in the same way, and there can be a lot of variability (e. g., some hairs have only "gold glitter" on their tips, which is different from the standard hollow hair-tip structure). Also, various degrees of coat textures often affect the refractive properties, and therefore, the intensity of the glitter. For the most part, Bengals that have more glitter usually have shorter, velvet-napped coats (e. g., occasionally, "non-glittered" or "ticked" coats appear, and have a "washed-out" look. Here, the individual hair tips are light-gray or off-white, and do not have a clear hollow-type structure, and therefore, minimal refractive properties). Jean Mill was one of the first to introduce the refractive characteristics of glitter into the "gene pool" (in the early 1980's). As previously mentioned, she used a domestic shorthair "streetcat" from Delhi, India, that was highly glittered and rufoused, with deep brown rosettes. Interestingly, the Bengal is the only breed of cat noted for its glitter. But, it is not part of the "standard for the breed," and although a desirable trait, is not a necessary component or criteria for exhibiting at cat shows. Nonetheless, it sure makes an impression on the judges and the general public. However, simply not having a highly glittered coat, does not mean the cat, in question, is of poor quality; there are structural or physical attributes that are more important. One of our queens, Trinity , above-left, is an example of a glittered and marbled SBT Bengal (pictured at 10 months of age).
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