The Bengal was once a rare and sought-after breed but over the last two decades it has seen a meteoric rise in popularity. The UK’s main cat registry, the GCCF, registered only four Bengals in 1991, but the breed is now our third most popular cat with only British Shorthairs and Siamese ahead of it and popular breeds like the Persian further down the list. The Bengal cat owes its existence to one Jean Mill, a California-based cat breeder. In her younger years Mill had studied genetics and written a paper on hybrid cats and went on to gain experience of developing a new feline variety when she was one of the first people to breed Colourpoint Persians. In 1963 her interest in small species of wild feline led her to purchase an Asian Leopard Cat, a species of dramatically spotted cat. Fearing that her exotic acquisition was lonely, she let her black tomcat into the enclosure to keep her company. Much to Mill’s surprise, the cats mated and produced an inter-species hybrid kitten, who was given the name Kin-Kin. Later, with Professor Willard Centrewall, she commenced a breeding programme using the hybrids to introduce the wild patterns to domestic cats. The first three generations directly descending from an Asian Leopard Cat were considered to be wild cat hybrids, but by the fourth generation the amount of ‘wild blood’ was reduced to such an extent that the cats could be considered as domestic cats and be mated together. They chose the name ‘Bengal’ for the exciting new breed because the Asian Leopard Cat’s taxonomical name is ‘Felis Bengalensis’. The first Bengals in Britain were registered with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy in 1991.
13-17 years
Medium to large
4-8kg (9-18lbs)
Short, glossy, close-lying, very soft and often glittered
Medium type, big-boned and sturdy with a long body
Good-natured and kittenish, communicating with a chirruping trill.
Bengals are spotted tabby or marbled tabby and either brown or snow. The eye colour is hazel, gold or green, plus blue-green or blue in snows.
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