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Bengal Cat Breed History

Updated on January 7, 2010

I’m receiving a question or two regarding Bengal cats. Now first – I’m not a Bengal breeder. However, I do have a good knowledge of the Bengal breed in general due to owning them since 1996.

And, as there’s a little confusion regarding some aspects of Bengal cats, breeding and history, I thought I’d clear up the Bengals’ origins.

Bengal Cat Breed History


The Bengal cat breed history is easy to trace. The Bengal is a hybrid – a cross between a wild cat and a domestic breed. The wild cat is the Asian Leopard Cat (ALC) a small predatory cat found in Asia. The first kitten produced was as a result of an ALC female breeding with a regular black tom cat, brought about by a lady called Jean Mill.

Jean Mill, happened to own an ALC. Thinking it lonely, she placed a black tom into the cage as a means of company. The pair produced a kitten. The kitten got Jean thinking – due to its beauty and nature. This was back in the sixties.

Original Bengal Breeder

Asian Leopard Cat

Asian Leopard Cat
Asian Leopard Cat

The Original Bengal Cat

Millwood Tory Of Delhi - left in the picture.
Millwood Tory Of Delhi - left in the picture.

However, a good few years passed before Jean became the original Bengal Breeder. It's fair to say that the breed came about due to her fascination with breeding a domestic version of the beautiful but wild ALC.

Eventually Jean produced the first official Bengal cat. His name was Millwood Tory of Delhi and his name is found on practically all pedigrees to date.

Although there are discrepancies as to the official year that Bengal Cats were created, it appears to have been some time between 1980 and 1982.

In 1983, Jean Mill first registered a Bengal with the International Cat Association (T.I.C.A.) – though at the time they were only considered as an experimental breed.

The Bengal Cat Branches Out

Bengal Cat - Types

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Brown SpottedSilver MarbleSilver SpottedSnow SpottedBrown Marble
Brown Spotted
Brown Spotted
Silver Marble
Silver Marble
Silver Spotted
Silver Spotted
Snow Spotted
Snow Spotted
Brown Marble
Brown Marble

It was 1986 before the Bengal Cat was recognised as an official breed – it was at this point that the approved breed ‘standards’ were created. From that point on the breed began to take off.

Breeders became interested in this fascinating cat species and it began to grow in popularity. Some twenty odd years later the breed has produced literally thousands and thousands of beautiful Bengals around the globe.

Now, the breed has broadened in terms of colour. The original type tended to be black spotted, over a brown pelt – Bengal fur is referred to as a pelt as it is a little different to the fur of other domesticated cats.

The Bengal Cat Today

The Bengal Cat today is now bred as brown/black spotted, silver and snow-leopard. I'm not sure that I agree with the 'branching out' that the breed has undergone in the last few years or even the point. The original type was bred for it's beauty and personality. It was, at the time, considered a feat in itself - yet now there's a whole range of different colours and markings contained within the breed.

Personally I’d only ever buy a brown Bengal cat as I lean towards the original Bengal type. However – the colour choice is personal and whatever colour you choose, the wonderful Bengal character remains intact.


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