Bengals Vs. Savannahs: Are They At All Alike?
The Bengal And Savannah Are Very Different Cats!
Many people attending a cat show might be confused by the difference between Bengals and Savannahs. After all, they are quite similar to the untrained eye. However, nothing could be further than the truth. Bengals and Savannahs are completely different lineages each originating from a very unique wild cat.
The Savannah has been developed by a handful of breeders and they are struggling to keep up with the demand. Unlike the Bengal which is descended from the small Asian Leopard Cat, Savannahs are derived from the African Serval Cat (ASC) which in some cases can be the size of a Golden Retriever, stretching to 56 inches from nose to tail! The name Serval is derived from the Portuguese for Wolf-Deer and that pretty well sums up the ferocity and size of this wild cat. They prefer to live in East African Savannahs, thus the name of their domestic-cross offspring breed.
Some Bengals were used in the crosses with the ASC to derive the current breed, along with Egyptian Maus, Oriental Shorthairs and other domestic cats.
After many years of trying to mate a huge ASC with a teeny weeny domestic kitty (ouch!), Pennsylvania breeder Judy Frank finally succeeded in the mid '80s. The current "state of the art" in Savannahs produces a cat about half the size of the ASC ancestor and weighing in at a (huge by Bengal standards) maximum of 30 pounds.
If you thought that Bengal breeding was a difficult task, you might not even want to consider Savannahs. Up to F3s and some F4s the males are sterile. F5 is the legitimate limit of Savannah to Savannah breeding, thus current breeders have little choice but to continue maintaining their ASC studs.
F1 is always the offspring of breeding a Serval and a domestic cat.
F2 is the offspring of an F1 Savannah cat bred to a suitable male domestic cat.
F3 is the offspring of an F2 Savannah cat with a suitable male domestic cat.
F4 is the offspring of an F3 Savannah parent.
F5 is the offspring of an F4 Savannah parent.
Savannahs are very Bengal-like in their personalities and have all of the domestic qualities of other household cats. They'll eat just about anything a regular cat will and can be litterbox trained. The Savannah is a graceful, athletic and powerfully-built kitty with Bengal-like spotted coats. Some Savannahs are striped which is a no-no in the Bengal world, but accepted and welcomed among their breed. Also similar to Bengals, Savannahs are chatter-boxes and they will constantly engage you in very specific feline conversations.
One of the most striking markings on the Savannah can be found around their eyes, where they have a unique and very wild-looking "tear-drop" mascara. The Savannah is also bred for large, directional ears at a time when Bengal breeders (for some unknown reason) are trying to make their cats' ears disappear outright! The big ears highlight the triangulation of the face that can be quite breath-taking when seen straight-on. Savannahs come in all sorts of colors from black or black smoke to brown spotted or silver spotted tabby.
The TICA standard calls for:
Torso: Long and almost oriental but more massive. When viewed from the side the chest and flank form a long triangle. When viewed from the front the cat appears narrow due to the extreme length of legs, depth of body and length of neck.
Legs: Strong and slender, yet sturdy. The feet are small with long toes.
Tail: Sturdy, thick and three-quarters the length of the average cat's tail. When the cat is at attention it should be, at times, curled up and back slightly over the rump.
These standards make for a very attractive and distinctive cat, but always keep in mind that no matter how beautiful a Savannah can be, they'll never have the unique Bengal Magic Glitter!