The Bengal cat is a very intelligent, fun-loving breed characterised mainly by its leopard-like look. Also, it is extremely active and sociable with an extremely gentle and affectionate personality. The Bengal, ‘mono-genetic’ or ‘wild cat’ as it’s more commonly known, has grown in popularity in recent years. It is said to have been brought to Britain by the Bengal Empire around the 17th century.
There are several different subspecies of the Bengal cat with the most common being the domestic cat; Felis silvestris. Other than these two subspecies, there are around fifteen other domestic cats native to Britain. In reality, the common name for the Bengal cat in Britain is ‘labrador’. It’s also popularly referred to as British Lions or British cats.
The domestic cat was originally bred for companion and protection in homes with at least two people. Over time, as Bengal cats became more popular, breeders began to experiment with creating hybrid breeds by cross breeding different domestic cats. Today, the domestic cat forms the largest part of the feline population. In addition, the modern Bengal cat was developed from several different breeds including: the Burmese, Chinese, Havana brown, and the American Short-haired breed.
Despite its relatively recent creation, there are some striking differences between the modern domestic cat and the original Bengal cats. Probably the most distinguishable feature is the striking black markings that run across the body from head to tail. These markings differ slightly between male and female cats – although some have only a single black mark on the body. The most distinguishing feature is the black ‘Bengal cross’ markings that run along the back and along the sides of the legs.
As intelligent cats, the original Bengal cat was probably less aggressive than today’s domestic cats. In fact, their history shows that they lived almost entirely apart from humans. They were not only solitary felines but also used trees to mark their territory, which suggests they were nocturnal in nature. Their ability to become solitary in later years was probably facilitated by their evolution into a different breed from their ancestor’s. Some populations did become more aggressive towards humans in later years, but most retained their independence. Some of these cats disappeared completely in the nineteenth century.
Today, there is still a vigorous effort to preserve the beautiful Bengal cat. Breeders are working hard to develop solid genetics through a process of interbreeding and producing specific breeds that are distinctively different from their ancestor’s. These efforts are ongoing, and recent evidence suggests that many of these cats may still be wild in their DNA. A breeding program for the conservation of the beautiful Bengal cat is ongoing in Britain, and similar programs are now in place in many other countries.