The basic aim of the Bengal cat is to mimic the appearance of the Asian Leopard Cat. However, Bengals do come in a variety of colours and patterns. Here we look at the different types of Bengal…
The main types of Bengal cat
At the very simplest level, Bengal cats come in two different patterns and two different background colours. The pattern is either spotted or marbled, and the background colour is either brown or white. White Bengals are referred to as snow Bengal cats. Simply put there are, therefore, four main types of Bengal:
In general, spotted Bengals are more common than marbled ones, and brown Bengals are more common than snow Bengal cats ; so most Bengals are brown and spotty and good snow marbles are quite rare.
Within these four main appearances, there are various other possible other differences, one of which is formally written into the GCCF Bengal breed standard for the UK, that being the difference between snows with blue eyes and snows with any other coloured eyes.
In the UK there are therefore officially 6 types of Bengal – The Brown (Black) Spotted, the Brown (Black) Marbled, the Blue-Eyed Snow Spotted, the Blue-Eyed Snow Marbled, the AOC-Eyed Snow Spotted and finally the AOC-Eyed Snow Marbled!
As with most cat breeds, the classifications and names are slightly different in the USA, though overall the cats are not fundamentally different from those in the UK. This is why you will see reference to classifications such as ‘mink’ and ‘sepia’ on USA-based websites.
However, the breed standard allows for a pleasant amount of variety between individual cats, and some of those variations are detailed below…
Types of patterning
Bengal spots come in a variety of shapes, sizes and patterns. Some have many small spots, whilst others have fewer large spots, which is considered quite desirable, though there is nothing wrong with a Bengal with lots of spots! The ‘basic’ Bengal spot is a solid colour and roughly circular.
However, many breeders aim for producing more ‘wild-looking’ arrow-head shaped spots, or ‘rosettes’ which vary from simply two-tone spots to ‘full’ rosettes with a part circle of spots around a distinctly lighter centre.
The spotting on a Bengal should be random or horizontal in alignment, avoiding lining up or joining up in obvious stripes. ‘Rib stripes’ in particular are considered undesirable. The spots should always be very clear and stand out distinctly from the background colour.
It can be particularly hard to find snow Bengal cats where the markings are as clear as might be liked, and purchasing a snow is not helped by the fact that, as with Siamese, they are born white and only develop their markings over the first few months!
Background colour and glitter
Though most Bengals are simply classed as ‘brown’ there is actually a modest amount of colour variation between different cats, which reflects the variation found in the wild between different Asian Leopard Cats. ‘Browns’ can come in shades of brown which are sandy, grey, golden, deep red and so on, all of which are allowed, though highly rufous golden browns are often considered desirable.
Some breeders have found that there can be a pay-off between either getting a good background colour or getting good clear markings, and therefore sometimes aim to produce the best cats by mating cats which carry good colour to those with good markings.
An additional unique characteristic of the Bengal colour is that some cats have a distinct “glitter” effect over their fur as if each hair were tipped with gold dust. This remarkable characteristic is considered highly desirable.
It is also desirable that the underside of the cat should be lighter coloured, like the ‘white tummies’ of Asian Leopard Cats. A Bengal cat’s ‘whited tummy’ should always be spotted, unlike the bright white paws and chest bib found in domestic tabby cats.
Other unrecognised differences
With all the infinite variation of genetics, there are many other appearances which it is possible to create when breeding Bengals. They can produce kittens which are long-haired, blue, ticked or crossed with other breeds for example.
However, with such a young breed as this, these variations are discouraged and not officially recognised as pedigree Bengals, since their presence in the gene pool makes it much more difficult to achieve the focal aim of reproducing the appearance of the Asian Leopard Cat.
Bengal breeders aim to remove these characteristics from the gene pool by only breeding from cats which carry the characteristics which are accepted in the Standard.
Silver Bengal Cat
The Silver Bengal Cat, which has recently begun to be bred in the UK is also an attractive Bengal Cat, with its striking silver background and leopard-like markings, closely resembling a snow leopard much like the snow Bengal cat, with both spotted and marbling patterning.
Today, in the UK, most Silver Bengals are based on American blood-lines, with breeders concentrating on producing a distinctly wild-cat profile and conformation together with good socialisation skills and a friendly, domestic-cat temperament.
The eye-catching silver colour was introduced using outcrosses to the Silver Spotted American Short Hairs. For the silver Bengal to be produced both parents need to be silver, as silver is an inhibitor gene and cannot be carried. Silver Bengals can be shown for Champion status within TICA but not the GCCF at this time, however they may be fully registered with both the GCCF and TICA.
Bengal Cat Guide Quick Links ;
- An introduction to the Bengal cat
- The Asian Leopard Cat
- Types of Bengal cat
- The Character of the Bengal cat