The Bengal is a relatively new hybrid breed of cat, formed by the cross of a domestic feline and an Asian Leopard Cat ("ALC").
Bengal cats have "wild-looking" markings, such as large spots, rosettes, and a light/white belly, and a body structure reminiscent of the Asian Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis). The Bengal cat has a desirable "wild" appearance with a gentle domestic cat temperament, provided it is separated by at least three generations from the original crossing between a domestic feline and an ALC.
The name Bengal cat was derived from the taxonomic name of the Asian Leopard Cat (P. b. bengalensis), and not from the unrelated Bengal tiger.
The earliest mention of an ALC/domestic cross was in 1889, when Harrison Weir wrote in "Our Cats and All About Them" :
However in 1927, Mr Boden-Kloss wrote to the magazine "Cat Gossip"  regarding hybrids between wild and domestic cats in Malaya:
The earliest mention of a confirmed ALC/domestic cross was in 1934 in a Belgian scientific journal, and in 1941 a Japanese cat publication printed an article about one that was kept as a pet. Jean Mill (née Sugden), the person who was later a great influence of the development of the modern Bengal breed, submitted a term paper for her genetics class at UC Davis on the subject of cross breeding cats in 1946.
The 1960s was a period when many well known breeders, including Jean Sugden, produced ALC/domestic crosses, but records indicate that none of them took it past the F2 stage. Several zoos in Europe also produced a number of F1 ALC crosses. During this period there was an epidemic of feline leukemia virus and it became known that many wild cats seemed to have a natural immunity to the disease. As a result of this, Loyola University began a research program in the 1970s to investigate if this natural immunity could be bred in or replicated.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s there was a great deal of activity with hybrids, but there was no significant effort to create an actual breed from them. A number of Cat clubs formed that oriented on hybrids and a few oriented specifically on something William Engler, a member of the Long Island Ocelot Club and a breeder, called a Bengal.
Club newsletters were published, detailing the production of Bengals and Safaris (a domestic cat/Geoffroy's Cat cross), and members of these clubs bred some second and third generation Bengals. These were registered with the American Cat Fanciers Association (A.C.F.A.) in 1977 as experimental and were shown at several A.C.F.A. cat shows throughout the 1970s.
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