The coat of the Bengal has a very soft feel to it, that resembles the coat a wild animal. A dutch judge once compared the coat of the Bengal on his judging table to that of an Ocelot he had once been allowed to stroke. The pelt consists of short to medium long hair, and is very typical for the Bengal. One could say, that a Bengal can be recognised in the dark by the feel of its coat. The hairlength should not be allowed to get too long, because if the hairlength of a Bengal exceeds the size of his spots, his pattern will fade and get a washed out look. An abundant undercoat, bred into the Bengal to make its coat even softer and thicker, can destroy the contrast as well, because undercoat makes the hairs stand out, causing the pattern to fade. The softness of the coat is probably caused by a thinner structure of the hairs, that inherits recessively towards the normal, harsh structure. If both parents have a pelt coat, all of their mutual kittens will have a pelt coat as well. If one of the parents has a pelt coat, some of the kittens can have a pelt coat, if the non pelted parent carries the factor that causes the pelt coat. This is also valid for two non pelted parents who both carry for a pelt type. Kittens with a pelt coat can be recognised as soon as their coats are dried up after birthing, because the hair on their bellies is very thin and the pink skin of the belly shines through it. Non pelted kittens have thicker hair on their bellies, and the pink skin underneath is not visible. There seems to be a connection between the pelt of a Bengal and the next speciality: goldglitter.
Some Bengals look like they have been sprinkled with gold dust. This sparkling of the coat is caused by a golden tip on each hair, and is usually called goldglitter. Especially in direct sunlight or bright lamplight this unique Bengal trait is very spectacular. On the bodyparts where the hair is shortest, particularly the nose, the ears and the legs, the effect of the goldglitter is strongest and visible in even the faintest of lights. Goldglitter inherits recessively, so if two glittered parents are mated, all their kittens will be glittered. Like the pelt coat, glitter can be inherited from a non glittered parent as well. Glitter can be recognised on very young kittens if they can be looked at in a bright light. The goldglitter is then visible on the bridge of the nose. Also, glittered Bengals usually have a pelt coat as well, and a pelt coat can be very easily recognised by the pink belly. Kittens with two glittered parents often have a more intensive and therefore more spectacular glitter than those with one glittered parents.
The goldglitter seems to be caused by a thinning of the hairshaft, that is probably also responsible for the soft pelt type coat. Such a thinning of the haishaft has been known in the fancy of mice and hamsters for quite a while. On these small animals, the thinner hair structure causes a satiny sheen on the coat. Satin mice and satin hamsters are exist in all sorts of colours. Whether the satin coat of the mice and the goldglitter of the Bengal are related in any way, is not known. But other mutations are known that occur in several different species of mammal, like the siamese gene (cats, rabbits, mice, rats) the longhaired gene (hamsters, mice, cats, dogs) and the gene that causes black-and-tan markings (rabbits, dogs and mice).
The goldglitter in the Bengal seems to have come from one cat who shows up in the pedigree of many Bengals: Millwood Tory of Delhi. Tory was a domestic tomcat from India, with a golden pelt and emerald green eyes. Mrs. Jean Mill used him in her first breeding efforts because all F-1 and F-2 males were sterile, and she needed a fertile male to outcross her foundation females with. The goldglitter is therefore not a trait that was inherited from the wild, even though it is typical for the Bengal. But Tory did not only give his beautiful pelt coat with the goldglitter to the Bengal, his domestic headtype, with a narrow pointed muzzle on a broad round head with enormous jowls on the males, is also widely spread within the glittered Bengals. So, while goldglitter is very beautiful and unique to the Bengal, it does have certain disadvantages.
According to Mrs Mill there may be another disadvantage of the goldglitter. She has reason to believe that the goldglitter is in fact a recessive form of ticking, with the last black band of the ticked hair transformed in to a golden colour. If this theory is correct, all glittered Bengals carry genes for ticking, and Bengals that only carry one gene for glitter, will be ticked. Of course, this is not desirable. Especially now many new F-1's are bred from glittered Bengals, this unwanted gene, unknown to the Asian leopard cat, may be brought into the Bengal population. If this F-1 generation is crossed to a glittered Bengal, spectacularly glittered, very wild looking F-2 Bengals are born. But all these beautiful F-2's may carry the ticking under their beautiful coats. By crossing glittered to glittered only, expression of the ticking can be avoided, but the Bengals needed to improve the wild type are often non glittered. Not using these cats for breeding can affect the wild body- and headtype severely. The only way to keep the glitter and the wild type is selective breeding on both traits. Wild typed, glittered Bengals already exist, and more of them will be born every year. By using only these cats for breeding, the advantages of glitter can outgrow the disadvantages. However, the connection between glitter and ticking is still a theoretical one. Future crosses of glittered and non glittered Bengals will undoubtedly shed some light on the way they are related, beside giving us some more glittered, wild typed Bengals.
Almost all spotted wildcats have a white belly, with the white parts including the inside of the legs and the chest. The white belly sharpens the contrast of the spotting pattern and makes it even more spectacular. Especially the foundation Bengals have purely white underparts. Later generations often have a lighter belly, but mostly cream instead of purely white. The lighter colour is also restricted to the belly, the chest and the insides of the legs being normally coloured. The sorrel Bengals, yellow Bengals with small, lightbrown spots, often have the lightest bellies. The warmly coloured leopard Bengals often have a darker, more warmly coloured belly, which gives the sorrel an important part to play in the preservation of this wild characteristic, as well as in the battle against ribstripes.
A Bengal, be it spotted, marble or snow, must always have a clearly, dark spotted belly. If the belly of a Bengal is pure white without the dark spots, the white is caused by the white spotting gene. This dominant gene is very common in most domestic cats, and the white markings it causes, are absolutely forbidden on a Bengal. White markings can be imagined as having been painted over the original colour or pattern of the cat, while the white belly of a wildcat is part of its pattern. White markings can cover almost the entire cat, so that it looks white with only patches of its genetic colour, but they can also be very small. A cat that is homozygous for white spotting will have much more white than a cat that is heterozygous for this gene. Even very small white markings, like white toes, medaillons and white spots on the belly are undesirable on a Bengal. White spots and patches on the lighter bellied Bengals can be easily recognized, because they do not have the required dark spots.
Rosettes are formed by a circle of dark spots around a centre that has a warmer colour than the groundcolour of the cat, or by a large dark spot with a warmer coloured center. Because rosettes are only found on wildcats, and because they are very beautiful, rosettes are very desirable on the Bengal. Not all Asian leopard cats have rosettes, some have black spots only. The kind of rosettes that Asian leopard cats display, is very hard to breed into the Bengal. The typical rosettes of a rosetted Asian leopard cat are very large, dark triangular spots with a bright red center, following the shape of the body. The kind of rosette usually seen on a Bengal, is a circle of spots with a warm colour inside. These rosettes are usually found only on the side of the Bengal, the front and backside of the cat being spotted as usual.
Another kind of rosette is the shadowrosette, consisting of a dark spot with a warmer 'shadow' attached to it on one side. Some Bengals have a warmer shadow to almost every spot on their body. A marble with three or more colours is also in a way rosetted, because its markings are dark with a warmer center. In the US, a rosetted form of the marble has been bred, with the large, three coloured horizontal markings of the marble completely broken up into large, round rosettes. Bengals are known with large Asian leopard cat rosettes all over their bodies and with leopardlike rosettes. But most of these rosettes occur on foundation Bengals, and with breeders who breed a lot of kittens. As far as we know, nobody has yet been able to breed generation upon generation of completely rosetted Bengals. Some breeders in the US are working on this, but with no clear results up to this point.
To be able to develope spectacular rosettes while breeding on a small scale, we have thought up our own theory on rosettes. By breeding the spots on our Bengals larger and darker, and the groundcolour lighter, the center of the largest spots may 'fall out', forming rosettes. Regular crosses with three coloured marbles will keep the spots large and may assist the forming of three coloured rosettes. The Bengals with very large spots can also be mated to the rosetted Bengals with the quite common circle of spots with a warmer centre, to get the big spots to form a warmer center.
Most rosetted Bengals have the kind of rosetting pictured here, consisting of a number of small spots attached to eachother by a warm center (figure a). The disadvantage of these rosettes is, that they often go together with ribstripes, and that the rosetting is occurs only on a relatively small part of the cat (figure b.)
To develope these rosettes into the Asian leopard type rosettes covering most of the body, is very difficult.
The rosettes of our own theory do not consist of a number of spots circling a warmer center, but of very large, triangular spots from which the center has turned warmer (figure c.).
In figure d, the expected developement from our first Bengals to the rosetted Bengals of our theory is drawn. At this moment, we have Bengals with a stripeless pattern of round spots, a stripeless pattern of triangular spots and a not stripeless pattern of large, triangular spots. We hope to make the step forward to large, triangular spots in a stripeless pattern, soon. As some of the centres have already fallen out of the triangular spots of our Bengals, we expect further rosetting in their offspring. We also expect to get more horizontally strung spots, instead of random spots.If our theory works out, the result will look like figure e.
To make the progression from small triangular spots to large triangular spots to large rosettes, marble Bengals are probably indispensible. Most large spotted Bengals carry a lot of marble blood, and we believe occasional matings to marbles will be neccesary to keep the spots large. But another role for the marble lies in the final stage, where the center of the spots must fall out to form rosettes from large spots. Because the marbles have their own form of rosetting, they will probably be of crucial importance to this part of the developement.
The marbles that are most useful for the formation of rosettes on spotted Bengals look like figure f, with the marblepattern resembling enormous spots, rather than the usual pattern of elongated broad stripes. Less useful are the marbles like figure g, with very narrow markings and with a strongly vertical bar behind the front leg. The thin markings will probably give smaller spots than the broad markings, and the vertical bar will be inherited as ribstripes on spotted offspring. A new variety of marble, that will probably be of great importance to the developement of rosettes, is the rosetted marble (figure h.). On the rosetted marble, the entire marble pattern has been broken up into round, two coloured rosettes with a horizontal alignment. We are currently planning to import one of these very spectacular marbles from the US, to help us in our quest for the large rosettes.
The effects of our theory will not be visible for some years, yet. But if our theory works out, the results will be spectacular. If it does not work out, we will have gathered a lot of experience to use in further efforts.