The Brown Bengal
The classic brown colour can range from a nice rufus brown to silver-grey or even light orange. The spots on a brown Bengal can range from a lightish brown through to black. Whichever colour the spots are there should be good contrast between the background colour and the spots (or marbling). Many Bengal kittens don't achieve their full colouring until they are a year old or more. In many cases kittens go through a fuzzy stage where their coat becomes rather grey and fluffy. This makes their markings very indistinct and can take several weeks or even a few months to clear. Often the coat is still quite "fuzzy" at the very stage that the new owners collect a Bengal. This is quite normal and the coat will clear over the coming months.
However, a problem known as "Ticking" can sometimes appear on the coat where individual hairs develop grey/white bands (tipping is where just the tip of the hairs have a light edge). Both ticking or tipping unlike the "fuzzies" do not fade and although a little ticking/tipping on a pet Bengal is perfectly acceptable and doesn't spoil the overall look of the cat it is undesirable to use a ticked/tipped cat for breeding.
Luckily experienced breeders can usually easily distinguish between ticking and a simple fuzzy coat which will clear. Many Bengals also have an effect known as glittering which gives some individual hairs a golden glittered effect. (see below for further details) Ticking/tipping should not be confused with glittering.
Rosetting Going back to the early Bengals - simple spots were the first markings on the coat. Then came arrowhead rosettes (where the spots began to form an arrowhead pattern with two colours) - then we had full rosetting which has become larger and more distinct as the breed has progressed. In the early days of rosetting people would describe the markings as leopard like but we think of them as leopard/jaguar type rosettes. Some can be flat pancake rosettes - others pawprint rosettes. Not every Bengal has large rosettes - some of the most spectacular examples of Bengals have smaller rosettes with good acreage (distance) between them. We love and appreciate all these different types, they all have their own merits, but one ting all Bengals must have is that wild conformation with a superb pelted coat.
White tummies Only a very small percentage of Bengals have white tummies. Most are born with them but as they grow & develop the whiteness fades. It certainly isn't essential to have a white tummy on a Bengal - there are thousands of spectacular Bengals which don't have white tummies, many of our cats included! But the white tummy has long been one of the goals of serious Bengal breeders and we have introduced white tummied cats/lines into our breeding programme for 2011.
Assessing Colour At Cat Shows!
When visiting a cat show to look at Bengals it is worth having a look at the lighting in the hall. In many cases, the lighting has a slightly coloured effect which gives a yellow/brown tinged light. This type of lighting can make a Brown Bengal with very little real colour in its coat look quite rufus & colourful. It also tends to make the markings on very rufus cats (which often have beautiful dark brown spots rather than jet black) appear less distinct and contrasting. It can also mask the rosetting somewhat as this is made up of varying shades which become lost in the poor lighting. In snows and silvers this unbalanced type of lighting can also cause problems. By tinting the colour of the cat it can make determining the difference between the two types of snow very difficult and can add a yellowish tinge to a beautiful clear silver. Worse still it can completely mask a white tummy! The best light to assess a Bengals coat is natural sunlight or under a pure white light (daylight bulbs, small desktop halogen lamps etc.)
In addition to the Brown Bengals a Snow version of both the Spotted and Marbled cats exists. Snow Bengals have a much lighter background, creamy white rather than pure white. Their spotting or marbling can be tan, brown or pewter. The contrast between spots/marbling and the base colour of the coat is much more subtle than in the browns and silvers. In fact there are two distinct types of Snow available. "Blue-eyed Snows" have beautiful blue eyes and a very light coat with delicate markings. "Any other colour-eyed Snows" can feature green to light blue-green or gold eyes. These also tend to have slightly darker markings. Both types of Snow can glittered but instead of the golden glittering found on some brown Bengals theirs is best described as a "Pearldust" effect.
Some Bengals have what is often described as a glittered coat. This is thought to be the result of a translucent outer cover to individual hairs in the cats coat. This clear edging to the hair acts in a similar way to a fibre optic lamp - the glittering is an effect caused by the rufus coat colour being reflected/refracted up this translucent covering which in turn gives the appearance of shimmering golden glitter in certain bright lights. Glittering is not compulsory in Bengals and not all lines carry the genes responsible for glittered coat. Glittering, though mentioned in the standard of points for Bengals is optional. In many show halls in the UK the lighting employed does not allow glitter to be assessed accurately. It can even occasionally mislead the onlooker to confuse ticking with glittering!
Unfortunately photographs generally fail to adequately capture the glitter effect however these go a little way to displaying the shimmering effect it creates.Glittering should not be confused with ticking where the hairs have bands of light grey/white which, in a heavily ticked coat, tends to mask the markings. Tipping, which is also undesirable is where just the tip of the hairs have a light edging.Snow Bengals have a glittering of their own which produces a "pearldust" effect. Some silver Bengals also display glittering.
These cats have inherited a short, thick, plush pelted coat which is often both soft and luxurious. It is quite unlike the coat of other domestic cat breeds and is a result of the Asian leopard cat ancestry.
Peter & Christine Edwards
telephone 01746 710498 or 07815 993590