Colors of the Bengal Cat - Bengal Cat Colors, Bengal Colors
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Bengal Cat Colors

about:  bengal cats, brown spotted, snow, silver, seal lynx, seal mink, silver, seal sepia

 
Bengals come in many different colors.  The three basic breed-accepted colors are brown, snow, and silver.  Fortunately, the Bengal's color genetics are not too complex, and a breeder who knows with certainty their cats' colors, both dominant and recessive, can predict the possible outcome of an upcoming litter. UC Davis has a simple process for genetic color testing, and if a breeder has any doubt regarding color, or wants to be aware of recessive genes, it is best to have a color test done.
 
Brown Bengal Cats
While there are no official subcategories of the brown Bengal, the brown coat has the widest variety of shades.  Think of the color brown on a spectrum with grey at the coolest end and orange at the hottest end.
  Bengal cat colors
The Color Spectrum of Brown Bengal Cats

A Bengal's coat can fall anywhere within that spectrum and as long as it has a black tail tip, it's considered a brown (See the Dilute section for an explanation of why the browns must have a black tail tip).  Even though we don't officially break down the browns, Bengal breeders have many terms we use to discuss the different colors of brown.
 
Charcoal Bengal cat
Stonehenge Roccalou of Beaux Mondes
Photo courtesy of Vicki Beeler
 
  At the coolest end of the color spectrum is the color charcoal.  Charcoals have essentially a grey coat with jet black markings.  This distinct contrast makes the charcoals attractive cats.  Ultimately, Bengal breeders would like all of their cats to have black on their face like the charcoal cats.  However, we haven't been able to get the black of a charcoal to directly transfer onto a brown at the warmer end on the brown color spectrum.
After charcoals, we have cool browns - cats that aren't exactly charcoal, but still very cool in coloring.  I've worked a lot with these shades of cats because I often find their structure to be wilder than the hotter colored cats.  While certainly, the skeletal genes and the color genes are not attached, it's interesting to observe how some traits frequently show up together.
 
  Brown Bengal Cat
Brown spotted Bengal cat
 
  Adding more and more warmth to the coat, we will get cats with tawny or yellowish tones.  I really like this coloring on cats. It seems as if this color grouping could be influenced by the snow gene as many, but not all, of the cats with this middle brown shade - not too hot, not too cold - carry for the snow gene.
What I deem to be the ideal brown is a step above tawny, but definitely not highly rufused orange. This is the color of many ALCs. I love this color because it provides depth on the finished cat. The struggle is obtaining it with black and white on the coat as well. In my perfect world, that would happen overnight, but it doesn't.   spotted bengal cat
 
bengal cat rufused   The brown spectrum ends with highly rufused orange cats.  "Rufused" means the coat has reddish/orange tones.  These hot colored cats are ideal for many people.  The struggle for the breeders is to keep the contrast on the hot cats.  Often their pattern becomes less defined with age as the colors blend together.  As a personal observation, I have found many of the highly rufused cats to be more domestic in their skeletal structure than their cooler littermates.
One would think you could take an orange cat, breed it to a charcoal, and end up with the perfect cat - a warm base coat with black spotting.  Let me tell you, this has been done time and time again, and the result is not instant.  Breeding takes time and patience.  Starting at one end of the spectrum and gradually trying to bring together black, white, and a warm brown base coat is a painfully slow process.
Snow Bengals
Snow colors were introduced through domestic cats Siamese and Burmese.  However, they were accepted as a registered color so that breeders could produce a duplicate of the snow leopard.  While many breeders can guess a snow color, the most accurate way to determine color is through genetic color testing.
 
  Snow bengals
The Color Spectrum of Snow Bengals
seal lynx bengal
 
  The Seal Lynx Bengal color comes from an outcross to Siamese.  Lynx kittens are usually born completely white and their pattern emerges with age.  While the Lynx can often be thought of as the snow with the least amount of contrast, this is not always the case.  The Seal Lynx are the only Bengals with blue eyes.  The color on the points of the Bengal (like the Siamese pattern) is considered undesirable in the Bengal Standard.
The Seal Mink coloring occurs when the kitten has one Seal Lynx gene and one Seal Sepia gene.  Think of the mink as the pink petunia with with one red gene and one white gene.  Seal Minks are born with a visible pattern.  While their eyes are usually an aqua green, they can be gold.  Eye color should not be used to determine coat color.  Since a Mink must have both the Lynx and Sepia gene, a brown cat cannot carry for the Mink gene.  If you're told that a brown carries for Mink, you are dealing with someone who doesn't have a clear understanding of snow genetics.
 
  seal mink bengal
Beaux Mondes Boucheron
Photo courtesy of Vicki Beeler
seal sepia bengal   The Seal Sepia color comes from an outcross to Burmese.  Seal Sepia kittens are born with a visible pattern, and their eyes can range from green to gold.  While they were originally thought to have the best contrast, all of the snows, if bred well, can result in good contrast.  I prefer Seal Sepias over Mink and Lynx; however, my preference isn't due to the color itself.  The Burmese has a smaller, rounder ear which is more desirable in the Bengal standard;
whereas, the Siamese, which gave us the Lynx, has a larger, triangular ear.  Those structural influences still exist in the breed even though we haven't out crossed to these cats for years.
 
Silver Bengals
The most recently accepted color in the Bengal Breed is Silver.  Silver was introduced to the breed by out crossing to the American Short Hair.  Much controversy surrounded the inclusion of silver as an acceptable color as it does not occur in any wild cat species.  However, the popularity among breeders and pet buyers ultimately resulted in the inclusion of the silver color.  The Silver Bengal has a silver to almost white base coat with black markings.  Silvers can have what breeders refer to as tarnish, brown tips on their silver coat, which is not desirable in the color.
 
 
silver bengal cat
Stonehenge Icon's Silver of Beaux Mondes
Photo courtesy of Vicki Beeler
Nonstandard Colors
Bengals do come in a few more colors; however, they do not meet the breed standard.  There is certainly nothing wrong with these cats; however, they cannot be shown as a standard Bengal.
 
melanistic bengal
 
  Melanism occurs naturally in the wild ? the South American Panther is simply a melantistic form of the Jaguar; therefore, it occurs in the Bengal breed as well.  It is recessive, so both parents must carry the gene to get a melanistic kitten.  The kittens are still patterned ? hold them up to the light and you can see black on black spots.  If bred, all offspring of a Melanistic cat will carry for melanism, but they will only produce melanistic cats when bred to another cat that either is melanistic or carries for melanism.
Dilute Bengals will have an absence of black.  Each color gene has a dilute form.  All standard colored Bengals, Browns, Snows and Silvers, should have a black tail tip.  If the tail tip is not black, the kitten is a dilute color.  Dilute is a recessive gene; therefore, both parents must carry for it in order to get a dilute kitten.  If bred, all offspring of a dilute cat will carry for the dilute color, but they will only produce dilute cats when bred to another cat that either is a dilute or carries for a dilute.
 
  blue bengal
cinnamon bengal cat
RoughNReady Olive of Kickapoo
Photo compliments of Joyce Dougherty
 
The dilute colors are Blue (above), which is a dilute of black ? the most commonly occurring dilute in Bengals.  Cinnamon (left) and Chocolate are a dilute of brown.  While I have seen Cinnamon Bengals, I have not seen or heard of Chocolate Bengals.  Lilac and Fawn are also dilutions of color genes; however, they are much more involved than a simple recessive.  I have not heard of Bengals appearing with these dilutions.

As I said, Bengals come in many different colors, and they're all wild and wonderful in their own way.

*If you have a Bengal that is one of the Dilute colors of Chocolate, Lilac or Fawn and would like to donate a photo so that we can better inform people of these rare colors, please contact me.
Full credit will be given to the owner under the photo.  Thank you!
 



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