Bengals!

The eleven-minute video below tells a story of selective breeding: how Bengal cats were created by crossing a domestic cat to an Asian leopard cat (Prionailus bengalensis), and then repeatedly backcrossing the hybrids to domestic cats, instilling a placid domestic-cat temperament, ridding the hybrids of sterility, and preserving a leopard-like pattern of rosettes. One of the heroes of this story is Anthony Hutcherson, a friend I made at the Great New Yorker Dog versus Cat Debate, and who promised me a free Bengal kitten any time I want. (The only reason I haven’t gotten one is because I travel too much.) He also offered one to another team member, Joyce Carol Oates, and she got one (see here).

Anthony’s cats are not only beautiful, but sweet-tempered, as I discovered when I had one in my lap for over an hour in front of a big audience in New York. To read more about him and Bengals, see Ariel Levy’s New Yorker piece, “Living room leopards“.

16 Comments

  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Interesting for sure. However, I have to say I’m not really much for the breeders. So many cats out there and many people just do not have the responsibility with animals that ends up causing all the problems I would rather see that area be worked on than making new breeds to suit people’s fashion.

    • Posted October 31, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      Yes. They are gorgeous, but every time I see one I think of all the cats sitting in shelters facing death.

      • Stephen Mynett
        Posted October 31, 2017 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

        I agree it is a worry. A friend of mine is married to a veterinary nurse, I think it was a love of animals that brought them together. They have some amazing cats, all rescued. One has a leg missing, another is minus an ear but they are still beautiful animals and very friendly.

    • BJ
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      I 100% agree. I wish people weren’t allowed to breed animals to be sold when it comes to those that already have millions across the country in need of homes. Every cat that’s bred and then bought is another cat that remains homeless and in misery.

    • Posted October 31, 2017 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

      Thanks to everyone for telling me what kind of cat I need to get, especially since I don’t think I’m getting one any time soon.

      Jebus.

      • Josh Lincoln
        Posted November 1, 2017 at 6:16 am | Permalink

        I don’t think the point that people are making is what kind of cat you should get, I think the point is should people be breeding cats and dogs at all (when there are so many stray mixed breed dogs and domestic short haired cats in need of homes).

        • Posted November 1, 2017 at 7:36 am | Permalink

          Well, you might consider that people like Anthony had a specific biological goal: to produce a house cat that had the markings of a leopard. You’re not going to do that without breeding. The byproduct of that is purebred Bengals.

          Seriously, people SHOULDN’T have goals like that? Sometimes they are doing it for artistic reasons, and many dog breeds were created to do specific tasks.

          • BJ
            Posted November 1, 2017 at 10:02 am | Permalink

            I’m not saying Anthony is a bad person (and I wasn’t telling you what kind of cat you should get. We were having a conversation about a general issue), but he and I (and you) simply disagree on some things. I don’t see why birthing animals solely for the purpose of art is a worthy goal, but I don’t think you’re a bad person for disagreeing with my assessment. Also, I was saying that I don’t approve of breeding animals for the specific purpose of being pets, as there are already millions that can fulfill that role and need homes. Breeding dogs for purposes of sheep herding or similar is very different, as you are breeding them for a specific utility that can not as easily be fulfilled.

          • Josh Lincoln
            Posted November 1, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

            In my opinion as a human (who is a veterinarian), yes, seriously, people should not have goals like that. But, it is just my opinion no more or less important than anyone else’s.
            As far as working dogs in the US my rough guess would be that WELL over 90% off the domestic canine population are not specific breed related working dogs.

  2. danstarfish
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting. The Bengals are beautiful.

    I wonder why there are so many cats bred solely for their looks, but you don’t really get them bred for personality type traits like some breeds of dog.

    I read somewhere that current humane practices of catching feral cats and neutering them might be unintentionally breeding cats to be more wild and less social. The cats they don’t catch and that continue breeding are the wilder ones. At the same time, I wouldn’t want them to stop because I have visited parts of the world with lots of feral cats and you really do feel bad for all the cats that don’t have homes and are hungry.

    • BJ
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      Oh, bengals are also bred for their personalities. They’re highly social, curious, and energetic. Jerry’s very smart not to get one if he travels frequently. Bengals need constant contact or they become depressed.

  3. Posted October 31, 2017 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Really interesting! And the toyger.. wow.

  4. Hemidactylus
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    I am a unrepentant DOGmatist and take issue with the overwhelming cat bias on this blog but Bengals are kinda coolish I guess. My dog is currently asleep and she hates other dogs anyway. She has an unhealthy love for cats I cannot fathom given their bloodthirsty ways.

    • BJ
      Posted November 1, 2017 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      “My dog is currently asleep and she hates other dogs anyway. She has an unhealthy love for cats I cannot fathom given their bloodthirsty ways.”

      Your dog clearly knows better than you 😉

  5. Posted November 1, 2017 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    I think these cat are awsome. And i have one too they are very loving kitties.

  6. Laurance
    Posted November 1, 2017 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    I am not at all impressed with purebreeding or with breeding to create various kinds of animals.

    Animals are NOT merchandise. They are living beings with feelings. They are not toys for breeders to experiment with, to see what kinds of exotic characteristics they can create.

    And I’m concerned about genetic defects. Twice I’ve been given purebred animals by owners who didn’t want them any more. That field spaniel and Persian cat had problems. And I’ve seen major defects in purebred d*gs (that I did not own myself).

    I think it’s cruelty to animals. The human bean wants some characteristic (like the Persian cat I rescued who had been bred to look like a kitten with the rounded ears and flat face), and it’s the animal who pays the price in suffering.

    I’d like to hear from Jerry about genetics and evolution and such. Not all mutations are beneficial, and while breeding isn’t about mutations, it’s still working with genetics. It appears to me that while the breeders may get the characteristic they want they will also get problems.

    Moggies and mongrels for me! Adopting a pet from the shelter is the way I want to go.


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