Bengal Outcross Program
Increasing the Genetic Diversity of our Bengals through the use of carefully planned crossbreeding.
Most pure breed of cats start with closely related cats who share certain characteristics that the breeder wants to “lock in” for the breed. For example: a female cat may possess a certain characteristic or set of characteristics that a breeder would like to reproduce. When that female has a litter, one male kitten inherits the desired characteristics. This son would then be bred back to the mother to produce more kittens with the desired characteristics. Kittens from the resulting litter may be bred to an unrelated cat, with the resulting kittens potentially being bred back to more closely related cats. This what is considered “line breeding” - breeding mother to son or father to daughter, uncle to niece, and so on, in order to create offspring with a consistent look.
During the creation of the Bengal breed, the hybridization of the Asian Leopard Cat with the domestic cat created many breeding challenges, one of which being fertility of the hybrid offspring. ALC hybrid males are sterile – they cannot produce offspring. Therefore, it was necessary for only the female F1s to be used to continue breeding. The F1 females were bred to domestic males to produce 2G kittens (2nd generation, previously called F2) and the females of those 2G litters were then kept to adulthood and bred to more domestic males to produce 3G (3rd generation, previously called F3). Occasionally the 2G or 3G males were fertile and could be used for breeding, but generally it takes 4 generations of consecutive hybrid to domestic breeding to produce consistently fertile males. (More information on these early generation (EG) Bengals can be found here: Early Generation Bengals.)
Initially, there were not many ALC available to breed and the F1 daughters who were needed for the next generation had their own breeding challenges. Some were aggressive towards their intended domestic mates and injured or killed them. Some females were friendly with their intended domestic mates, but refused to breed with them. Additionally, the early F1 females often took much longer to reach breeding age than a domestic cat, had fewer kittens, and a few of these females killed or abandoned kittens. Some of the F1 females never produced kittens that reached breeding age. As a result of these breeding challenges, the gene pool of the breed was initially very small.
Over time, the number of Bengal breeders grew, and the number of Bengals being bred grew quickly. As the breed grew in popularity and numbers, there were sometimes especially beautiful Bengals that were created and “raised the bar” for the breed. This led to several “cutting edge” males being taken all over the country to different catteries and being bred to MANY queens. These heavily used males allowed the “look” of the breed to progress rather quickly and the numbers of Bengals to also increase quickly. Unfortunately, the gene pool remained relatively small. At the time that the Bengal breed was accepted by TICA as a true established domestic breed in 1986, most Bengals shared multiple ancestors. Even many years later, the Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI) remains high, and the genetic diversity remains low. It is well known among geneticists that low genetic diversity can lead to poor health in individuals and genetic bottlenecks can even lead to extinction.
At Sakura Bengals, we have made working with outcrosses a priority. It is our desire to produce consistently beautiful, healthy, and friendly cats that ALSO are genetically diverse. Our first Outcross Project was “inherited” from Joshua Dabbs of Rowan Bengals. We received a B0N level female, who had both American Shorthair and Egyptian Mau in her pedigree. Her name is Rowan Silver Screen Debut "Stella" and she is a silver spotted tabby. Stella’s Coefficient of Inbreeding is 5.8%, much lower than the breed average of 26% (www.bengal-data.com). Her genetic diversity is 40% which is much higher than the breed average of 31-36% (Wisdom Health). We kept 3 of Stella’s progeny for our breeding program – Sakura Secret Ingredient “Roux” a brown spotted male with 37% genetic diversity, Sakura Windsong “Aria” a silver spotted female with 39% genetic diversity, and Sakura Standing Ovation “Andi” a silver spotted female with 37% genetic diversity. Roux, Aria, and Andi have all been bred to other pure SBT level Bengals to produce kittens that are also considered pure Bengals, but with higher genetic diversity than average. We have seen excellent health in the kittens they have produced along with gorgeous Bengal type, pattern, and color. In our experience the outcross females have also consistently produced larger than average litters of healthy kittens. Stella, Aria, and Andi have averaged 6-7 kittens per litter whereas our non-outcross line females generally average 3-5 kittens. These litter sizes could be correlated with Stella and her daughters specifically rather than directly related to them being outcrosses. But we hope to get similar results with our new outcross project using Domestic Shorthair (random bred) cats.
American Shorthair X Egyptian Mau Outcross Program
Credit to Rowan Bengals
The first few of these breedings were done by Joshua Dabbs of Rowan Bengals. We picked up at the B0N level and continued on to SBT.
Domestic Shorthair Outcross Program
This second outcross program was started from scratch here at Sakura Bengals.
This section is still under construction!
More info and photos coming soon.
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