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6 Brilliant Facts About Bengal Cats

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With its lithe body, large oval eyes, and a coat that’s covered in contrasting spotted or marbled markings, the Bengal looks like a tiny jungle cat. Here are six bits of trivia about the exotic kitty.

1. THE BENGAL CAT IS A WILDCAT/DOMESTIC CAT HYBRID …

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Today, owning a leopard cat—a small spotted wildcat from South and East Asia that’s also known as the Asian leopard cat—can be a highly regulated and complex proposition. But it was much easier in 1963, when a cat breeder named Jean Sugden purchased a female leopard cat from a pet store. Sugden reportedly thought the spotted feline looked lonely in its cage, so she stuck a domestic male cat in there with him, not expecting for them to reproduce. (Another version of the story has Sugden deliberately trying to breed a domestic cat that looked like a leopard to get women to stop wearing leopard-skin coats.) But nature found a way, and the two cats mated. Later, the leopard cat gave birth to a litter of kittens. Sadly, only one female kitten survived, but the leopard cat got pregnant once more and gave birth to two more babies.

After her husband passed away, Sugden took a long hiatus from breeding the spotted cats, and gave away her leopard cat. But years later, in the 1970s, she re-married, changed her last name to Mill, and decided to make a foray back into breeding. Her goal was to create a new, spotted feline with the personality of a regular kitty. Since it was now much harder to buy leopard cats, Mill relied on female hybrids supplied by a geneticist named Dr. Willard Centerwall, who had used them to study a noticeable resistance to the feline leukemia virus. (Male wildcat/domestic cats are typically less likely to be fertile than female ones.) Mill mated them with a short-haired, brown-spotted rescue tabby and an orange shorthair with dark brown rosette spots that she had specially exported from a zoo in New Delhi, India.

Mill initially called her unique cats the “Leopardette,” but the name was later changed to Bengal in honor of the leopard cat’s scientific name, Prionailurus bengalensis. Along the way, Mill encountered difficulties in her breeding program. While today’s Bengal is lively and loving, Mill’s first generation of hybrid felines were skittish and anxious, just like their jungle cat ancestors. (Over the years, breeders have cut non-affectionate Bengals from breeding programs, resulting in more pleasant, even-tempered cats.) And since they were a cross between two different species, the first male Bengals cats were infertile. Three generations later, only around 50 percent of them were able to sire kittens. This slowed down the breed’s development considerably.

Still, Mill kept at it, and eventually bred enough cats to only breed Bengals with other Bengals. Today, no leopard cats are used in breeding programs, and most pet Bengals are several generations removed from their feral progenitors.

2. ... WHICH MAKES IT CONTROVERSIAL IN SOME CIRCLES.

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By 1985, Mill had bred numerous Bengals, and began showing them at cat shows hosted by The International Cat Association (TICA), one of the world's largest registries of pedigreed cats. But the new feline wasn’t greeted with open arms: Cat breeders protested, saying it was dangerous to show cats descended from non-domestic wild animals, and others said it was unethical to breed threatened or endangered wildcats with domestic ones. Still, the exotic cat found fans, and they formed clubs like The International Bengal Cat Society.

In 1991, TICA accepted the Bengal for championship status, and another group, the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA) quickly followed suit. However, the Bengal was still a relatively new—and wild—breed, and the ACFA rescinded their support for the Bengal after they reportedly experienced problems with second-generation cats at shows.

In 1997, the ACFA accepted the Bengal once more, but on one condition: Cats displayed at shows had to be five generations removed from their wildcat ancestors. Today all cat associations that recognize the Bengal have rules regarding how closely show cats can be related to the leopard cat. And for a long time, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), another large pedigree cat registry, wouldn’t recognize the Bengal at all.

Recently, the CFA accepted the Bengal in the Miscellaneous Class, meaning the breed has begun the process for official recognition. The Bengal is now exhibited at shows, where judges are examining it and forming a breed standard. Still, it’s not eligible to win any awards just yet.

3. THE BENGAL IS A POPULAR FELINE.

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Even though many cat fanciers and associations were slow to warm up to the Bengal, it quickly skyrocketed in popularity following TICA’s 1991 stamp of approval. As of the end of 2010, Bengals were the most registered cat with TICA with 6369 cats registered, beating out Ragdolls at 4050 and Maine Coons at 2062.

4. BENGALS ARE KNOWN FOR THEIR DISTINCTIVE SPOTTED OR "MARBLED" COATS.

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Bengal cats are known for their distinctively patterned fur, which is short, silky, and often “sparkles” at the tips when the light hits it the right way. No two cats’ markings are exactly alike, but the Bengal’s coat comes in two main patterns: spots and two-toned markings called “rosettes,” or marbled, which means the cat has long stripes that swirl around their bodies. The most popular Bengal colors are brown/black, but the cat can come in a variety of shades, including black and silver, seal brown and silver, charcoal, and blue [PDF]. Their eyes are typically green, gold/yellow, or aqua/blue.

Bengals are large, well-muscled felines. They aren't enormous like Maine Coons or Norwegian Forest Cats, but according to some estimates, they can weigh between 6 and 15 pounds; some people even claim that larger Bengals can weigh in at 18 pounds.

5. THE BENGAL IS AN ACTIVE CAT.

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Even though a Bengal looks like a wildcat, it’s been bred to have the personality of a typical feline. Bengal owners say their cats are intelligent, vocal, and very active. They love to climb furniture, leap up onto high surfaces, play fetch, and splash around in bathtubs and sinks. If you’re looking for a docile lap cat, the Bengal isn’t for you. But if you’re an energetic person who wants a cat that can keep up with your high-intensity lifestyle, it might be the perfect breed.

6. BENGALS ARE EXPENSIVE FELINES.

Want to purchase a Bengal cat? Make sure you’ve saved up plenty of cash. Fans of the breed shell out anywhere from hundreds of dollars for a “pet” quality Bengal—meaning it’s not meant to be exhibited at shows—to thousands for a show-quality one. According to one tale (which might be more fictional than fact-based), a British woman once paid over $50,000 for a Bengal cat in 1990, calling them the “Rolls Royce” of kitties.

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Ranthambhore National Park Is Helping India's Famous Tigers Thrive
Stringer, AFP/Getty Images
Stringer, AFP/Getty Images

Forty-four years ago, India launched its “Protect Tiger” initiative and declared the Bengal tiger the national animal. At the time, the population had dwindled to just 268 cats due to poaching and habitat loss. The species is in much better shape today: India’s tiger population has increased by 1300 percent in the past four decades, and that’s thanks in part to tiger sanctuaries like Ranthambhore National Park.

According to Lonely Planet, Ranthambhore National Park may be the most famous tiger park in India. It’s certainly one of the most successful: The site has provided a secure home for generations of tigers since it was founded on the former hunting grounds of a Maharaja in 1955. While the overall tiger population in India is still threatened by poaching, habitat loss, and human-tiger conflict, Ranthambhore claims 67 tigers inside its borders—the highest-ever number for the park, according to the latest census. And with cubs making up 26 of those cats, the park has a promising future ahead of it.

Tigers within the park borders are so abundant that officials at Ranthambhore plan to share their good fortune. Cats from the park will be sent to the neighboring Sariska National Park, which was completely devoid of tigers in 2005 due to a poaching crisis. There are 13 tigers living in the park today, and the transplants from Ranthambhore will hopefully strengthen the population.

Ranthambhore National Park is open to tourists from October 1 to June 30. If you’re unable to book a tour, you can check out the photos below to see the park’s famous residents.

Tiger walking behind car.
Koshy Koshy, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Tiger laying on dirt path.

Tiger in the woods.
Himangini Rathore Hooja, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Tiger laying down and yawning.
Aditya Singh, AFP/Getty Images

Tiger looking out from tall grass.
Stephen Jaffe, AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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15 Fun Facts About Puppy Bowl
Animal Planet
Animal Planet

The Super Bowl can keep its 111.9 million viewers and $5 million ad buys. Because the Puppy Bowl, which celebrates its 14th year this Sunday on Animal Planet, has got something much better: puppies! Ninety of them—and all of them adoptable. There are kittens, too (they provide the halftime entertainment), and Meep the tweeting African Gray Parrot (follow him at @MeepTheBird) plus a host of other species.

With the help of Dan Schachner, who’ll be donning the black and white stripes for his seventh go as the "Rufferee," we’ve uncovered 15 things you might not have known about Puppy Bowl.

1. IT WAS INSPIRED BY THE YULE LOG.

Yes, that long-running holiday television special that featured nothing more than the image of a log burning in a fireplace with Christmas music playing in the background is what inspired the Puppy Bowl. And its broadcast debut, back in 2005, was a much less elaborate affair, comprised mainly of copious amounts of footage of puppies playing. But it did feature the game’s very first Unsportsmanlike Delay of Game penalty, issued to a pup named Riley for, in the announcer’s words, deciding to “use the field as his own personal bathroom.” (See the video above.)

2. SAFETY IS THE TOP PRIORITY.

Puppies will be puppies. And puppies don’t always play fair. In addition to a veterinarian, who is on the set throughout the program’s production, representatives from the Humane Society and each of the shelters whose dogs are being featured are on hand to ensure the safety of the competitors. This includes giving the puppies a break from the lights, camera and action every 30 minutes. For the 2018 event, 90 puppies from a record 58 shelters and rescue groups from 24 states and Puerto Rico will be represented.

3. GAME DAY OCCURS IN OCTOBER.

JPaw and Lila compete in Puppy Bowl XIV
Animal Planet

Puppy Bowl is not a live broadcast. It’s shot over the course of two days in October. “That element takes people aback,” admits Schachner. But the reason why is totally understandable. “It’s three months of preparation because it’s two full days of shooting,” continues Schachner. “Plus it’s 21 cameras on the field. So that’s a lot of footage to edit and turn into a two-hour show.”

4. PEANUT BUTTER IS THE PRODUCTION TEAM'S BEST FRIEND.

Just how does the production team manage to get all those adorable up-close images? Easy: Peanut butter. Of the dozens of cameras used to capture all the on-field action, one is mounted beneath a glass-bottom water bowl while others are hidden in the dogs’ chew toys, but not before they’re smeared with peanut butter to attract the competing canines.

5. PUPPY BOWL VIII FEATURED A DOUBLE TOUCHDOWN.

“We’re very open-minded as far as our rules go,” says Schachner, who notes that in Puppy Bowl VIII, “we had a simultaneous touchdown and that had never happened before. Two puppies dragged two chew toys into the end zone at the same exact time. I didn’t know what to do, so I talked to our control room. We did an instant replay and determined that it counted. Each puppy was then awarded one touchdown point.”

6. THE CHEERLEADERS ARE ALWAYS CHANGING.

In 2010, the Puppy Bowl added a bit of ra-ra-ra to the production when it included a team of bunny cheerleaders. In 2011, chickens were the animals cheering on the sidelines. In 2012, the chicks were replaced by a Piggy Pep Squad, followed by a team of hedgehogs in 2013, a group of peppy penguins direct from the Columbus Zoo in 2014, five Nigerian dwarf goats in 2015, "five big-haired silkie chickens" in 2016, and a squad of rescue rabbits and guinea pigs in 2017. For 2018, the game will feature what Animal Planet is calling "an adorable blended bunch of baby barnyard cheerleaders," which will include ducklings, piglets, and baby bunnies.

7. LACK OF ENERGY IS CAUSE FOR DISQUALIFICATION.

Ana competes in Puppy Bowl XIV
Animal Planet

“We’ve had penalties when puppies are too rambunctious, but also when they’re too lazy,” says Schachner of the behaviors that can disqualify a pup from competition. “That’s called ‘illegal napping’ or ‘excessive napping.’”

8. “PANCAKING” IS ALSO NOT ALLOWED.

When asked about the oddest penalty he has ever had to heap on a competitor, Schachner recalls “one puppy that was literally flattening other puppies. Puppies will shove and bite and sniff and tackle. But there was one puppy that was literally jumping up and landing on the backs of the other puppies. So we made up a foul then called ‘pancaking.’ We sent her back 15 yards.”

9. PUPPY BOWL LANDED AN OLYMPIC SPINOFF.

In 2008, a Puppy Bowl spinoff—Puppy Games—aired opposite the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics. While the setup was the same as Puppy Bowl, the competitions were all new and included swimming, boxing, soccer, and gymnastics events.

10. THERE’S A LOT MORE POOP THAT YOU DON’T SEE.

Cleaning up after the game’s not-always-housebroken competitors is part of the ref’s job. But Schachner says that the biggest misconception about his role is that “I’m picking up poop and pee all the time. [People] forget that there’s an amazing grounds crew here on staff. They’re like little elves who come in and magically erase all the pet poop that’s left on the field so that when the game is actually playing and those cameras are rolling, you’re not going to see too many fouls. You’ll see a couple, but you’re not going to see too much of puppies doing what comes naturally to them!”

11. YES THE PUPPIES ARE ADOPTABLE—BUT GOOD LUCK ADOPTING ONE.

Barry and Olympia compete in Puppy Bowl XIV
Animal Planet

Yes, all of Puppy Bowl’s competitors are shelter dogs. (So are the cats.) But because of the show’s October production versus February airing, “by the time the Puppy Bowl actually airs, most of these puppies have already found their forever homes,” says Schachner. “We encourage everyone to go on to AnimalPlanet.com during the airing and if you see a puppy that you fall in love with, check him out. They may be adoptable. And if not that shelter will have other puppies who are equally adorable, maybe even from the same litter.”

12. IT’S NO LONGER THE ONLY ANIMAL "BOWL."

The Puppy Bowl’s popularity has not gone unnoticed by other networks. Hallmark Channel will cater to the cat crowd with the fifth edition of its Kitten Bowl.

13. A RECORD NUMBER OF VIEWERS TUNED IN FOR THE 2014 EVENT.

Peanut and Hinesville compete in Puppy Bowl XIV
Animal Planet

Puppy Bowl X scored huge ratings; a total of 13.5 million tuned in throughout the 12-hour canine extravaganza, making Puppy Bowl the most watched cable program during 2014's Super Bowl Sunday and the second most watched show in all of television that night (second only to some football game playing on Fox). Though the total number of viewers dipped in 2016, Puppy Bowl bounced back in 2017, which ended up being its second most-watched Puppy Bowl ever.

14. SEVERAL SPECIAL NEEDS PUPS WILL BE COMPETING. 

In a Puppy Bowl first, three of last year's competitors were pups with disabilities. Even more special needs pups will be participating in this year's Big Game: There's Ryder, a visually impaired Husky; Chance, a deaf Dalmatian; Moonshine, a sight-impaired and deaf Border Collie; and Luna, a Pomeranian mix with a cleft palate. 

15. THIS YEAR'S PUPPY BOWL WILL FEATURE A RESCUE SLOTH.

After seven years as the Puppy Bowl's referee, Schachner is a pro. But that hasn't stopped him from enlisting some help this year when it comes to calling penalties and celebrating touchdowns. Assisting him on the field for 2018 will be a special guest: Shirley the rescue sloth.

An earlier version of this story ran in 2014.

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