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What does "Type" mean?

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A Bengal cat is an athletic animal (...) with strength, agility, balance and grace. It is a medium to large which exhibits a very muscular and solid build. Its wide nose with prominent whisker pads and large oval, almost round eyes in a slightly small head enhance the wild appearance and expressive nocturnal look. Its very slight, to nearly straight, concave profile and relatively short ears with wide base and rounded tips add to the Bengal’s distinctive and unique appearance (...)  A thick, low-set, medium-length tail adds balance to the cat.

TICA Standard extract

We need to start from the beginning, so forget for a minute everything you read about the Bengal Cat Standard. To understand "The Type" you need to ask yourself what makes a Bengal cat look like a Bengal cat. Silly question? should be, but is not.  Somebody told me once that you should imagine a Bengal painted all in green, no pattern at all... now ask yourself if you can tell if you are looking at a Bengal or any other domestic cat. Well, if you can recognize the breed, that cat has a "good type". If you paint in green a Persian or an Oriental cat, you can't fail in recognizing them... well, it should be that easy to do that with our breed.

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1) Straight profile, 2) Concave profile, 3) Profile with breaks, 4) Strong chin, 5) Prominent chin, 6) Weak chin, 7) Eyes placed near to the nose, 8) Eyes a bit far from the nose, 9) Eyes and back skull breaking the Rule of Thirds proportions.

As we can see, slight modifications can really change a cat's expression. But from my point of view, not all are critical. All ranges between 1 and 2 option (from above), are not necessarily distant from an Asian Leopard (ALC) look. Well, it all depends on what subspecies we want to approach. For some of them, the standard description (gently curve) is the closest option. Anyway, I think other modifications are more important. Increase the distance eyes-nose may not make a terrible look, even can match with bigger wild felines. But, also, a high eye position is shared with some domestic cats. Remember, the goal of all of us is to make a Bengal look recognizable, pattern aside. For me, this means to reach that unique look that resembles a wildcat. Now, we need to ask ourselves another important question: Which feline is our inspiration?  Prionailurus bengalensis? can we think of other wildcats? Actually, having a Clouded Leopard as an objective is very popular nowadays, others are faithful to ALCs and others are using Margay or even Guigna. Actually, these last two are really different from each other. Margay has a very triangular head, and Guigna has an oval one.

I'm not that old in the breeding world so I can't pretend to explain what a Bengal type should look like, so believe me, I'm not trying to do it. But I can share with you what I got from drawing what I learned reading, looking at pics from a lot of cats, and talking with breeders who are always happy to teach and discuss everything about this amazing breed. Internet is full of breeder's posts about how should look at a Bengal profile, the right eyes, and ears size, and where they should be placed... but is not always easy to understand if you don't have that much graphic support to let you understand what they mean. Well, the last Loof illustrated Standards gave me the idea to start drawing my own version to test what I learn. I start with the polemic obsession with straight profiles. Personally like it more with a gentle curve, but may recognize straight it is not the end of the world. Actually, the conclusion of all my drawings is that now I have a better idea of which qualities really affect the wild look that we all are looking for. Of course, this is totally subjective, but breeding Bengals is still depending a lot on the breeder's point of view. 

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10) Wide nose which fills the whole space between eyes.

11) Small nose compare to the space between eyes which can make an American Shorthair look.

12) Stronger and wider chin that make a resemblance of big felines.

13) Cat with eyes hight placed. Also with the Classic Tabby M on the forehead. 

Can we really go that far away from each other? Can we even decide which wild cat is our goal? Some (maybe a lot of you) will say: "No Way!", in fact, standards are made for closing many doors in this direction. But still, there are two ways to go. One is using the Standard gaps so we can experiment with some boundaries, and the other is going further. I'm not even talking about outcrossing here, selection can do wonders. Following this path must have a goal, it is not just misbehaving. There will be some failures but who knows, some breeders can succeed in making some interesting wild looks that can help in the future breed development. 

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In order to get close to small forest wildcats, you can pursue this proportions: eyes and muzzle cat are placed on the first third, the forehead on the second, and the ears and back skull on the last section.

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We need to go back to sketches for a moment. Having a stronger chin -like drawing number 5 shows- can help some breeders to resemble a big cat, not quite for the ones who are looking to get close to arboreal ones. So it is important to consider that choosing for any feature in specific must be aligned with the goal we have in our minds. We need to think about every step we make in getting closer to the cat we want to achieve. A cat with a weak chin (drawing number 7) can still have a wild look if exist a right balance with other features. So maybe this is telling us that we shouldn't think rules are totally unbreakable. If we think about The Rule of Thirds -which defines the right place of eyes, ears, and back skull matching how it does on ALCs- we can say is still a useful tool just because these proportions are equal on lots of small forest wildcats. Changing it really affect the look, as we can see in sketches number 8, 9, and 13. But again, it all depends on what we want to achieve. What happens if I decide to look for bigger eyes? some small wildcats have really big eyes, but also longer heads, so all proportions remain. But looking for bigger eyes and trying to maintain these proportions on Bengals cats can be extremely difficult, just because the amount of domestic blood goes the opposite direction. We can't deny there are some qualities of ALCs or even Early Generations Bengals (EG) that will be lost no matter what we do. That doesn't mean we are going to fail in making a Bengal cat look wilder. Maybe we just need to find other ways to do it.

So, a breeder who pursues bigger eyes goal may change The Rule of Thirds proportions at some point. Having that done we can decide if this big change is worth it or not. Looking for bigger eyes even can be benefited from breaking the rule of having a large nose that fits the whole space between eyes (sketch number 10 and 11) just to make an impression of giant eyes. Is it that terrible to even try?

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Bigger eyes

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In conclusion, nowadays the "Type" is the physical qualities that make a Bengal look like a Standard Bengal; but in my opinion, should go further than that. The Type must be the reason why a Bengal cat looks like a wildcat. We need to reach the status of other breeds that can't be mistaken for others. My last drawing tries to go closer to an ALC, with rounded ears, a really big puffed leather nose, and of course, impressive eyes. Go there look almost impossible now, but maybe it is not. If we want to, we can use outcross with ALCs (again) or even with other domestic breeds, or not. Breeding selection can take us to interesting paths if we really know where we want to go. But we do not need (or want) to copy an ALC or other wildcat look, we just need to make a Bengal Look unique. Having said all these atrocities I remind you that I do not pretend to teach anyone how to breed or which direction may take, I'm just sharing my vision at this point and letting you know a bit more about our program and at the same time, having a good time drawing cats!

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