Many of you may have noticed we have several cats that are not 100% Bengal but rather part Egyptian Mau or American Short Hair. You may notice their registration numbers are not what you normally see starting with SBT, maybe A0N and wondered what this means.
Outcross breeding began with scientist Gregor Mendel who experimented with outcrossing pea plant flowers to analyze the patterns and function of inheritance (1) between 1856 and 1863.
An outcross program is one that brings in other established breeds to integrate into the Bengal Breed. This may seem weird but there is a VERY good purpose for this.
There are a few breeds that can reintroduce traits that may have been lost among the current Bengal Breed. Some traits that may benefit from an outcross include the ears that are smaller and more rounded, body types that are more muscular and dense, top skulls that are rounded and tails that are medium in length and thick. By this same logic, with careful selection, we can also eliminate undesirable traits.
Another benefit of an outcross program is genetic diversity. By introducing genes outside the gene pool, the Bengal gene pool is increased. The Coefficient of Inbreeding or COI is further reduced as well. Kittens produced from these carefully selected outcrosses also are often healthier, have healthier birth weights and fertility. Charles Darwin had also noted these adaptations as well in his studies (2).
Here is a fantastic article from Royal Canin's Journal "Veterinary Force" that goes hand in hand with our outcross program. It goes in-depth into the importance of genetic diversity within a breeding program and its impact on the overall health, wellness, and longevity of a breed.
Recently Jessica Petras of liberty Bengals attended the Fred Scott Symposium at Cornell University in July of 2019. Here she learned that "Cats with a greater genetic diversity are at a lesser risk of FIPV and FIP development. Breeding programs should focus on increasing diversity for stronger inherited immune systems to help prevent allowing FECV to mutate into FIPV & FIP. (50% of which is statically inherited)"
The outcross is also essential for the silver-colored Bengals (Elysian Bengals primary focus). The origin of the silver color comes from the American Short Hair. With the gene pool leading back to one outcross, a future of a reduced gene pool is possible. To prevent this, outcrossing to established and quality silver breeds is essential. Check out our Blog Post detailing the history and results of this amazing program.
An outcross program is many things but a few things it is not.
The breeds selected for outcrossing are very carefully selected which involves avoiding the pairing of cats with recessive mutations. A responsible and ethical Breeder does not simply stick two cats together. Type and important characteristics are evaluated, health is a top priority, recording observations and testing are all part of properly, safely and establishing a quality outcross program. These programs require careful planning, coordination, and leadership, requiring quite the commitment. Our program has been in progress for 15 years starting with our mentor Joshua Dabbs. Credit must also be given to Leslie Pool at Amazon Bengals and Erin Russel of Russeller’s Cattery.
TOUCH O KATZ MARINO GOES LONG/CF picture credit Unknown provided by Kimberely Benson
Our program specifically uses Egyptian Maus and American Short Hairs.
In regards to type, Egyptian Maus contribute the following to the Bengal breed:
Cleaner untarnished silver color
Back legs that are slightly longer than the front
Medium length tails
Close lying coats
Double Grand Champion Russellers Silver Dynasty of Rowan Photo Credits Audra Mitchell
American Short Hair x Bengal
In regards to type, American Short Hairs contribute the following to the Bengal breed:
Cleaner untarnished silver color
Rounded ear tips
Large round eyes
Full strong chin
Firm muscle tone
Broader bone structure
Our outcrosses have a registration number starting with AON, BON and CON. A, B or C represents the number of generations the cat is and their relation to the outcross:
A= first generation outcross from two cats from different breeds
B= second-generation outcross with at least one non-Bengal grandparent
C = third-generation outcross with at least one non-Bengal great grandparent
CON Third generation outcross 50% Bengal 25% American Shorthair 25% Egyptian Mau
O - means outcross and that there are no unknown or unregistered cats in the three-generation pedigree
N - means non-permissible. While an outcross can be registered, it cannot be shown.
After the third generation, we have a Stud Book Traditional or SBT. This is a fourth-generation cat that is eligible to be shown with The International Cat Association or TICA and is considered 100% Bengal. The ultimate goal is to incorporate these traits and then breed back to 100% Bengals.
An important thing to remember is while some states and cities have breed restrictions on Bengals, this generally does not affect these types of outcrosses.
Outcrossing to established and quality breeds such as the Egyptian Mau and American Short Hair can not only provide genetic diversity and bring in lost traits but can often produce healthier and more fertile offspring. While an outcross program requires careful planning, coordination, and commitment, it can be extremely rewarding for a Breeder’s program as well as the Bengal breed as a whole.
2. Darwin CR (1876). The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. London: John Murray. http://darwin-online.org.uk/converted/published/1881_Worms_F1357/1876_CrossandSelfFertilisation_F1249/1876_CrossandSelfFertilisation_F1249.html see page 462
*This information and text on this page is the sole property of Elysian Bengals and The Nutrition Code. Its use is strictly prohibited without the permission of Meghan Leah Waals