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"being of such surpassing excellence as to suggest inspiration by the gods"



Our first litter of kittens at Elysian Bengals was a litter of charcoals and not just APb/a charcoals but APb/APb charcoals complete with mask, goggles, cape and dark expression. Immediately I knew there was more to charcoal and more to APb. I consulted my mentor to hear about his thoughts and further discuss why charcoal was not recognized. And thus my journey began.

1. To have a standard written describing the charcoal expression
2. To have the charcoal expression recognized in the show hall 

3.  Demonstrate there are several genotypes that express charcoal

4. To embark on more research and an understanding of Apb expression in the Bengal cats 



In August of 2018 I decided to contact Karen Sausman (Kingsmark) who was highly recommended to me to help in this endeavor. Not only was Karen a bengal breeder but also founded the Serengeti breed and was integral to getting them accepted by TICA. She took the time to read 11 editions of the proposal, donated funds for the breed poll, and helped me stay in contact with Anthony Hutcherson (Jungle Trax) who was Breed Committee Chair and helped to facilitate what needed to be done and who had to see what. Canie Brooks (Wild Gold Bengals) was integral as well. She deciphered TICA lingo, advocated and educated, and became a fantastic liaison between myself and the TICA committee. 


On April 25, 2020, the final board meeting reviewed the proposal and information gaining acceptance and officially welcoming charcoal to the show hall (amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic) May 1, 2020. 

The following were the requirements that needed to be full filled to have the proposal reviews, voted upon, and ultimately accepted:


  • Write a Proposal 

  • Present the proposal and receive a majority vote from the Breed Committee

  • Approval from the Rules Committee

Approval from the Genetics Committee

  • Notice of intent to the Trend 

  • 10 Breeder Statements of Support

  • 50 Bengals Registered as Charcoal

10 Charcoals Show in the new traits Class

  • Submit Forms and Requirement fulfillment

Breed Community Poll 
 ($150 fee)

  • Discussion and final approval by the TICA board 


































Welcoming the Charcoal Bengal to the Show Hall


Meghan Leah Waals




We propose that Charcoal is a pattern effect defined by the presence of darker expression, mask, and cape as well as near white goggles encircling the eyes. Genotype should be disregarded when determining if a cat is a Charcoal. 


We propose the following addition to the TICA standard to have charcoal recognized as its own pattern effect within the Bengal Breed Standard (see below to address other breeds):


Charcoal Tabby: The face should include a mask that is dark in color. It should run over the nose and connect at the cheekbones.  In addition, the eyes shall be encircled by near white colored goggles. There should be a broad dark dorsal stripe running the length of the back (preferable but not required in the color point series ONLY).


We are requesting a change to section 71.8 Color and Pattern Variations and section 74.2 Tabby (Torbie) Colors.


Add to section 71.8:

Charcoal Tabby - A pattern effect caused by an agouti variant affecting pigment distribution.  It is characterized as an increase in dark pigment wherever pigment is already present on the tabby coat. This creates multiple pattern effects on the coat such as darker ground and marking coloration, a broader dorsal stripe, and/or a noticeably darker coloration along the nose bridge and cheek bones, which are accented by near white goggles encircling the eyes.  Charcoal is a tabby pattern effect and not a color.  All patterns of the charcoal tabby are possible, as are all basic eumelanistic colors.  The charcoal effect is the result of the use of the Asian Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) in the development of the Bengal breed.

Add to section 74.2:

Charcoal tabbies are the result of a pattern effect caused by an agouti variant affecting pigment distribution. It is a dominant trait caused by the APb gene. All patterns of Charcoal tabbies are possible as are all basic colors. On patterned tabbies (i.e. mackerel, classic, etc.) the Charcoal effect appears in the ground color and marking coloration.

Charcoal Tabby Color Terminology:


Insert Charcoal before pattern

Brown (Black) Charcoal Spotted/Marble

Seal Charcoal Spotted/Marble Lynx (Tabby) point
Black Silver Charcoal Spotted/Marble tabby


The Agouti Prionailurus bengalensis (APb) also known as the Asian Leopard Cat (ALC) agouti gene is a developing topic in the Bengal breed.  While not all Bengals have APb in its genetic code, this gene has the possibility of being inherited and is unique to the Bengal cat. APb is also part of an evolving equation that makes up the charcoal expression.


According to the University of California Davis, Agouti is a gene that is responsible for the presentation of black pigment. When you look at the results of a color test you first will see the A allele (an allele being a trait that is contributed to the offspring, one from each parent). "A" is responsible for a banded hair shaft that presents more of a tabby pattern whereas "a" plays a role in masking pattern. The most extreme of this is in a solid cat whose genetic code is a/a (1). The Bengal cat was developed from breeding an ALC to a domestic cat. Both “A” and “a” have an origin with the domestic cat however APb, comes strictly from the ALC.




To date, only one study has been published that focuses on APb in the ALC and domestic Bengal Cat.  Conclusions from this study suggest that because charcoal Bengals are seen in early generation cats, that the charcoal expression comes from the APb (ALC agouti variant) and "a" (domestic non-agouti variant) resulting in the APb/a genotype (2). Therefore, it seems the general consensus is that APb/a genotyped cats qualify genetically as charcoals versus other genotypes.


We propose that charcoal is a pattern effect and that through current and ongoing research we have and will come to understand there is more to this expression than a genotype.


The study mentioned above entitled Who's behind that mask an` cape? The Asian leopard cat's Agouti (ASIP) allele likely affects coat colour phenotype in the Bengal cat breed, concludes that the charcoal expression (defined by the researchers as "An unusual pelage [fur] type involving a darker face ‘mask' and a dark dorsal stripe, commonly referred to as a ‘cape'….") is a genotype denoted by the APb/a color code sequence.


While the study identified that the pairing of the ALC agouti variant and domestic non-agouti variant are responsible for the charcoal expression due to the prevalence of charcoal expressed cats in early generations, it did not identify the causation for other genotyped cats presenting as charcoal. 


As mentioned in the study "Inhibitor (I) Siamese (cs) and Burmese points (cb), brown variants (b, bl) and dilution (d) … these colouration genes often confound proper phenotyping." And "Other wild felid-specific variants will likely affect tabby patterning as well as other aspects of colouration and morphological variation." In other words, other genes alter the presentation of APb affecting color and pattern making it not unreasonable that other genotypes can still express as a charcoal.


This again suggests that there is far more at play in the expression of charcoal than simply an APb/a genotype. After all the study does conclude "The allelic relationships of ASIPAPbe with ASIP-A and ASIP-a are not fully understood, and more systematic studies are needed to determine the mode of inheritance for charcoal." (2)


Dr. Christopher Kaelin is currently studying Asian Leopard Cat ancestry in the Bengal breed. The as yet to be published research suggests that the ALC ASIP allele has been introduced into the Bengal breed multiple times, by different ALCs. Independent introductions of an ALC ASIP allele have similar effects on coat color. For example, a common agouti variant is A2. It is an ALC agouti variant that doesn't cause the charcoal phenotype. We are also aware that there are different agouti genes in different leopard cats with the same expression.


The expression of charcoal can be compared to the difference between brown versus silver cats. Simply apply the inhibitor gene and your brown now no longer is brown in color, most or all the warm tones are inhibited, and you now have a silver cat. Without this modification, you have a warm-toned brown cat. Silver isn't technically a color it's a modifier (3). The APb gene interacts with various other genes to change the color and pattern of the base cat.


At this time, we can safely say that Charcoal isn't really a pattern simply because it exists in all existing patterns only with slight changes.  We know now APb, is a specific ALC agouti gene and its role plays a part in the charcoal phenotype. Our understanding is that the agouti signaling protein (ASIP aka "agouti gene") is responsible for the regulation and distribution of eumelanin pigment and banding on the hair shaft.  The ALC's ASIP messes with the normal amount of melanin production and causes a drastic increase in the amount of pigment expressed.    In browns, the rosettes often become so black, that it's difficult to see the outer lining of the rosette giving them solid spots instead, ground color also changes from the normal shades of brown to varying metallic shades, pigment on the face also becomes significantly darker giving the cat a "mask" and so forth.  


Contrary to our initial thoughts, the charcoal is NOT caused by incomplete dominance between the ALC agouti and domestic non-agouti.   The charcoal phenotype has been proven to express in both homozygous ALC agouti cats (Apb/Apb) as well as heterozygous Apb cats (Apb/a).    Ultimately, we may be able to completely eliminate the non-agouti from charcoal programs as the phenotype continues to progress.


A >  Apb > a


Apb/Apb = Charcoal

Apb/a = Charcoal


There is no standard for the charcoal expression. While a single study suggests charcoal is the result of the cross of the Asian Leopard Cats and domestic cats producing APb/a, studies don't indicate that other genotypes involving APb are not a charcoal.


This clarification, definition, and standard are extremely important for the show hall and Bengal Breeders alike, especially as this non-standard and emerging color, becomes more commonplace and popular.


How should TICA define and categorize the charcoal?  


Back in 2009 and around the time where we originally hypothesized that the charcoal was a result of the Asian Leopard Cat’s ASIP, other breeders working in the color reached out to several geneticists including Leslie Lyons, Brian Davis and Solveig Pflueger.   After providing the data we had already collected, Dr Pflueger gave them the recommendation to approach the charcoal as a “pattern that modifies color”, a pattern effect and gave the comparison to the grizzled tabby Chausie. 


The Grizzled Tabby and the Charcoal actually have a surprising amount of similarities.   Not only are they agouti variants inherited from their respective wildcat ancestors, but they also cause a dramatic increase in eumelanin pigment and are possible in all eumelanistic colors and patterns.  Following Dr Pflueger’s advice, it makes a lot of sense to approach the two phenotypes in the same manner. 

But there’s also another reason why approaching the charcoal as a pattern effect is the best approach:  Simplicity.

If we take a moment to review TICA’s color-coding chart.

-If the charcoal is approached as a color modifier, it would require the addition of eight new codes and add roughly seventy new color descriptions to the UCD.


-If the charcoal is approached as a pattern, it would require the use of eight new codes as it overlaps the existing pattern and possibly requires the addition of eight new pattern descriptions. 


-If the charcoal is approached as a tabby pattern effect, it would require the addition of two codes (charcoal & charcoal torbie) and a single description to the UCD.   


We are requesting for breed section poll to be conducted on the fall 2019 ballot.

Support from the membership and Bengal community would be greatly appreciated as this call of action sees the light of day.

Please feel free to join our Facebook Group 
Charcoals for TICA

To Myra Klayman the first breeder I got my first Bengal from almost 16 years ago that started my love affair with Bengals


My mentor Joshua Dabbs who heard my crazy ideas from the start about APb and helped with some very crucial information about pattern effects


To Karen Sausman who read through 11 edits of my proposal and donated $150 for poll fees


To Anthony Hutcherson for initiating and helping with everything to make this possible including dragging me into a meeting Vegas


To Canie Brooks for basically being my “lawyer” and liaison between the TICA rules and the TICA boards/committees. You have been so invaluable during this whole process. My words fail me.


To everyone who read my proposal including top geneticists like Brian Davis (who helped to make the charcoal test possible), Bill Murphy and Christopher Kaelin PhD (geneticist and foreleader on ALC gene research and provider of the marble test)


To the 10+ breeders who are working with and wrote a support statement in favor of charcoal



To the breeders who showed 10 + Charcoals in New Traits sacrificing points and titles



To the breeders who registered 50 Charcoals



Thank you all for changing history, for accepting charcoal and for preserving our breed! Words can never explain how thankful I am for each and every one of you for taking part in this great adventure!

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