The Silver Bengal – A Monochromatic Beauty

The silver Bengal with rosettes walking

The Silver Bengal – A Monochromatic Beauty

The Silver Bengal – A Monochromatic Beauty.

The silver Bengal was recognised in 2004 for championship titles with The International Cat Association (TICA).

As beautiful as the silver colour is , it is not actually a colour; it is a lack of colour. It is the product of the inhibitor gene “I”. A silver Bengal is actually a brown cat with an inhibitor gene. The “l” gene inhibits the yellow/red pigmentation from showing, creating a silver cat. If a “snow” Bengal has this “I” inhibitor gene, then the cat will be a silver-snow. A melanistic with an “I” gene is a silver-melanistic but is correctly referred to as a smoke.

Silver Bengals can have virtually white to grey undercoat with black markings. They can either be spotted, rosetted or marble. Whatever the pattern, a high degree of contrast is always desirable. A clear white/silver background with vivid black markings is what most breeders strive to produce.

The First Silver Bengal

Promoted and advanced by Jean Mills daughter, Judy Sugden, via outrossing Bengals to a silver American shorthair (ASH). Today almost all silver Bengals descend from one female, Eeyaa Silver Salt. Since these original crosses there have been other silver breeds introduced into the Bengal silver lines. Breeds such as the Egyptian Mau and the British Shorthair.

Bengals Illustrated magazine Volume 7

The silver Bengal – A monochromatic Beauty is the title of an article i wrote for the Bengals illustrated magazine, an award winning publication, back in 2013.

You can read parts of the article here. If you would like to read the full article, and other excellent articles by silver Bengal breeders, you can purchase the publication here

The American shorthairs were used not only to lend their silver colour to the Bengal breed, but also to obtain a luminescent, clear, coat quality. This is the product of generations to generations of selective breeding. It is also due to differences in pigment banding on the hair,  to be replaced with a single band of black pigment. This works in tandem with the inhibitor gene which removes all warm pigment to create a pure, sparkling white. For breeders working with silvers, it is important to select for this banding trait in order to continue producing vivid contrast. Contrast is a defining feature of the Bengal breed, otherwise it is lost , colour becomes muted thus losing much of the wild essence a Bengal is known for.

Tarnished Silver

Occasionally we see silvers with warm tones, a slight brown or red pigment in the silver coat. We refer to this as tarnish. This presence of tarnish is undesirable because it “dirties” or “muddies” the silver colour.
Moreover, tarnish can vary from silver to silver.
Strangely , it can seemingly disappear or reappear at any stage of the cat’s life. This phenomena may be triggered by hormones, or changes in the seasons similar to how cats in the wild would lose their vibrant hues in the colder months.
When the  silver inhibitor gene is not able to completely block all warm pigment/tones from showing through, then tarnish will develop.

Rufous polythenes (which are what cause our brown Bengals to have those fiery red tones) also play a role in producing tarnish. For this reason, it is advised when a silver is bred to a brown it is better to use a brown with cooler colours/tones as they lack the high amounts of rufinism.
Abbyssinian breeders , for example, found it very hard to eliminate tarnish in their silver cats , because of the high number of rufous polygenes in the breed.
Contrariwisr, brown tabbies used in the American Shorthair breed, are much cooler coloured cats than the red Abyssinian, thus tarnish is not commonly seen within the ASH breed. Many breeders who add silver to their breeding programs find it difficult to integrate into a predominantly brown program, and they are soon discouraged by the tarnish that ensues.
Tarnish is more likely to present in silver cats that have one silver parent and one non-silver parent. For the best results toward eliminating tarnish , breed silver to silver to lock in silver purity (homozygosity). Homozygous silvers have two inhibitor genes “II”.

Silver Outcross

Some silver Bengal breeders have started their own outcross programmes to American Shorthair (ASH)  and Egyptian Mau, to improve the silver colour and to widen the gene pool.
I have also used Silver ASH in my breeding programme.
The following silver Bengal is a third generation outcross from my British shorthair line. Note the coat clarity and lack of tarnish.

 

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