The Eyes Have It!

by Les Hall

Reprinted from Bengal Bulletin, September '97

Sitting down to write this article, my mind wanders back through the years to the numerous beautiful headed Bengals I've had the pleasure of seeing. Some contributed heavily to our breed while others, through no lack of trying, were not destined to be prolific breeders. Many years ago I remember my first encounter with two F-2 sisters at Jean Mill's home. What beauties they were. One had a coat of gold with dark spots, the other with a more tawny coat and medium brown spots. Jean beamed with pride as she showed me the golden colored kitten. It was beautiful, so why was my attention drawn to her sister? The sister turned to face me and the rest was history! Her face echoed all of the uniqueness of her wild heritage and this is the main reason I breed Bengals today. I immediately requested to be put on a waiting list for a female from the same parents.

This "head factor" has been the driving force in my breeding program over the years and even my husband has accused me of being unyielding in this regard. Over and over again, people have asked me to describe a good Bengal head and, in analyzing it, I really feel that there are two things of major importance here. One is head shape and the other is the face. In terms of profile, I've heard comments ranging from "Roman" to "Dipped", but somehow neither seem to accurately describe the uniqueness of the Bengal head. One aspect that everyone seems to agree upon is that the shape of the Bengal profile is not flat (Oriental) and that the roundness that follows upward from the nose continues to roll over the top of the head and form a well-defined, egg-shaped back skull. Our standard allows 10 points for the head, 10 points for the ears, 5 points for the eyes, and 5 points for the neck. Individually not many points, but collectively 30 points equaling 1/3 of the cat! Add bold, high-contrast facial markings and you could pull an additional 10 points.


The Bengal Head
(Click for blowup)
Feature Bengal Other
Ear Shape rounded pointed
Ear Position follow shape of head set high on head
Skull ample length to top shorter length to top
Eyes large, nocturnal smaller, close-set
Nose wide, equal width top to bottom narrowing, tapering to end
Whisker Pads pronounced average

Looking straight on, I would have to say, "The Eyes Have It!" A large, open eye is intriguing and quite frankly irresistible. A well-known TICA judge labeled this sort of eye correctly in my opinion. She called them nocturnal-looking eyes. For me, that was a word I had been searching for to describe this unique Bengal feature. Eye color seems more of a preferential issue. Personally, I prefer a dark intenseness, regardless of the color. Again, a dark eye is a nocturnal eye and appears to have a large pupil to see its prey at night.

Ears add or detract, depending on placement and shape, rounded versus pointed, picket-fence look is preferred. Nose width is important, too. In most cases, a wide nose from top to bottom helps to keep those nocturnal eyes set back onto the face and well separated. Tapering nose width seems to be a more domestic looking trait. (See illustration.)

Whisker pads that are puffed and pronounced have always been the frosting on the cake. Generally, cats with puffy whisker pads have good strong chins as well, but not always. Cats in the wild could not survive very long with weak receding (sometimes undershot) chins. Staying fit and healthy in the wild depends on how well the cat can bite, hold, and chew its food. In nature, the process of natural culling of undernourished animals would not carry on this fault. Taking stock of the shortcomings in our own cats and breeding away from these faults will insure robust Bengals for the future.

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