The markings and colors of Bengals depend on the 'genetics'.

To understand how these different markings and colors occur, you must understand a few principles of genetics.

Some 'principles' of genetics:

Hereditary attributes which every species possess result from the expression of its genetic program. This program is 'written' in the chromosomes in the genes. Genes are a unit of genetic information. One gene gives the information for expressing one trait.

Cats have two sets of chromosomes (a diploid species, like humans), chromosomes are arranged in pairs. Cats have 38 chromosomes, or 19 pairs. The chromosomes of a pair carry the same genes; there are two copies of each gene in every cell.

Here is a diagram of a pair of chromosomes with two copies of a gene (indicated in red):

If all Bengals carry the same genes, why do they have such different colors and markings ?

That's an easy question to answer! In fact, a gene can exist in different versions, those versions giving different information which are called 'alleles'. Because there are two copies of each gene, every cat has two alleles. The alleles can be similar (we say 'homozygous' in this case) or different (we say 'heterozygous' in this case).

Also, alleles are not of 'equal' strength. Often, there's a dominant allele which dominates the others which are recessive. Thus, when a dominant allele is associated with a recessive one (a heterozygous case), only the dominant allele will give the trait (the trait of the recessive allele will not be observed, as if it did not exist).

I will explain here the genetic determination of Spotted and Marbled patterns and the most commonly represented colors (Brown, Snow and Silver).

The patterns: Spotted and Marbled

There are two patterns in Bengals: the Spotted one which results in a clear coat with darker spots and the Marbled one which results in a clear coat with darker marbling. The pattern is determined by one gene: the T gene (like "Tabby" ; This gene determins the formation of vertical stripes. Another gene is cutting these stripes into spots).

For this T gene, there are two alleles :

- The T allele, responsible for the Spotted pattern, which is dominant.
- The tb allele, responsible for the Marbled pattern, which is recessive.

The allele combinations for this T gene are as follows: (T/T), (T/tb) and (tb/tb).

As the T allele is dominant, the combinations (T/T) and (T/tb) will give Spotted cats and the combination (tb/tb) will give Marbled cats.

 

Main colors: Brown, Snow and Silver

Brown and Snow Bengals:

Brown is the most often found color in Bengal cats, inherited from its ancestor, the Asian Leopard Cat. Of course, there are many variations of Brown, depending on other genes (like the multiple variations in human blonde hair).

Eyes are from yellow/gold to green.

 

The gene which determines the Brown color is the same one as that which determines the Snow color, the C gene.

For this C gene, there are 3 alleles:

- The C allele, dominant, giving the Brown color.
- The cs allele, recessive, gives Siamese coloring.
- The cb allele, recessive too, gives Burmese coloring.

Every cat with, at least, one C allele (dominant) will be Brown: (C/C), (C/cs) and (C/cb).

 

Cats with 2 recessive alleles will be Snow, with a very light coat (close to ivory) and darker spots. There are 3 types of Snow color:

- The (cs/cs) combination gives a 'Lynx Snow' cat, with ivory/creamy coat and dark spots (grey to brown). Eyes are blue (inherited from Siamese).
- The (cb/cb) combination gives a 'Sepia Snow' cat, with ivory/creamy coat and not so dark spots (a lighter brown than the Lynx Snow). Eyes are, as for Brown Bengals, from yellow/gold to green.
- Finally, the (cb/cs) combination gives a 'Mink Snow' cat, in between 'Lynx Snow' and 'Sepia Snow', with ivory/creamy coat, clear brown spots and aqua eyes.

 

Silver Bengals:

Silver Bengals have a clear silver coat and black spots.

The Silver color depends on another gene: the I gene (Inhibitor). Inhibitor because an allele of this gene inhibits the synthesis of a red pigment: the pheomelamine, causing the formation of a silver plated hair at its base.

There are 2 alleles for this gene :

- The I allele which inhibits the synthesis of pheomelamine, is dominant (called 'dominant mutation')
- The i allele which allows the synthesis of pheomelamine, is recessive.

Thus, 'normal' cats (this means Brown ones) will have the i allele twice (i/i). The cats who have at least one I allele will be Silver: (I/I) or (I/i)

 

There are also many other colors in Bengal (Blue, Black, Chocolate, etc...) depending on other genes... With a lot of variations... Because all the combinations of alleles for each gene are possible...