Bengals are known for their spotted coats. The gene responsible for spotting is dominant. That means that it only takes one spotted parent to get spotted kittens. The spotted gene cannot be carried recessively, so if you don't have at least one spotted parent, you know you will not get any spotted kittens. Two marble cannot produce spotted but two spotted can produce marble if they both carry recessively for the marble gene (more on the marble pattern later). Some bengals have rosettes which are two toned spots, like that of a Leopard. Usually a rosette will have a dark outline with a lighter color inside. Above are some examples of rosetted spots. All of the pictures are of Pocket Leopards Bengals.
Some bengals are spotted but not rosetted or have very few rosettes. These can be very beautiful as well. Some spots are inky black and the color reaches right down to the base of the hair, right next to the skin. Interestingly, bengals do not have spotted skin.
Inky black, non-rosetted spots, as well as rosettes come in a variety of sizes and shapes. The different shapes of rosettes are called things like: paw print, arrowhead, doughnut, and pancake. Breeders are developing cats with different shapes all of the time. Undoubtedly, we will see more descriptive terms for rosettes as they are developed.
Spots and rosettes should be horizontally aligned. The more horizontal the better. Some cats even have rosettes that link together horizontally, this is called "chain rosetting" (see pic of the ocelot below). Spots that run together in the other direction forming a vertical line is not desired in the bengal breed. Generally these lines are seen on the torso on the bengal, right behind the front legs. These lines are called "rib stripes" or "rib bars". Rib stripes are generally not considered desirable. I prefer rosetted rib stripes over the solid ones. I actually do not mind wide rosetted rib bars as I think they look unique and beautiful.
Most kittens are not born completely rosetted, and it takes time for the rosettes to open up fully. But experienced breeders can usually tell if a kitten will rosette by looking at the center of the spot to see if it looks like it's less pigmented than the rest of the spot. Usually rosettes will start to clear out from the center outwards as the kitten grows.
Every once in awhile, a kitten will be born with what breeders call a "Sparble" coat pattern. This pattern is genetically either a spotted or a marble, however it will usually look like either a marble or something in between the two types of coats. Below is a picture of a sparble pattern. This kitten is genetically a spotted, but looks more like a marble.
"Talon" a silver "sparble" kitten from Pocket Leopards Bengals cattery.
The Marble Coat
The marble pattern is the result of a recessive gene. Two marble cats will always produce marble kittens. Two marble bengals bred together cannot produce spotted kittens. Spotted cats can carry the marble gene recessively though. This means that two spotted cats can sometimes produce marble kittens. To do this though, both spotted parents must carry one marble gene. You cannot usually tell if a spotted cat carries recessively for marble. One way to tell for sure is if the spotted cat has one marble parent. Because a marble can only pass the marble gene, you know for a certainty that it's spotted kitten has one copy of the marble gene and one copy of the spotted gene. Another way to tell is if you breed a spotted cat either to a marble or another spotted, if marble kittens result, you know that your spotted carries for marble. Remember, if you want all marble kittens all of the time, breed two marble together.
The marble pattern goes through an amazing transformation from birth through the first year. When a marble kitten is born, the pattern is very closed up. As the kitten matures, the pattern slowly opens to reveal the hidden prize!
"Leo" as a kitten (photo courtesy of Nicole Hansen, Bellagio Bengals
"Leo" as an adult (Photo courtesy of Niclose Hansen, Bellagio Bengals)
There are two types of marble. The is the regular two toned marble that has the background color and the pattern color. Then there is the tri-colored marble. Tri colored marbles have rosetting to their pattern. In the tri-color the third color outlines the pattern.Look at the pictures below to see examples of a tri-colored marble. Some marbles also display some rosettes like that of the spotted. Usually the rosetted spots will be located near the cat's hindquarters where the pattern has broken away from the marble pattern into large rosetted spots. Even though these cats have some rosetted spots, they are still genetically marbles.
Like the spotted, the pattern of a marble should be horizontally aligned. The pattern should stretch and swirl across the cat, making it look like an ocelot or a clouded leopard. To me it should look like lighting or a maze the starts from the front of the cat and moves to the back of the cat. This makes the marble pattern look truly wild. In the first picture below, this cat has some vertical pattern right behind the front leg but the rest of the pattern is horizontally aligned.
The domestic cat carries the "classic" tabby pattern which looks like a bullseye or a jelly roll. In a bengal, the bullseye pattern is not desirable. A vertical pattern in a bengal is also not desirable. The cat in the first picture below has no bullseye. The second cat is a classic tabby (not bengal) and has the very domestic "bullseye" pattern. By looking at the pictures, you can see a clear difference between a good marble pattern on a bengal and a non- bengal classic tabby pattern. Because some of the bengal pattern is influenced by the domestic cat, sometimes marble bengals will not have the best marble pattern, but when you get a marble with a lot of the wild horizontally flowing influence to the pattern, you will get a truly spectacular cat!
A nicely flowing bengal marble pattern
This is not a marble pattern. This is a classic tabby pattern. This cat is not a bengal.
The Charcoal Pattern
Being an expert in the charcoal pattern, I can go on all day about this pattern. But I will only say a few things here and refer you to my website that is solely dedicated to this pattern.
The charcoal coat is technically a pattern, but presents itself more as a color than a pattern. It does have a pattern of what I call "Zorro Markings" which consists of a dark cape and a mask. The overall color of the charcoal coat is a dark, black pattern. A bengal must have the tabby markings to be considered a charcoal. If the cat does not have the tabby markings, and is solid black, or if it's face, tail, and legs are a solid color, the cat is not considered a charcoal, but rather a solid snow. Many people (even some breeders) get the two mixed up.
Any color of bengal can also be charcoal. There are charcoal snows, charcoal silvers and charcoal brown. There is even charcoal blue!
Even though charcoal is a pattern, the charcoal pattern can be stacked on top of the other two patterns (spotted and marble). So there are charcoal marble and charcoal spotted bengals.
Because charcoal is the work of Agouti genes, a charcoal cannot also be a solid (also called melanistic by some breeders). For much more info on the subject, please visit my website at www.charcoalbengalcats.info