The Marble Bengal Cat Pattern
When done right, the marble pattern is a the most intricate, detailed pattern on a Bengal cat, but it is hard to get good marbles.
The Classic Tabby Pattern
Genetically the marble pattern is a classic tabby pattern - no different from the classic American Shorthair pattern. However, if a Bengal's classic pattern looks like a traditional classic tabby pattern, it is not a good representation of the pattern. If the cat does not have a pedigree and it has a classic tabby pattern, it is not a Bengal.
This photo by Todd Petit shows a traditional brown/black classic tabby. This cat is NOT a Bengal. One element that demonstrates it is not a Bengal is the solid black patterns over a heavily banded (ticked) coat. The traditional classic tabby pattern has a bullseye shape along the side of the cat. The shoulder marking is solid black. Notice the traditional tabby M above the cat's eyes. Sometimes people see a cat with this M and think it is a Bengal, but none of these markings are unique to the Bengal; they are the markings of a traditional classic tabby.
The pattern of the marble Bengal should be a modified version of the classic tabby pattern. The more the pattern looks like a classic tabby pattern, the less desirable it is as a marble Bengal. The marble Bengal pattern is different from the classic tabby pattern in BOTH its marking coloration and the arrangement of the markings (pattern).
Marking coloration on Brown/Black Marbles
A traditional tabby has solid markings. Look back to Todd Petit's photo of a traditional brown/black classic tabby cat. All of the markings are solid black. Now look at the photograph of the marble Bengal - these markings are two-toned. The markings are both black and varying shades of brown rippling within the black markings. Inside the brown coloring, smaller black markings may appear. The intermingling of multiple colors results from leopard cat genetics interacting with a tabby gene that it would not usually come across in nature resulting in the marblization of the classic tabby pattern.
How are the Markings of a Marble different from a Traditional Classic Tabby?
Leopard cat DNA modifies the classic tabby pattern in beautiful ways. To begin with, the shoulder markings on marble Bengals are not solid. Look at the shoulder markings of the classic tabby and then look at the shoulder markings of the marble Bengal. The classic tabby has solid black should markings. The marble Bengal has black outlined markings with rich brown inside and speckles within the brown.
On the body, the classic tabby has a round bullseye marking. The bullseye on a marble Bengal should be elongated and broken so the round bullseye no longer exists. A leopard cat would not camouflage in the trees with a symmetrically round pattern. To mimic the dappled light of a forest, a pattern must be jagged and asymmetrical. What we see in the marble Bengal is Mother Nature modifying the classic tabby pattern into a pattern that would help a cat survive in the leopard cat's habitat - a forest. Imagine the classic tabby in Todd Petite's photo at the top of this page sleeping on a tree branch in the daytime; its bullseye pattern would make it a target to a predator. Now imagine the marble Bengal resting on a tree branch. Blending in with the tree branch as the dappled sunlight filtered through the tree leaves, the marble Bengal could safely sleep through the day without catching a predator's eye. The marble Bengal is one of the most beautiful examples of Mother Nature adjusting a domestic pattern in a way that would keep the cat safe in its natural (forested) environment.
Could a Cat With a Classic Tabby Pattern be Part Bengal?
It is not likely. Only 3% of the world's cats are pedigree breeds rather than domestic shorthairs and domestic longhairs. According to Wikipedia, 80% of cats have at least one classic tabby gene; therefore, most domestic shorthair and longhair cats have the genetics to produce the classic tabby pattern, even if they do not display the classic tabby pattern. The likelihood of a breeder allowing their pedigreed Bengal cat out to impregnate the neighborhood feral cats is incredibly low; therefore, unintentional Bengal mixes are rare.
The cat labeled Wildernesswell Exotic Entanglement is not a full Bengal. Her grandmother is an Exotic Shorthair (the shorthair version of a Persian). While her sire is Bengal and her grandsire is Bengal, she is NOT a Bengal. Yet, the Bengal genetics are at work morphing the classic tabby pattern. The black markings are not solid black, and the bullseye has been elongated. While the pattern does not yet have the intricacies of a full Bengal, the influence of the Bengal exists.
Why are Good Marbles so hard?
It is hard to get good marbles because it requires specific genetics that do not necessarily equate to what people are looking for in a spotted cat. The recipe for a good marble requires three traits:
1. Horizontal flow
2. Small Markings
3. Acreage (background space between the markings)
Horizontal flow breaks the circle of a bullseye pattern. The hardest part of the bullseye to break is the round edge closest to the shoulder. This equates to rib bars on a spotted Bengal. Since many breeders struggle to break rib bars on spotted cats, the solid curved edge nearest the shoulder is the hardest marking to break apart on a marble.
The small markings and acreage allow a marble to have the background color in the pattern. When a spotted cat with large markings and little acreage produces a marble, it will display as a sheeted marble with no background color on the side of the cat. Sheeted marbles still have the rich ripples of color and tiny speckles within the black pattern, but they do not have any background color on the side of the cat. The combination of small markings with acreage is challenging because, on a spotted Bengals, it is more desirable to have less acreage. Getting the most beautiful marbles involves one characteristic not considered desirable in spotted cats - acreage. For this reason, some breeders separate a marble breeding program from a spotted breeding program.
Due to the desirability of less acreage on spotted Bengals, many marble Bengals are sheeted. A sheeted marble does not have background color on its side; however, the multi-toned shoulder markings and rippling within the black markings on the side are present. As this kitten grows, that brown rippling continues to develop.
Do you want a marble Bengal that does not have a traditional classic tabby pattern? Check out our Available Bengal Kittens. If we do not currently have one, please send us an email. With marble being a recessive gene, we cannot always guarantee we will have one within a specific timeframe, but we can give you our best time estimate.