The Bengal cat was created in America (Covina, near Los Angeles). It is an American cat despite its name hinting at Asia. The name is taken from the scientific name, in Latin, of the Asian leopard cat which is the wild cat element of this popular breed. The scientific name of the Asian leopard cat is Felis bengalensis.
The Bengal cat is a wildcat hybrid. It was created and developed at a time when there was a heightened interest in the concept of domestic cats being wild cat hybrids. This era was in the middle of the 20th century. In 1963 an American geneticist, Mrs Jean Sugden (latterly Jean Mill) of Yuma, Arizona crossed a female Asian leopard cat which she obtained from a pet shop in the late 1950s with a black shorthaired domestic male.
From this beginning there was a pause in the breeding process until in the late 1970s when Dr Willard Centerwall, a geneticist working at the University of California began a breeding programme. It entailed crossing leopard cats with shorthaired domestic cat in a study into feline leukaemia. At this time Jean Sugden had become Mrs Jean Mill. She lived in California near Los Angeles.
She acquired eight female hybrids from Dr Centerwall. Her objective was to create a domestic cat with the appearance of a wild cat; the temperament of a domestic cat with a wild appearance. Interestingly, she acquired a semi-feral domestic cat from the rhinoceros enclosure of Delhi zoo together with a brown spotted tabby found in a Los Angeles cat shelter. She used these cats to crossbreed with the female hybrids required from Dr Centerwall. This was the beginning of the Bengal cat breed in the USA.
P.S. I have a ‘thing’ against Jean Mill. She used pretty brutal breeding techniques in my view; keeping cats in smallish cages all their lives. Normal for breeders? Maybe but I don’t like it.