Milestones @ Millwood (by Jean Mill)

 

The following early was copied directly from Jean’s website prior to it going off line.

MILESTONES @ MILLWOOD

Early foundation cats at Millwood will be of interest because they appear in many Bengal pedigrees and helped to set the direction that the breed would take. It was upon the appearance of these early cats that our early standard was based and our genetic truths forged.

Millwood history begins in my 1946 genetics class at UC Davis, where my term paper proposed crossing the popular Persian breed of cat with the new Siamese breed to make ‘Panda Bear’ cats. My professor laughed that he had expected a topic more practical and commercially feasible, such as hybrid corn or cattle. Later married and living on a ranch in Yuma, I pursued the dream, and was among the early contributors to the Himalayan breed. I gave a presentation to the ACFA board in March of l965 in Texas asking that they be recognized, but the board was half Persian breeders, the other half Siamese breeders, none of whom liked the idea of mixing the two! When the Himalayans lost their challenge, it was time to move on.

We can all thank my beautiful ALC “Malaysia”, imported from SE Asia in 1961, for her love of a black domestic shorthaired tomcat. Her baby, KinKin, shown in the upper right of the color photo page, was a thrilling surprise, for I was unaware of anyone else doing this research. I did not even suspect Malaysia’s pregnancy! The male littermate was fatally mauled while being removed for its safety from Malaysia through the bottom of her cardboard nest box, but KinKin was put safely with a newborn Himalayan litter while still birth-wet. She knew from infancy that she was “different”. She slept several inches apart from the pile of Himy babies, played differently than they did as they grew older, and looked and sounded foreign. She rarely played roughhouse with the others, but would climb high on the sofa arm and jump on them, then tear off for another ‘attack and run’ foray. She insisted on eating alone, growling and snarling to keep the others from the food dish, or hiding with a tidbit to eat it privately. Later, she toiletted into the commode, slept in high places, and disdained other cats, but was loving and affectionate with me. Researchers at Cornell University whom I contacted were incredulous, but gave me little hope that she would breed or become pregnant. To everyone’s surprise, when bred back to her father (I didn’t have another suitable tomcat), she produced a nasty tempered solid black daughter (little panther?) and a sweet natured spotted son. I fantasized about putting him with 50 domestic queens and making hundreds of ‘little leopards’ like himself to start a new breed. Alas, he was killed by a fall from a shelf onto concrete before I could learn that F2 males are sterile. It was the first of many soul-tearing tragedies which plagued the early efforts. His black sister produced a kitten, but ate it at 2 days of age. When my husband, Bob Sugden, died, I gave Malaysia to the San Diego zoo, and moved to Southern California to an apartment. There KinKin and Pantherette contracted pneumonitus (we didn’t have vaccines for it then) and died. Thus ended my early project.

— NEW START —

In 1980, despite his allergies to cats, Bob Mill agreed to restarting my project in our tree-filled back yard, “…so long as I don’t have to look from any window and see cages or smell cats!” In trying to obtain another ALC, I contacted Capt. Zobel of the Calif. Fish and Game, who referred me to Dr. Willard Centerwall in Riverside. Bill was enthusiastic about sharing some F1 kittens he had produced using domestic tabbys at Loma Linda University for his studies into Feline Leukemia. Once the F1s had donated blood samples for his research, he needed homes for them. He gave me Liquid Amber (3/4 ALC), Favie (for Favorite), Shy Sister, and Doughnuts, all his family’s pets. Two of his ALCs are shown at the top left of the photo page.

Gordon Meridith had obtained some of Bill’s stock earlier for his little zoo in the Mojave desert, but in 1980, was in the hospital, struck down with cancer. He asked Bill to place his cats for him. Bill and I ‘rescued’ five of Bill’s original hybrids (now adult), which I named Praline, Pennybank, Rorschach (greyish charcoal), Raisin Sunday (she was partially leopard spotted but with large white-spotting blazes on face, legs, and lower half), and Wine Vinegar (who ate her only litter). Gordon had bred them to an Abysinnian tom and had some of the F2s, but I didn’t know then how difficult F2s are to obtain from F1 queens. Disdaining the ‘peppered’ look and cramped for space, I didn’t take them. Gordon’s records were lost, but from his deathbed he described the cats to me and what he could recall about their history. It now fell to me to provide them with appropriate mates if we were to build a new breed of domestic cat. But what would be appropriate?? Which genes would be useful? or dominant? or would trash the bloodline? It seemed too bad to use the genetically frail traditional Maus, Burmese, British Shorthairs, Abys, or other purebred breeds in my new bloodline.

On a trip to India in 1982, the curator of the New Delhi zoo took us to a small shed to see a beautifully spotted but untouchable little tailless domestic kitten under a sick rhinoceros. The turbaned caretaker insisted that it had originally had a tail, but as rhinos are neither sharp eyed nor light-footed, the tail had been squashed. It arrived at the Los Angeles airport in a mahogany box from the zoo curator, with the words, “SAID TO BE A DOMESTIC CAT” written below the tiny air holes. It was several days before we caught a glimpse of its sex, fortunately a male. I worried lest he be genetically tail faulted, but Millwood Tory of Delhi never produced a tail faulted kitten. He was the perfect answer to my needs for the F1 queens, with his small,, dark-brown, distinct, all-over spots on a thick, shiny golden-orange coat such as I had never seen in our domestic cats. Because he had no documented ancestry, CFA registered him as a transfer Mau from ACA. I offered him at stud to both the Ocicat breeders and the Mau breeders who needed better spotting. But the Ocicat people didn’t want his blood, nor did a few Mau breeders who fought viciously to keep him and me out. A few visionary Egyptian Mau breeders, however, welcomed his beautiful, fresh ‘Indian Mau’ genes to improve upon the weak, inbred, poor tempered, poor producing Egyptian Mau bloodlines. Meanwhile, I needed to plan Bengal mates for the following generation outcrosses, for there was no assurance that ANY hybrid males would be fertile. Also I needed wetnurse queens to rear my precious hybrid kittens as the himmy had done in the 1960s. I didn’t want to fill the world with mutt, unwanted kittens, so I imported several more domestics from India to make beautiful Indian Mau babies while simultaneously nursing my hybrids. Rumors spred that I was putting wild blood into the Maus (as if I would call the precious few hybrids common Maus!!) and in 1985, antagonists convinced CFA not to accept the Bengals and to retract my domestic Indian line Mau registrations. Eventually my Maus were all reinstated and the bloodline is now used extensively in modern Maus, but the damage to my reputation was far reaching.

Embarrassing as it was at the time to have my Maus ousted, I knew deep down that beauty would win out; that Delhi’s healthy genes and sharp spots would help the Mau breed, and that the breathtaking Bengals would overshadow all the other spotted breeds (as their breeders feared). Some Ocicat people saw the future and bought my precious hybrid breeding stock (most notably Gogees). Others continued to throw verbal sticks and still do.

The F2 and F3 generation kittens were few and far between. Two days after Christmas in 1983, Destiny was born to Delhi and Praline and we celebrated with 40 guests at an outdoor christening party when he was 12 weeks old! I didn’t know then that he might be sterile and rejoice even now that he managed a few litters before trailing off. He was only 25% ALC blood and the world’s first beautiful fertile B2T male!! In April of 1986, he and Polyspot (B2T) surprised everyone with a strange kitten with sparkling golden coat and none of the usual ticking. Silk ‘n Cinders took my breath away. Here was Delhi’s beautiful sparkle and kelly green eyes, but with ‘acreage’ and large, dark spots. He thrilled me to the bone! A month later, Destiny and Praline had a similarly shiny golden male, Aries, who became the foundation stud at Lionsmountain. The unusual coat later surfaced at Gogees, too, from Millwood kittens of the Cinders line.

Later in 1986 came my beloved Penny Ante, a B2T that stole every show. Penny can be thanked for truly ‘founding the breed’. She not only most closely resembled a ‘little leopard’ than any hybrid at the time, but she was friendly and relaxed at the 27 cat shows she attended, becoming an instant celebrity. She purred for the judges, was handed to children, and stretched regally in her show cage for admiring fans. The media used her Chanon photo to advertise shows from Seattle to Duzeldorf and Paris. Visitors would ask at the door, “Where is the Bengal??” and line up five deep all day long to peer at her, clogging the aisles and asking questions. I would hand out 4000 free colored brochures (cost me 50 cents each) of information, and grow hoarse responding to the incessant question, “OH! WHAT KIND OF A CAT IS THAT!!??” My waiting list for kittens was 2 pages long, but I had only about seven occasionally successful breeding queens and frustrating male fertility problems that made the girls ‘miss’. Those were heady, intense, glorious, expensive, tragedy-ridden days. I bought airline tickets for representatives to attend crucial cat meetings, started the Bengal Bulletin to organize breeders, wrote the standard, hosted dinner parties after Saturday cat shows for Bengal exhibitors and judges, wrote myriad articles for magazines, invited the media to come photograph my cats, and answered the phone what seemed like a thousand times daily. My persistent critics frightened wildlife regulators, tried in 1985 to get TICA to forbid the Bengals, insisted that only traditional Maus be used in outcrosses, and belittled my efforts. But gradually our breed sold itself to doubters, and with patience and enormous educational effort on all our parts, has flowered and thrilled us all… none more than me!

In 1987, another surprise! Cinders and Torchbearer had an astonishing new kind of kitten. She was a spectacular little female with an odd soft, cream-colored coat and weird pattern that looked like drizzled caramel. At the Incats show in Madison Square Garden, and all over the country, she was a sensation!! The judges were overcome by her beauty and my cages were inundated by people wanting a glimpse. Most liked her better than her spotted cousin, Jungle Echo. I hadn’t intended to include anything except spots in my first standard, but ‘by popular demand’ the marbles were added, thanks to jewel-like Painted Desert and Emberglow. Their descendants ultimately contributed the ‘outlining’ gene and horizontal flow which produced Millwood’s earliest rosetted spots, most pronounced in Cloud Nine‘s offspring. With Art Nouveau, Desert produced Jigsaw Puzzle who (with ALC Kabuki) made Mirror Mirror and ultimately the richly rosetted Crystal’s litter.

Aries returned here for several months and sired several contributing sons, most productive of which was Rave Review. Rave is found in most modern SBT pedigrees if one goes back far enough. He toured the country as a kitten, but by maturity challenged the other toms at the shows. Bengal breeders with foundation queens couldn’t send them to stud, so instead of a show career, Rave became my first ‘traveling salesman’. Potently fertile and willing, he visited catteries all over the country, leaving a trail of beautiful kittens behind him. He would come down from shelves or high perches to go into any offered open carrier in the hopes of a visit somewhere. All these early males were annoyingly domestic appearing, for it seemed that the wilder looking ones proved to be sterile or nearly so. It cost years of fruitlessly raising stunning little males to discover this, though. But it seemed wiser to use a domestic looking Bengal to keep the breed as pure as possible, than a complete domestic outcross again as so many of our new breeders were doing. These original Centerwall/Delhi lines (now well into 12th to 18th generations of careful selection) are prized in Bengal pedigrees and show ring winners of today with remarkable rosettes, glitter, pelt, patterns and temperament.

Late in 1984, I traded an early Bengal male to Gregg Kent for an F1 female, My Thai, that he had produced with an ALC and a traditional E. Mau. He had not registered any of his hybrids, so I registered My Thai with TICA and named her parents for the sake of the pedigree. Thus Sergura Khan on Millwood pedigrees is a different name in Lotsaspots lines. Later I sent an Indian Mau, Spilled Pills, to the Kent ALC; her litter of 5 female kittens is shown on the color page. Gregg took his choice and I kept Heritage, Kenta, Kubla Kent, and Miss Tique. Except for Kenta’s, these bloodlines are mostly gone now. My Thai produced a number of F2 females, but a disappointing few of them were ever mothers. Her Gold Medal,though, was a great producer of a line of whited tummies, through which CH M. Midas Touch is currently passing it on in Germany.

During these years I obtained a series of beautiful ALC males, most of which ignored both domestic and Bengal queens. One of them ate Liquid Amber to my horror. Another killed the Indian Mau he was mounting. I dared not try them again. The bottom ALC pictured is Island, a gorgeously rosetted queen that was confiscated by authorities while visiting a male ALC.

THEN CAME CAMEO AND KABUKI . Cameo Keepsake was my most friendly ALC. He permitted strangers to pet him, but his only daughter never had a female kitten, unfortunately. Kabuki‘s stunning bloodline, however, is going strong! Though he was not the most beautiful ALC I ever owned, he was a colorful cat, had rosettes and he was the most willing! To accommodate breeders wanting to make F1 kittens, Kabuki was offered at open stud to any suitable Bengal female. He rarely failed to cooperate, for he had been nursed in a domestic litter. Bred to beautiful original line Bengal queens, his Millwood daughters, Patticake, ES Kalipurr, Mirror Mirror, Geisha Girl, Silk Kimono, etc. were prolific producers of quality F2 kittens, themselves fertile and healthy. Most current Millwood bloodlines trace in part to Kabuki, including Signature, Etching, Lisa Arvay’s rosetted beauty, Crystal Clear, and David Born’s SGC Millwood Shanara of Epsillon. Their dam, Crystal, is shown too orange at center bottom. She had a strange, three-dimensional coat… one could look right into the flawless silk-soft sheen somehow. It wasn’t really surface glitter as is common, but rather a deep luster new to me. Alas, she died defending this very first litter (of seven) against raccoons at a carelessly left open window.

Click for blowup.

—INSIGHTS —

So much for history. What insights stand out from these years of cascading into the depths of bottomless despair, only to be catapulted to the heights of creative rapture and back? There are several that I would mention:

1) We humans draw life and breath from sharing the struggle toward goals. From Thomas Jefferson to Bill Gates to Martin Luther King to the Wright brothers, it was not the money, nor the acclaim, nor the ‘place in history’ that drove them, but rather the dream of giving something new and immeasurably valuable to the world. The most successful took others into their dream and then built it together, sharing the thrills and spills. So long as we Bengal breeders share our vision and successes with one another without envy or selfishness or distrust, the breed will continue to improve and flourish, for we are sharing joy and delight in the creativity which ebbs and flows from person to person. Who would want to do it alone?

2) Beauty always triumphs, be it sensual, intellectual, scientific, mathematical, or moral. Truth eventually quiets its most adamant critics, though it may take years or decades or centuries. Darwin didn’t fight for his insights, he just wrote a book and then let lawyers make fools of themselves ridiculing him. Patience and time are the most effective weapons against tormentors, which in our case may be legislators or those who label our cats as vicious or dangerous. One day, those very same people will be buying a Bengal for their grandchildren!

3) On a less exalted plane, it seems apparent now that ancestry of our cats DOES matter. Not all F1s are of equal value to the evolving breed, and certainly not all F2s! It is apparent in Millwood history that using any old domestic queen to make F1s put enormous amounts of genetic trash into the early hybrids, which was compounded by the necessity to use MORE domestic males to make F2s. We have all suffered the unfortunate consequences in litters with solids, dilutes, ticking, longhair, stripes, poor performance, etc. E. Mau blood has brought its share of undesirables, and other Bengal lines have Burmese, British Shorthair, Aby, Ocicat, and whatever else, all with shortcomings of their own. Unlike the early days, today we have a plethora of beautiful, fertile Bengal males and females which are genetically much more homogeneous. Through determination, patience, and hard work by many of our truly dedicated breeders, these cats no longer carry as many trash recessives and, crossed back into foundation stock, will allow desirable ALC genes to intensify beauty and near perfection. That is why the Foundation Lookbook issue was so very important in identifying not only uniquely individual ALCs, but also the domestics involved. They were the building blocks in our gloriously evolving breed. Every modern breeder who outcrosses to new ALCs or domestics carries the full weight of responsibility to future generations for the genes being added.