CHARCOAL and MELANISTIC BENGALS
Charcoals are one of the unique traits coming down generationally from the Asian Leopard Cat and while there are a wide variety of colors available in bengals, I beleive that this one is special because it's history resides in our own wild ancestor.
Blue Bengals may get their coloring from Russian Blues or British Shorthairs
Long Haired Bengals may get this trait from any/all of the Long Haired breeds
Snow Bengals get their coloring from Siamese or Burmese cats (or an allele from each!)
Much work has been done to identify the genetic allele involved in creating this trait. It is widely accepted that the Apb allele that is part of the Agouti gene that comes from one of the wild ALC ancestors (Currently only tracing back to 5 individual ALC's) is what gives us this "almost" Black Jaguar style coloring. It was originally thought that one of the alleles on this strand needed to be melanistic (also known as solid) in order for the full stunning and dramatic coloring to be realized. While it's true that the most dramatic coloring for Charcoals comes from Apb/a at the Agouti Gene, we can also get softer colored Charcoals from Apb/Apb. After all - This IS the allele that is coming from the ALC Ancestor - so, of course, having two of them would still make a charcoal bengal.
One of my friends and assistants here at Traipse gave these two variations in charcoal coloring individual names that I beleive represent the color style perfectly!! Twilight Charcoals and Midnight Charcoals.
The third variation on the Agouti gene that is different from the common gene is the Melanistic Bengal. This coloring is very close to the Black Jaguar as the spotting can really only be seen in the sunlight.... It's a subtle trait for an indoor cat but since it's mostly a solid black cat (snow melanistics show thier spot patterns) it's just another great adventure to live with a domestic cat that reminds us of these gorgeous wild creatures!
MIDNIGHT CHARCOAL BENGALS
This is apb/a and is the darker and most dramatic of the charcoals. It is usually very dark in coloring with little to no brown showing through. It had a very dark cape running down its back and you may not notice the spot pattern on the sides unless you can catch a side view of the cat. It has a dramatic face mask down the front of the face and we like to see strong "whited eyes" (This is the white fur that looks like eyeliner around the eye of the Bengal)
Raven's FaceTwilight Charcoal - More browns showing through and not as strong of a cape or face mask as seen with cats influenced by melanistism. Tested apb/apb by Stanford Univ.
Raven's CapeTwilight Charcoal - More browns showing through and not as strong of a cape or face mask as seen with cats influenced by melanistism. Tested apb/apb by Stanford Univ.
Raven's SideTwilight Charcoal - More browns showing through and not as strong of a cape or face mask as seen with cats influenced by melanistism. Tested apb/apb by Stanford Univ.
Laka's FaceTwilight Charcoal Marbled - Note the softer coloring on the face but yet fully charcoal in color. Tested apb/apb by Stanford Univ.
Laka's CapeTwilight Charcoal Marbled - Note the softer coloring on the face but yet fully charcoal in color. Tested apb/apb by Stanford Univ.
Laka's SideTwilight Charcoal Marbled - Note the softer coloring on the face but yet fully charcoal in color. Tested apb/apb by Stanford Univ.
This is apb/apb for the Agouti Gene and is the darker and most dramatic of the two charcoal styles. It is lighter in coloring.... a bit more brown/red can show through and the cape and face mask are not at dark. It is obvious that any cat (not just charcoals) that carry melanistic will often times have a darker coloring/shading to them as experienced in cats like: Glaze, Sparrow, Frenchie and Stormy. When showing this color/trait, these cats should not be penalized for not having solid black coloring, less of a mask or cape, etc. Technically, it probably belongs as a separate division just like in the Lynx Point, Minks and Sepias.
TWILIGHT CHARCOAL BENGALS
It should also be noted that while this trait expresses as a specific color, it is technically a pattern trait. The Agouti gene is reponsible for the banding on the hairshaft of a ticked cat. It is still unknown as to why this appears in decendents from ALC's when combined with domestic genes of teh Bengal. As of June 2016, TICA's bengal breed committee is considering writing a standard for charcoals but yet may choose to leave Melanistic out of this section. Since the two are so closely tied together (you need a melanistic agouti allele in order to produce a "Midnight" Charcoal), it would be a missed opportunity to write them at the same time. After all - The Melanistic Allele influences almost all cat colors - even if they are just carriers of this trait! (See Glaze, Sparrow, Frenchie and Stormy on my various websites)
I hope that you are as drawn to this unique style of beauty in the Bengal as I am!!! I am thrilled to be amongst the first breeders to really focus on this color/trait :) Think of a Black Jaguar but yet having one in your home without the need of "full sun" to show the slight hint of the spot pattern underneath the dark coat. Charcoals show off their pattern in normal home light settings - Certainly an advantage for an indoor cat!
The connection that this style has with that of it's wild ancestor certainly creates a mysterious beauty and the whited eye around an almost black/charcoal cat is just magnificent!
PS Snow charcoals will be next as I'm soon to bring in a Melanistic Mink (or Sepia) boy from Germany!!! He'll be an amazing add to my charcoal program and one which will allow me to really start breeding a dream cat in my imagination.... A Charcoal Snow Bengal :)
Melanistic Bengals have two copies of the Melanistic/Solid "a" allele on the Agouti Gene. Charcoals that carry/express this allele have a darker tone to them - Darker faces, darker capes and are almost always more Black in color tone.
Melanistic Bengals are the same thing you see in a Black Jaguar. In the sunlight you can see the pattern but in a home (or indoors at a zoo) you really can't see the gorgeous rosette pattern that is so close in color tone/fur styles that it has. I haven't produced a Melanistic Bengal Kitten here yet but they are sure to come as I've just confirmed by new boy that is coming! He's a Melanistic/Sold - Mink (or Sepia) Spotted Bengal!! Just stunning.... Since he's a snow, you can see much more of his pattern. Since he's melanistic, he has sold coloring on the face and will not have the whited eye - It's another highly dramatic style.
I have yet to produce a Melanistic Bengal but have seen quite a few - They are gorgeous! If you have pictures that you would like to share with me for the website, please let me know!