Copyright 1993-2008, Sarah Hartwell

The probable ancestor of domestic cats is the African Wildcat (F lybica/F silvestris lybica) which, through mutation and selection, has given rise to modern F catus. The Jungle Cat (F. chaus) may have made a minor contribution. In 1991, Tabor argued that its influence on domestic cat evolution is under-estimated ("Cats: the Rise of the Cat" Roger Tabor (BBC TV series & book)). Characteristics found in the Abyssinian breed (ticked colouration, ear-tufts) apparently support this view (see Domestication of The Cat) although it is not widely accepted. In the 1800s it was believed that domestic cats in each country evolved from indigenous wildcat population e.g. from Scottish wildcats in Britain and from Jungle cats in India.

According to Charles Darwin in "The Variation Of Animals And Plants Under Domestication" (1860s): "In India the domestic cat, according to Mr. Blyth, has crossed with four Indian species. With respect to one of these species, F. chaus, an excellent observer, Sir W. Elliot, informs me that he once killed, near Madras, a wild brood, which were evidently hybrids from the domestic cat; these young animals had a thick lynx-like tail and the broad brown bar on the inside of the forearm characteristic of F. chaus. Sir W. Elliot adds that he has often observed this same mark on the forearms of domestic cats in India. Mr. Blyth states that domestic cats coloured nearly like F. chaus, but not resembling that species in shape, abound in Bengal; he adds, "such a colouration is utterly unknown in European cats, and the proper tabby markings (pale streaks on a black ground, peculiarly and symmetrically disposed), so common in English cats, are never seen in those of India."

Early hybrids between the domestic cat and Jungle Cat were reported by E Hamilton (1896), K Ackermann (1898), RI Pocock (1907), SS Flower (1929) and S Zuckerman (1953). During the latter part of the 20th Century, a number of Jungle Cats were seen in Britain and some were found as road kill. Presumed Jungle Cats and hybrids were sighted around cities in the feral cat population. 18th Century sailors sometimes acquired Jungle Cats from villages in India where the cats scavenge around villages and towns, much like urban foxes in Britain. These cats, kept as ratters or trade goods, may have jumped ship at various British ports, breeding with the feral colonies which congregate around dockyards. Early British sightings of Jungle Cats (also called Swamp Cats) tended to be centred around ports.

Hybrid Jungle Cats were described in the Long Island Ocelot Club newsletter of Sept/Oct 1967 by John M & Juleen Jackson. The Jacksons owned a number of "exotic" cats including a Leopard Cat (female, bred once with a domestic cat), two Jungle Cats, two half "Chaus" hybrids, ten three-quarters 'Chaus" hybrids and two domestic cats. Hee, their Prater's Jungle Cat (a race from West Pakistan) had been acquired aged 6-7 weeks from a pet store and had been bred 5 times. Hee mated with "Mother Cat", a tortie-and-white domestic cat in Spring 1966 while sharing an outdoor enclosure. He had just reached maturity. Eigh months later the same cats mated again after a door between two adjoining enclosures was accidentally left open, allowing Mother Cat into Hee's enclosure. The first litter of Jungle cat hybrid kittens (F Chaus x F Catus) had 2 males and 3 females. The second litter was somewhat larger had 5 males and 3 females. Four kittens in the first litter and one kitten in the second litter contracted viral infections, but most responded quickly to medical treatment.

In size, stature and restless, active nature, the hybrids resembled their wild parent. Their colouring took after their mother rather than the father's almost uniform ticked appearance with superimposed pattern of weak wavy stripes (stronger on the legs) and relatively short, ringed, tail. Hee's only white markings were around the mouth and under the chin. On the hybrids of the first two litters, a little or a lot of white was the rule. This was due to the white spotting gene inherited from the tortie-and-white domestic female. Kerula, the one hybrid of the first litter most like her father in coloration, had two white toes on her right front foot and this light color was carried underneath to the pink paw pads while all of the other pads were black. The hybrids all inherited, to some extend, features distinctive of the Jungle cat: long legs with hind quarters taller than the fore-quarters, tall, pointed ears with slight tufts, short, ringed tail, ticked coat, a heavy dark band on the inside of each front leg and a distinct crest of hair along the back noticeable only when the cat bristles. These characteristics were apparent in all of the hybrids, though slightly modified. The adult hybrids reached 12 lbs and were affectionate. In spring 1967, the three females from the first litter, Kera, Regan and Kerula, were mated to Hee and produced litters of three-quarters jungle cat kittens. The births occurred on 28/05/1967 (4 kittens), 23/06/1967 (6 kittens) and 15/07/1967 (5 kittens). Kerula produced her second litter in 1968 when she mated with her three-quarters chaus son, Singh. Though spayed, Kerula continued to mother other kittens including Jungle cats sold off by the Los Angeles Zoo (in those days, zoos sold exotic animals to pet shops and pet owners).

Meanwhile, their Jungle cat Retha's first litter March 27, 1968, comprised three kits all of whom grew to maturity. A male from this litter called Marcus (owned by the Morgans) went on to sire several litters of chaus hybrids. The female from Retha's litter was sold, but was eventually turned loose in the hills by the owners (unless spayed, she may have bred with feral cats - presumably this was in the Los Angeles area).

The International Zoo Yearbook, 1970 reported two male hybrids were born at Kaunas, Lithuania (formerly USSR) in 1968 to an Amur leopard Cat (F bengalensis euptilura) and a Jungle Cat (F Chaus). Both species hybridise with the domestic cat, F bengalensis being the wild parent of the Bengal breed.

The Long Island Ocelot Club newsletter of September/October 1995 reported that Jackie Vanderwall had 2 male bengal x jungle cat hybrids and that Steve Belknap had 5 female Maine coon x jungle cat hybrids.

10 month old 75% Jungle Cat and 25% domestic from Mandala Exotic Cats cattery (photo courtesy Chuck Cunningham, Mandala Exotic Cats)


First-cross (F1) hybrids between domestic cats and the larger Jungle Cat are vigorous, large and fertile, though subsequent generations become smaller through continued interbreeding with the more numerous domestic cat. Eventually the Jungle Cat genes are so dilute that the hybrids are indistinguishable from moggies. Roy Robinson noted that hybrid animals do not breed true and in succeeding generations there is a selective return to the original genetic combination prevalent in the area (Genetics for Cat Breeders, 3rd Ed). Only repeated back-crossing to pure-bred Jungle Cats would maintain Jungle Cat attributes in hybrid offspring - the 75% hybrid shown here has been back-crossed to preserve the Jungle Cat size and type.

At present, chromosomal and DNA analysis cannot distinguish between Jungle Cats, Jungle Cat hybrids and domestic cats and if Tabor's theory is correct, F. chaus is simply breeding with its own much-hybridized distant descendants. Even if this species is not an ancestor of modern domestic cats, if it has been present in the UK for 200 years its genes may already be present or widespread in the domestic population, compounding problems of DNA analysis. Elsewhere, Jungle Cats are being deliberately crossed with domestic cats to create new domestic breeds. In the USA, F chaus has been used to develop the Chausie. It has also been crossed with the European (Scottish) Wildcat to produce the Euro-Chaus, demonstrating that F chaus and F silvestris are inter-fertile. The hybrid Chausie has also been crossed with F silvestris to produce the Euro-Chausie. The Euro-Chaus is considered an exotic, rather than a domestic, pet.

Jungle cat hybrids and Bengals were introduced early into some Pixie-Bob lines. After TICA initially recognized the PixieBob there was an open registry and similar-looking cats of American Bobtail, Japanese Bobtail, Maine Coon, Manx may have been registered as PixieBob. TICA also permitted "Legend Cats" (supposed bobcat hybrids) to be registered as PixieBobs and there are suggestions that spotted Chausie variants were registered as Legend Cats. A Jungle Cat hybrid called El Gato del Oro, became the most awarded Pixie-Bob of all time.

Chausie photographs provided by: &

Another Jungle Cat hybrid is in development by the Mandala Exotic Cats. Called the Stone Cougar, it has been bred from a pure Jungle Cat and domestic cats with 50% Jungle Cat blood. The domestic cats have thick, low-slung bodies, very thick tails and small ears. They have been carefully selected so they have no dominant coat colour/pattern genes and will produce golden cats with a cougar-like appearance. Below are photos of "Cutter" a 10 month old Stone Cougar bred by Chuck Cunningham (photos used by permission of Mandala Exotic Cats). Cutter is approximately 18 lbs and estiamted adult weight is 22-25 lbs.


Bengal x Chausie cross kittens. Photos courtesy Andrzej Grabowski (photographed for Ewa Zgrabczynska)

Some hybrids have been crossed with other hybrids to create new breeds combining multiple traits. These Bengal x Chausie hybrids were bred accidentally by Ewa Zgrabczynska, a breeder of Bengals and Chausies (black brown ticked). A young male marbled Bengal taught himself to open a door when Ewa was absent and mated a Chausie female (a hybrid from Abyssinians). Both cats had excellent, friendly temperaments. The litter had a mix of marbled and ticked kittens. The breed is now being developed under the name "Poljun" (formerly "Jungle").



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