Jean Mill

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Jean Mill
Jean Mill with a Bengal.jpeg
Mill posing with a Bengal cat
Jean Sugden

(1926-05-14)May 14, 1926
DiedJune 6, 2018(2018-06-06) (aged 92)
Years active1948–2018
External video
[1] Click for video] Jean Mill

Jean Mill (May 11, 1926 - June 7, 2018) was cat breeder, and a conservationist who worked to protect the Asian leopard cat. Mill is best know as the founder of the modern Bengal cat breed: Mill successfully crossed the wild Asian leopard cat with a domestic cat, and then backcrossed the offspring through five generations to create the domestic Bengal. Mill made contributions in two other cat breeds: the Himalayan and the standardized version of the Egyptian Mau.[1] Jean and her first husband Robert Sugden were involved in a precedent-setting case about the United states power to monitor short wave radio communications. Jean Mill has also authored two books.

Conservation efforts and breeding rationale[edit]

Jean Mill was very concerned about the hunting and poaching of the Asian Leopard cats to supply the fur trade. Mill has said that her desire to save the Asian Leopard cat led to the creation of the Bengal cat breed.

"I deliberately crossed Leopard cats with domestic cats for several important reasons. At this time, wild cats were being exploited for the fur market. Nursing female leopard cats defending their nests were shot for their pelts, and the cubs were shipped off to pet stores worldwide. Unsuspecting cat lovers bought them unaware of the danger, their unpleasant elimination habits and the unsuitability of keeping wild cats as pets. ...I hoped that putting a leopard coat on a domestic cat the pet trade could be safely satisfied. If fashionable women could be dissuaded from wearing furs that look like their friend' pets the diminished demand would result in less poaching of wild species."[2]

Himalayan cat contributions[edit]

In 1948, Jean Mill worked to develop the Himalayan cat, a longhaired breed of mixed Persian and Siamese ancestry.[3] Jean Mill said, "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." Jean Mill"[4]

Creating the Bengal breed[edit]

There were many other breeders involved in developing the Bengal breed, most notably Pat Warren, William Engle and Willard Centerwall. Jean Mill is considered the originator of the breed because she created a domestic Bengal past the F4 generation, and then tirelessly promoted the new breed.[5]

1960s: Mill's first hybrid cat[edit]

While living in Yuma Arizona in 1963, Mill (Jean Sugden) made the first recorded deliberate cross of a domestic tomcat with a wild Asian leopard cat.[6] The leopard cat Mill used was a spotted five to twelve pound shy wild cat species from Asia. Jean Sudgen purchased a female Asian Leopard cat (named Malaysia) from a pet store in 1961. She put a black domestic tomcat in her cage. The animals mated and produced two kittens, a male and a female called KinKin.[7] This was the first effort to use hybrid offspring to create a breed of domestic cat with the loving nature of a favored fireside tabby and the striking look associated with Leopards, Ocelots and Jaguars.[8]


Dr. Willard Centerwall cats which became the foundation cats for Jean Mill

In 1970 Mill resumed her breeding efforts and in 1975 she received of a group of Bengal cats which had been bred for use in genetic testing at Loyola University by Dr. Willard Centerwall. In the 1970's Dr. Willard R. Centerwall, professor of pediatrics and director of genetics services at Loma Linda University, conducted genetic research with the offspring of the Asian leopard cat (Fells bengalensis) and the American domestic cat (Felis calus). The Asian leopard cat does not have the feline leukemia virus built into its system, scientists in cancer research were interested in what happens to the leukemia genome in the offsprings of the leopard cat and the domestic cat.[9] When Dr. Centerwall concluded his studies he gifted the cats from the study to Jean Mill. Eventually, these same hybrids were instrumental in the Bengal breed’s development. Through a mutual contact, Dr. Centerwall and Jean Sugden Mill met in 1980. Centerwall had several F1 kittens needing homes and he gave them to Jean Mill.[10]

1982 Spotted domestic cats from India[edit]

In 1982 Mill found a spotted domestic cat in a pound. And then on a trip to India in 1982, she saw another spotted domestic cat "running around the rhinoceros compound" in a zoo. "He was an orange cat with little spots all over him," Mill said. "He was so unusual, I asked [the zookeepers] to catch him for me The pound cat (Finally Found) and the Indian street urchin (Millwood Toby of Delhi) were bred with the lab cats, and the Bengal cat line began to form.[11]The curator of the New Delhi Zoo also gave Mill the sister of the cat in the rhinoceros cage which Mill named Tasha of New Delhi. These two Indian domestic cats Toby and Tasha contributed greatly to the Bengal breed[12]

Egyptian Mau breeding[edit]

Mill registered Millwood Tory of Delhi as an Egyptian Mau. Mill also imported other Egyptian Mau kittens from India. Mill also needed males to stud the F1 and F2 kittens resulting from the Asian Leopard cat since hybrid males are often sterile. Mill also used Egyptian Maus to raise her F1 Bengal kittens. Several Egyptian Mau breeders, used Millwood Tory of Delhi 'Indian Mau' genes to improve upon the weak, inbred, poor tempered, poor producing bloodlines. In 1985 Jean Mill's Egyptian Mau line was retracted by the CFA. Eventually they all reinstated and the bloodline is now used extensively in modern Egyptian Maus.[13]

Bengal cat breeding resumed[edit]

Mill combined her spotted domestic cats with the Centerwall cats and with that Mill was able to restart her Bengal breeding program: where others breeders had failed to get the Bengal breed established because of the sterility of the F1,F2, F3, and F4 early generation Bengals, Jean Mill succeeded. Mill successfully backcrossed Bengals until she achieved the F5 Bengal with a domestic cat temperament. The modern Bengal breed traces to cats bred by Jean Mill in the early 1980's.[14][3] Others also began breeding Bengals - and in 1986 The International Cat Association (TICA) accepted the Bengal cat as a new breed: Bengals gained championship status in 1991.[15] Where other early Bengal breeders Like William Engle only succeeded in creating a sterile hybrid, Jean Mill succeeded in creating a Domestic Bengal cat.[16]

Jean Mill's cattery was called Millwood.


Jean Mill earned a degree from Pomona College in psychology in 1945. Mill attended graduate classes in genetics at UC Davis in 1946. At U.C. Davis Mill wrote a term paper which proposed crossing the popular Persian breed of cat with the new Siamese breed to make 'Panda Bear' cats.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Jean Mill was born May 14, 1926 in Des Moines. Mill moved to California to attend college and by 1948 was one of three breeders working to develop the Himalayan cat, a longhaired breed of mixed Persian and Siamese ancestry.[3]

Jean Mill married a wealthy rancher and cotton farmer named Robert Sugden and moved to his ranch in Yuma, Arizona.[17] When Mill's first husband died in 1965, she move into an apartment and put her conservation/breeding efforts on hold. Robert and Jean Sugden had a daughter October 15, 1948, they named her Judy.

United States of American v. Robert V. H. Sugden and Jean S. Sugden[edit]

"On October 7, 1953,

Jean Mill and her first husband Robert Sugden were both indicted for conspiracy to violate the immigration laws. The main government evidence was obtained by listening to the Sugdens' shortwave radio communications. The U.S. Government alleged that the Sugdens used shortwave radio broadcasts to warn their foremen to hide their illegal-alien workers. The Federal Communications Commission suspended the Sugdens' Radio Telephone Operating permit.[18] Robert Sugden alone was indicted for concealing and shielding illegal entrants into the United States from detection. The charges revolved around allegations of employing Mexican nationals...It is alleged that the Sugdens took various steps to hide the illegal entrants and avoid being caught with them in their employ."[19] Judge Ling dismissed the charges in the spring of 1954 because the case Judge determined that short wave radio evidence was not obtained legally. The Government then appealed the dismissal of evidence to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit since they had merely monitored short wave radio broadcasts of the Sugdens (not wiretapped).[20] In 1955 the United States was able to win their appeal to get the short wave radio evidence admitted in the case against the Sugdens.[21] The 9th court of appeals ruled that because the Sugdens were not licensed to operate the short wave radio at the time of the broadcasts and so the FCC may make full disclosure to the Immigration service .[22]

Jean Mill got married a second time to John Krummel and together they lived in Pasadena, California until they divorced.

In 1975, Mill married engineer Robert J. Mill March 1, 1978 in Los Angeles County, California, and moved to his one-acre horse property in Covina Hills, California.[3] Jean Mill and Bob Mill continued to live in California and they bred Bengal cats under the name Millwood. Bob Mill died September 21, 1999.

Death and legacy[edit]

Jean Mill died Mill died June 6, 2018. Her conservation efforts are part of her legacy. Jean Mill created a domestic Bengal cat with markings like a leopard and the temperament of a house cat in order to protect wild cats from overhunting. It is unknown what impact the Jean Mill's Bengal cat breed had on the fur industry. It is known that fur fell out of fashion in the United States. "More than 60% of Americans find killing animals for fur amounts to cruelty, according to an Angus Reid survey." [23]

As of 2019, Bengal breeders number in the thousands. Jean Mill got the Bengal cat accepted into TICA in 1986. Since that time Bengals have been accepted into all of the cat registries: CFA, FIFe, WCF, ACF, ACFA/CAA, QCCF, and New Zealand Cat Fancy (NZCF).

Jean Mill also inspired her daughter Judy Sugden to create a new cat breed, the Toyger.


  • The Guide to Owning a Bengal Cat (1997)
  • Breeding Better Bengals: Facts and Fallacies (1999)


  1. ^ Hallépée, Didier (2011). The Egyptian Mau cat. Italy: Carrefour du Net Fondcombe. p. 35. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  2. ^ Robbins, Nancy (1 February 2013). Domestic Cats: Their History, Breeds and Other Facts. Scotts Valley, CA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. p. 117. ISBN 9781300695424. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e Hamilton, Denise (10 March 1994). "A Little Cat Feat: A Covina woman's efforts at cross-breeding wild and domestic felines are paying off handsomely". Los Angeles Times. p. 2. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  4. ^ Mill, Jean S. "Milestones at Millwood". Millwood Bengals. Jean Mill. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  5. ^ Jean S., Mill (1998). Guide to Owning a Bengal Cat. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-7938-4663-4.
  6. ^ Jones, Joyce (20 September 1992). "The Pet Cat That Evokes the Leopard". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  7. ^ Mill, Jean S. (1998). Guide to Owning a Bengal Cat. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-7938-4663-4.
  8. ^ "Bengal Breed". TICA. The International Cat Association. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  9. ^ "Leukemia Hereditary Factors Under Probe By Researcher". THE DESERT SUN. Palm Springs. Calif. -. 19 April 1977. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  10. ^ "BENGAL CAT ORIGINS". Bengals Illustrated. Award Winning Publications. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  11. ^ McEnroe, Collin (28 June 1993). "WILD THING? NO, BENGAL'S A SWEET CAT". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  12. ^ Hallépée, Didier (2011). The Egyptian Mau cat. Italy: Carrefour du Net Fondcombe. p. 35. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  13. ^ Mill, Jean S. "Milestones at Millwood". Millwood Bengals. Jean Mill. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  14. ^ "About the Bengal". CFA. The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc.,. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  15. ^ "Bengal Breed". TICA. The International Cat Association. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  16. ^ Barrington, Kate. "A Detailed History Of The Bengal Cat Breed". Bengal Cats. Bengal Cats. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  17. ^ "Wealthy Arizonan Faces Charge" (67). Hamilton Journal - The Daily News. 8 October 1953. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  18. ^ "National Archives Federal Register of the United States" (PDF). Gov Info. U.S. Government. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  19. ^ "United States of America, Appellant, v. Robert v. H. Sugden and Jean S. Sugden, Appellees, 226 F.2d 281 (9th Cir. 1955)". Justia. Justia. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  20. ^ "Appeal Sugden Decision" (70). The Morning Sun. 3 July 1954. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  21. ^ "Circuit court allows Sugden Case Evidence" (1). The Sunday Sun. 2 October 1955. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  22. ^ "United States v. Robert v. H. Sugden and Jean S. Sugden, 226 F.2d 281 (9th Cir. 1955) Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit". Court Listener. Free Law Project. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  23. ^ FERAL, PRISCILLA. "Torture goes out of fashion: Momentum builds for a ban on NYC fur sales". New York Daily News. New York Daily News Inc. Retrieved 16 March 2019.