Jean Belle Sones
May 14, 1926
Des Moines, Iowa United States
|Died||June 6, 2018 (aged 92)|
|Education||Pomona College (BA)|
UC Davis (Graduate School)
Jean Mill (née Sones; May 14, 1926 – June 6, 2018) was an American cat breeder and a conservationist who worked to protect the Asian leopard cat. Mill is best known 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. Mill and her first husband, Robert Sugden, were involved in a precedent-setting case about the United States government's power to monitor short wave radio communications. She also authored two books.
Conservation efforts and breeding rationale
Jean Mill was concerned about the hunting and poaching of the Asian Leopard cats to supply the fur and pet trades. Mill has said that her desire to save the Asian Leopard cat led to the creation of the Bengal cat breed. Mill claimed that she started crossing Asian Leopard cats with domestic cats to help prevent poaching. She gave two reasons for her breeding rationale: if people could purchase a cat that looked like a wild leopard, the actual Asian Leopard mothers would not be killed in the wild for fur; and the cubs would not be taken to be sold to customers.
Himalayan cat contributions
In 1948, Jean Mill worked to develop the Himalayan cat, a longhaired breed of mixed Persian and Siamese ancestry. She said she originated the breed by 1954 and was showing off her prizewinning cats by 1960.
Creating the Bengal breed
There were several 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.
1960s: Mill's first hybrid cat
In 1963 Mill lived in Yuma Arizona: it was there that Mill crossed a domestic tomcat with an Asian leopard cat. This mating was thought to be the first documented mating of a Wild Asian Leopard to a Domestic cat. 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.
In 1970 Mill restarted her breeding program and in 1975 she received of a group of Bengal cats which had been bred for use in Loma Linda, CA by Willard Centerwall. When Centerwall concluded his studies he gifted the cats from the study to Jean Mill. Mill used these hybrids from Centerwall in her Bengal breeding program.
1982 Spotted domestic cats from India
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.
1982 Spotted domestic cats from India
Mill's breeding efforts began to take shape in the 1980s. In 1982 Mill obtained a spotted domestic cat from a shelter. Later in 1982, while traveling in India, Mill found another spotted domestic cat living in a zoo. The zookeepers captured the orange spotted cat (later named Toby of Delhi) and gave him to Mill. When Mill returned to the United States she used the orange spotted cat from the zoo along with the spotted cat from the pound, to breed with the hybrid cats she received.
Egyptian Mau breeding
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.
Bengal cat breeding resumed
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 1980s. 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. Where other early Bengal breeders like William Engle only succeeded in creating a sterile hybrid, Jean Mill succeeded in creating a Domestic Bengal cat.
Jean Mill's cattery was called Millwood. One of her earliest customers was a breeder named Gene Ducote of Gogees Bengals. Ducote has said one of her favorite Jean Mill quotes is: "Beauty always wins out..."
Mill earned a degree from Pomona College in psychology in 1948. She 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.
Jean Mill was born May 14, 1926 in Des Moines. Mill attended Roosevelt High School and then moved to California to attend college. By 1948, she was one of three breeders working to develop the Himalayan cat, a longhaired breed of mixed Persian and Siamese ancestry.
Jean Mill married a wealthy rancher and cotton farmer named Robert Sugden and moved to his ranch in Yuma, Arizona. In 1949, she was queen of the Yuma Jaycees' fourth annual rodeo. After Robert Sugden died in 1965, she move into an apartment and put her conservation/breeding efforts on hold. The Sugden's had a daughter (Judith Alice Sugden) October 15, 1948.
United States of America v. Robert V. H. Sugden and Jean S. Sugden
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. 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." 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). 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. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that because the Sugdens were not licensed to operate the short wave radio at the time of the broadcasts; the FCC may make full disclosure to the Immigration service .
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 James Mill in Los Angeles County, California, and moved to his one-acre horse property in Covina Hills, California. 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
Jean Mill died on June 6, 2018. 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."
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).
- Mill, Jean S. (1999) . Guide to Owning a Bengal Cat. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Facts on File, Incorporated, Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 9780791054598.
- Breeding Better Bengals: Facts and Fallacies (1999)
- TICA's June 2018 Newsletter — Remembering Jean Mill
- Vox video on cat breeding, featuring Mill's story
- "Jean Sones to Be Bride". The Des Moines Register. June 8, 1947. p. 34. Retrieved November 6, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Jean Sones, 19, Startles Colonel". Des Moines Tribune. February 26, 1947. Retrieved November 6, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Robbins, Nancy (February 1, 2013). Domestic Cats: Their History, Breeds and Other Facts. Scotts Valley, CA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. p. 117. ISBN 9781470075385. Retrieved March 9, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Hamilton, Denise (March 10, 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 January 27, 2019.
- "Queen Jean Sugden Raises Himalayan Cats". The Yuma Daily Sun. January 11, 1960. p. 5. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
- Jean S., Mill (1998). Guide to Owning a Bengal Cat. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-7938-4663-4.
- Jones, Joyce (September 20, 1992). "The Pet Cat That Evokes the Leopard". The New York Times. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
- "BENGAL CAT ORIGINS". Bengals Illustrated. Award Winning Publications. Retrieved March 8, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- McEnroe, Collin (June 28, 1993). "WILD THING? NO, BENGAL'S A SWEET CAT". Hartford Courant. Retrieved March 9, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Mill, Jean S. "Milestones at Millwood". Millwood Bengals. Jean Mill. Archived from the original on May 23, 2007. Retrieved March 16, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Hutcherson, Anthony (April 1, 2019). "Glitter". TICA Trend. 40 (3): 8.
- "About the Bengal". CFA. The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc. Retrieved March 8, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Bengal Breed". TICA. The International Cat Association. Retrieved March 8, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Barrington, Kate (January 14, 2016). "A Detailed History of the Bengal Cat Breed". Bengal Cats. Bengal Cats. Retrieved March 8, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Bengal Bulletin" (PDF). TIBCS. The International Bengal Cat Society. Retrieved May 2, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Class notes" (PDF). Pomona College Magazine (Fall 2014). Pomona College. Retrieved November 5, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Wealthy Arizonan Faces Charge". Hamilton Journal – The Daily News (67). October 8, 1953. Retrieved March 19, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Rodeo Queen Gets Camera Low-Down". The Arizona Republic. February 11, 1949. p. 23. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
- "Not Enough Room for a Tiger in Your Home? A Toyger May Be Answer". VOA. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
- "Charge Radio Net Alerted Wetbacks". New York Daily News. October 9, 1953. Retrieved April 1, 2019.
- "National Archives Federal Register of the United States" (PDF). Gov Info. U.S. Government. Retrieved March 19, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "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 March 18, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Appeal Sugden Decision" (70). The Morning Sun. July 3, 1954. Retrieved March 18, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Circuit court allows Sugden Case Evidence". Yuma Sun (1). The Sunday Sun. October 2, 1955. Retrieved March 19, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "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 March 19, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- FERAL, PRISCILLA. "Torture goes out of fashion: Momentum builds for a ban on NYC fur sales". Daily News. New York: New York Daily News Inc. Retrieved March 16, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Miller, Kenneth (February 23, 2007). "Hello, Kitty: Inside the making of America's next great cat". The Pantagraph. p. 77. Retrieved March 22, 2019.