Jean Mill

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Jean Mill
Mill posing with a Bengal cat
Jean Belle Sones[1]

(1926-05-14)May 14, 1926
Des Moines, Iowa, United States
DiedJune 6, 2018(2018-06-06) (aged 92)
California, US
  • Cat breeder
  • author
Years active1948–2018
  • Clement Sones[2] (father)

Jean Mill (née Sones; May 14, 1926 – June 6, 2018) was an American cat breeder. Mill is best known as the founder of the 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 to 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 on Bengal cats.

Breeding activities[edit]

Himalayan cat contributions[edit]

Jean Mill began work on the Himalayan cat in 1948, breeding Persian and Siamese cats together.[3] She said she originated the breed by 1954 and was showing off her prizewinning cats by 1960.[4]

Foundation of the Bengal breed[edit]

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.[5][3]

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 cat, the actual wild mothers would not be killed in the wild for fur; and the cubs would not be taken to be sold to customers.[6]

In 1963, Mill lived in Yuma Arizona; it was there that Mill crossed a domestic tomcat with a wild Asian leopard cat. This mating is thought to be the first documented case of this particular felid hybrid.[7] 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.[5]

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.[8]

Mill's breeding efforts began to take shape in the 1980s. In 1982, Mill obtained a spotted domestic cat from an American shelter. Later in 1982, while traveling in India, Mill found another spotted domestic cat living in the rhinoceros pen at the New Delhi Zoo. The zookeepers captured cat for Mill (an orange one she named Toby of Delhi) and that cat's spooted sister (which she named Tasha of New Delhi). These two cats contributed greatly to the Bengal breed. 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.[9]

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.[10]

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 in the early 1980s. 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.[11] Mill backcrossed Bengals until she achieved the F5 Bengal with a domestic-cat temperament.[12][3] Others also began breeding Bengals – and in 1986, The International Cat Association (TICA) accepted the Bengal cat as a new breed, giving them championship status in 1991.[13]

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 quotations is: "Beauty always wins out".[14]

Personal life[edit]

Jean Mill was born May 14, 1926, in Des Moines, Iowa. Mill attended Theodore Roosevelt High School[1] and then moved to California to attend college.[3]

Mill earned a BA degree from Pomona College in psychology in 1948.[15] In 1946, for a genetics assignment as a graduate student at the University of California, Davis, Mill proposed crossing Persian and Siamese cats to make "Panda Bear" cats.[3]

Jean Mill married a wealthy rancher and cotton farmer named Robert Sugden[1] and moved to his ranch in Yuma, Arizona.[16] In 1949, she was queen of the Yuma Jaycees' fourth annual rodeo.[17] After Robert Sugden died in 1965, she move into an apartment and put her breeding efforts on hold.[3] The Sugden's had a daughter (Judith Alice Sugden) October 15, 1948.[18]

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.[3] Jean and Bob Mill continued to live in California and they bred Bengal cats under the cattery name Millwood. Bob Mill died September 21, 1999.

United States of America 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.[19] The Federal Communications Commission suspended the Sugdens' Radio Telephone Operating permit.[20] 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."[21] 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).[22] In 1955, the US Department of Justice was able to win its appeal to get the short wave radio evidence admitted in the case against the Sugdens.[23] The Ninth 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 could make full disclosure to the US Immigration and Naturalization Service.[24]

Death and legacy[edit]

Jean Mill died on June 6, 2018.

She is credited with establishing the popular Bengal breed, and after Mill won acceptance for the breed in TICA in 1986, breeders have eventually come to number in the thousands, and Bengals have been accepted into all of the major cat registries, despite their hybrid origin, including: Cat Fanciers' Association, Fédération Internationale Féline, World Cat Federation, American Cat Fanciers Association, Australian Cat Federation, Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, and New Zealand Cat Fancy (NZCF).

Mill also inspired her daughter Judy Sugden to establish a new cat breed, the Toyger.[25]


  • Guide to Owning a Bengal Cat. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Facts on File / Chelsea House Publishers. 1999 [1997]. ISBN 9780791054598 – via Internet Archive.
  • Breeding Better Bengals: Facts, Fallacies and Fascinations. Covina Hills, California: Millwood Cattery. 1999.[26]


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

  1. ^ a b c "Jean Sones to Be Bride". The Des Moines Register. June 8, 1947. p. 34. Archived from the original on May 19, 2021. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
  2. ^ "Jean Sones, 19, Startles Colonel". Des Moines Tribune. February 26, 1947. Archived from the original on May 19, 2021. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g 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. Archived from the original on April 17, 2022. Retrieved January 27, 2019.
  4. ^ "Queen Jean Sugden Raises Himalayan Cats". The Yuma Daily Sun. January 11, 1960. p. 5. Archived from the original on March 29, 2019. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Jean S., Mill (1998). Guide to Owning a Bengal Cat. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-7938-4663-4.
  6. ^ Robbins, Nancy (February 1, 2013). Domestic Cats: Their History, Breeds and Other Facts. Scotts Valley, CA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. p. 117. ISBN 9781470075385. Archived from the original on April 17, 2022. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
  7. ^ Jones, Joyce (September 20, 1992). "The Pet Cat That Evokes the Leopard". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 21, 2019. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  8. ^ "BENGAL CAT ORIGINS". Bengals Illustrated. Award Winning Publications. Archived from the original on March 14, 2019. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  9. ^ McEnroe, Collin (June 28, 1993). "Wild Thing? No, Bengal's a Sweet Cat". Hartford Courant. Archived from the original on March 29, 2019. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
  10. ^ Mill, Jean S. "Milestones at Millwood". Millwood Bengals. Jean Mill. Archived from the original on May 23, 2007. Retrieved March 16, 2019. [non-primary source needed]
  11. ^ Barrington, Kate (January 14, 2016). "A Detailed History of the Bengal Cat Breed". Bengal Cats. Archived from the original on March 27, 2019. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  12. ^ "About the Bengal". CFA. Cat Fanciers' Association. Archived from the original on January 25, 2019. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  13. ^ "Bengal Breed". TICA. The International Cat Association. August 13, 2018. Archived from the original on March 27, 2019. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  14. ^ "Bengal Bulletin" (PDF). TIBCS. The International Bengal Cat Society. Archived from the original on April 17, 2022. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  15. ^ "Class notes" (PDF). Pomona College Magazine. No. Fall 2014. Pomona College. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 15, 2021. Retrieved November 5, 2020.
  16. ^ "Wealthy Arizonan Faces Charge". Hamilton Journal – The Daily News. No. 67. October 8, 1953. Archived from the original on March 29, 2019. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  17. ^ "Rodeo Queen Gets Camera Low-Down". The Arizona Republic. February 11, 1949. p. 23. Archived from the original on April 2, 2019. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  18. ^ "Not Enough Room for a Tiger in Your Home? A Toyger May Be Answer". VOA. April 26, 2007. Archived from the original on August 9, 2020. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  19. ^ "Charge Radio Net Alerted Wetbacks". New York Daily News. October 9, 1953. Archived from the original on April 2, 2019. Retrieved April 1, 2019.
  20. ^ "National Archives Federal Register of the United States" (PDF). Gov Info. U.S. Government. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 2, 2019. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  21. ^ "United States of America, Appellant, v. Robert v. H. Sugden and Jean S. Sugden, Appellees, 226 F.2d 281 (9th Cir. 1955)". Justia. Archived from the original on April 2, 2019. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  22. ^ "Appeal Sugden Decision". No. 70. The Morning Sun. July 3, 1954. Archived from the original on April 2, 2019. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  23. ^ "Circuit court allows Sugden Case Evidence". Yuma Sun. No. 1. The Sunday Sun. October 2, 1955. Archived from the original on April 2, 2019. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  24. ^ "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. Archived from the original on April 17, 2022. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  25. ^ Miller, Kenneth (February 23, 2007). "Hello, Kitty: Inside the making of America's next great cat". The Pantagraph. p. 77. Archived from the original on March 25, 2019. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  26. ^ "Resources Handout" (Microsoft Word .doc). Mendocino, California: RainForest Bengals Cattery. July 2017. Archived from the original on January 11, 2024.

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