In spite of its exotic name, this breed is the result of crossings of Burmese and Siamese cats in North America. The aim was to create a cat with softer features than the Siamese, which displayed more Burmese traits in terms of its appearance, as well as showing less contrast between its points and body coloration than the Siamese. There was also a move away from the angular looks of the Siamese, compared with the early examples seen in the West.
- BREED DEVELOPED: 1955
- COUNTRY: USA TYPE: Shorthair
- BODY SHAPE: Muscular and medium-length
- WEIGHS UP TO: 5.5kg /12lb
- PLUS POINTS: Sleek, glossy coat; friendly
- WATCH POINTS: May mature at four months
The original pairing that paved the way for the development of the Tonkinese breed was carried out in the 1950s, and involved a female Chocolate Point Siamese crossed with a male Burmese. The breeder responsible claimed that the resulting kittens had inherited the most desirable traits from both breeds, and called the offspring Golden Siamese. In due course, this name was changed to reflect the hybrid origins more accurately, and emphasise the Oriental link. The Tonkinese was first officially recognised in Canada, and was originally registered there in 1965, although the Gulf of Tonkin, from which its name is derived, is close to neither Thailand (previously known as Siam) nor indeed Myanmar (Burma).
The Tonkinese has proved to be far more popular in its North American homeland than in Europe, with such cats being described there as mink. This is a reflection not only of their soft coloration, but also the patterning and texture of their coats. In the case of the blue variety, the coat varies in depth between individuals from shades of blue to bluish-grey, while the points, comprising the legs and feet, as well as the tail, face and ears, are a decidedly darker shade of bluish-grey. The eyes are an intermediate bluish-green shade, usually described as ‘aqua’, reflecting the Oriental influence.
- There was opposition to registering the Tonkinese as a breed because these cats do not breed true when paired together.
- The first Burmese cat taken to the LISA during the 1930s was part Siamese herself, so the Tonkinese line extends back to a cat that was actually an unrecognised Tonkinese!