The Tonkinese is in fact thought to be one of the oldest breeds on the planet, although it was not until 1880s that the breed was recreated. At the time they were known as the “Chocolate Siamese”. Although many people believe the breed came about by crossing the Burmese with the Siamese, it is thought that all three breeds are in fact, unique in their own right and that they are genetic cousins. The difference being in their coat textures and colours as well as their eye colour.
They were first developed in the west in the late 1880s when a “chocolate royal Siamese cat” was imported to the States from Singapore. However, it was not until the 1930s that Dr Joseph C Thompson decided to prove that a Tonkinese cat called Wong Mau owed her colouring to two specific genetic factors. He then established a breeding programme to create the Burmese. As such, the foundation breed for the Burmese was a Tonkinese cat and it was proved that Wong Mau did indeed boast having the characteristics of two breeds of cat instead of just the one. As time passed a Tonkinese kitten would appear in Burmese and Siamese litters with one of the most famous being Casa Gatos Da Foong, a cat that boasted a very complex pedigree which included the Burmese, Siamese and Tonkinese.
During the 1950s Milar Greer crossed a Burmese with the Siamese and produced cats with a distinct, intermediate coat colour and pattern. To begin with they were known as “Golden Siamese”. However, at the time not much interest was shown in the breed and these charming and attractive cats were totally forgotten when the breeder gave up. Luckily, during the 1960s more interest was shown in these unusual cats which were then renamed “Tonkinese”. A breed standard was drawn up and after this their popularity started to increase as more cats were exhibited at cat shows all over the country.
The breed was accepted by the majority of the international breed clubs over the following years. However, it was not until 2002 that the mink coated Tonkinese was awarded Championship status by the GCCF in the UK. However, the solid and pointed Tonkinese was only granted Championship status in 2015. Today, more of these charming cats are being bred and registered thanks to the fact that Tonkinese cats boast being so attractive and because they are known to be intelligent, affectionate and playful which makes sharing a home with one such a pleasure.