Tonkinese are a medium-sized cat breed distinguished by points as with Siamese and Burmese breeds. They are lively, friendly, often talkative cats, with gregarious personalities. But they are happy apartment cats if they have some exercise opportunity. They are commonly referred to as "Tonks". As with many cat breeds, the exact history of the Tonkinese varies to some degree depending on the historian.
Tonkinese cats are a recent cross between the Siamese and Burmese cat breeds, although some assert that Tonkinese-like cats have existed since at least the early 1800s, and the founding cat of the Burmese breed was probably a mink hybrid-colored cat named "Wong Mau," a small walnut colored cat imported to California by Dr. Joseph Cheesman Thompson in 1930. Some claim that the appearance of the breed is closer to the original appearance of the Siamese, before Siamese breeders developed today's triangular head and very leggy body. The name is not related to the Tonkin region of Indochina. When the breed was first established in Canada, the breed name was actually spelled "Tonkanese," which was a reference to the island in the musical South Pacific where "half-breeds" suffered no discrimination. The mistaken idea that the name was a geographical reference paralleling the Siamese and Burmese breed names resulted in a gradual switch to the current spelling, under which the breed was recognized by the US registering associations.
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