At present there is significant variation in the look and type of the Tonkinese that are bred and shown within Australia, and this has created the perception amongst many observers that the breed is not an established one, or doesn't breed 'true'. It would be fair to say that the Tonkinese Breed within Australia is experiencing something of an identity crisis, and as such the lines are quite blurred when it comes to adhering to the same 'breed-standard'.

Here we will examine and explain as best as possible the variations that exists within the breed.

Essentially there are now two main 'types' that Tonkinese are bred to, while some breeders breed everything in between and do not recognise the degree of variation that exists in the breed or care very little about the fact that we have more than one 'type' and whether it corresponds to the breed standard.

The two main types are vastly different from each other to the point that side by side, they do not resemble the same breed and it is often suggested that they cannot  both reflect the same breed-standard. Since the early days of my involvement with the breed, extensive research into their pedigrees and backgrounds has revealed that these differences are derived mainly from the variability of the 'recipe' used to create a Tonkinese.

As a member of the former Tonkinese Cat Club of Australasia, I have tried numerously to discuss 'type' with other breeders in order that we work toward one standard, as we have been asked to consolidate type by Feline Control Council Queensland (FCCQ), but with some breeders there seems to be no capacity or willingness to understand that the look of the cat is predominantly determined by the 'recipe' that is used to create them, nor to address the inconsistencies of type that continue to compromise the breed in Australia.


The 2 Types of Tonkinese - There are essentially
two differing schools of thought when it comes to what a Tonkinese should look like.

Each has validity in its own way, but they remain at odds with the reality of reflecting one breed standard.

While some breeders care not about what the Tonkinese looks like and are unable or unwilling to see and recognise the huge variation in type that they see within the breed.

Queensland breeders categorically refuse to discuss type in any meaningful way.

Intermediate Type - The philosophy that underpins Intermediate breeding is that the Tonkinese should sit neatly between the types of the parental breeds as they appear in Australia.

In order to achieve this type, the principle is that a Tonkinese can be created by the first generation cross of a Siamese to Burmese. But then subsequent matings are all Tonkinese to Tonkinese; ie, no back-crossing to parental breeds.

As such all subsequent generations comprise equal proportion of genes from the parental breeds..

Anniesong Tonkinese specialise in the Intermediate form of the breed, and only breed to this standard.

'USA'- inspired Type - The philosophy that underpins this approach is one where the Tonkinese is bred to reflect more of the Burmese parental breed. And that the ideal 'type' is reminiscent of the early Siamese, rather than be influenced by the modern Siamese.

In order to achieve that look, first generation and above Tonkinese have been bred back to Burmese, and this process is often repeated across subsequent generations to further 'fix' Burmese-like traits.

In addition breeders of this type favour the infusion of US Tonkinese genetics that possess a more cobby build in their body-type. (See Tonkinese of the World to compare how the breed varies in different countries)


 Anniesong Breed Direction & Philosophy

The following section and information, represents our specific views on the breed, here at Anniesong Tonkinese ...... and while these views are shared with several compatible breeders within Australia, some maintain a very different viewpoint on what a Tonkinese should be. 

This information is shared in order that pet buyers and new breeders alike can be conversant on the status of the breed and make informed choices based on observation and knowledge rather than mis-information provided by those that have no interest in meeting the breed-standard or in working toward the consolidation of type within the breed.

A breed is a specific group of domestic animals having homogenous appearance (phenotype), homogeneous behaviour, and/or other characteristics that distinguish it from other organisms of the same species and that were arrived at through selective breeding".

As described in Wikipedia, a 'breed' by defiition should correspond to a specific 'type'.... whereby animals that comprise the breed are generally of a similar shape, size and proportion.

And while all breeds have individuals that vary slightly in type, there should be a basic consistency of body shape and head-type that is clearly lacking in the range of Tonkinese currently seen in Australia.

After all there is no other breed standard that allows for such huge variation .... which begs the question ...... so why should the Tonkinese ?

In the 10 years I have been breeding tonks, I have only bred to the one ‘recipe’ that produces 'Intermediate type', and although this has entailed limiting options as to finding compatible cats, and the need to import or to start with Gen-1 cats, I am seeing a lot more consistency between type than if I was working with a variable recipe.

This philosophy has served me well in light of the fact that we’ve won ‘Tonkinese of the Year’ for the last 6 years across all Queensland councils - thus I am fixed on the belief that an intermediate Tonkinese is created from only one recipe, and I see no reason to diverge from this;

There are Tonkinese breeders that on their websites dismiss & disparage the concept of an intermediate breeding program that I'm describing here, yet refuse to engage in any meaningful discussion on breed direction.

Others fear that drawing attention to the differences 'damages' the breed reputation, yet as mentioned previously the breed has the reputation of not being consistent and this needs to be addressed if the breed is ever to be fully-accepted and taken seriously.

But for me, I am less influenced by the local breeders that are working toward establishing the USA-inspired type. I seek validation on the showbench and this continues to serve me well as we have just completed the end of 2016 show-season, and have yet again been awarded Tonkinese of the Year.

The Intermediate Tonkinese in Australia 
The Intermediate Head-type

When breeding for both head and body-type of the Tonkinese, the aim is to create a type that strikes a balance between the contributing breeds as described in the Tonkinese breed standard.

The Tonkinese depicted is 'Anniesong Cliodhna' and displays a fine balance between the look of each parent breed. 

Blue-point Siamese                                                    Seal-Mink Tonkinese                                                    Chocolate Burmese          .

One of the principles that underpin Intermediate breeding is based on striving to maintain the balance often seen in a Gen-1 Tonkinese - as a First generation Tonkinese by default receives the gene for each trait in pairs - one from each parent, the Gen-1 Tonk is often the most stable in terms of regularity of type that occurs within a litter. This makes perfect sense given the exchange of genes in pairs.

Thus if you look at how this theory applies to an aspect such as the profile - what I have observed in nearly all cases within my own and associated breed programs is as follows;

The Intermediate Profile

Getting the profile 'right' is one of the biggest challenges in breeding Tonks.

The Gen-1 Tonkinese receives a gene(s) for a straight nose from it's Siamese parent and a gene(s) for a definite nose break from the Burmese parent.

Thus in terms of profile shape & proportion as they inherit equal genetic imput from each parent, most Gen-1 tonks generally have a lovely gentle S-shaped profile.                       

Blue-point Siamese                                                    Lilac-Mink Tonkinese                                                    Chocolate Burmese         

So what defines an intermediate head-shape ?
The image below represents an interesting experiment I carried out with a morphing program, enabling the 'digital blending' of the two headtypes that contribute to the Tonkinese. In order for this experiment to be successful, the contributing images of the parent breeds had to match in terms of viewing-angle, facial expression, lighting, etc. The morphing of lilac coloured Burmese and Siamese also provides a good indication of how the 'mink' pattern occurs in the Tonkinese.


In the image (left), the 'Tonkinese' is a 'hypothetical' tonk, in that the image was created through the combining of Burmese & Siamese head-types through a morphing program that creates a digital blend between the two images. Thus each 'breed' has equal influence on the visual outcome.

        Lilac Burmese                                                   Lilac-Mink 'Tonkinese'                                                           Lilac-Point Siamese

The purpose of the above experiment was to determine what a 'half-way' point between the two breeds might look like, and how that might compare to a Tonkinese bred to a 50/50 recipe.

And although of course there are a lot of variables that influence this outcome as indeed Burmese & Siamese are not all identical in type and have their own degree of variation (although much less so that the extremes seen in the Tonkinese breed), I believe that the 'hypothetical' or 'morph-tonk' image does indeed provide a valuable insight into why an actual Tonkinese bred to a 50/50 recipe often appears the way it does.

It also gives a great insight into the eye-shape we often see in an Intermediately-bred Tonkinese.

The Image (above) of Anniesong Pharaoh, while shot from a slightly higher angle than that indicated in the 'Morph-tonk', does I believe demonstrate these qualities effectively when you compare his head-type to that of the 'morph-tonk' above. Anniesong Pharaoh is a Gen-2 Lilac Mink, and is also bred to a 50/50 recipe, and as such is genetically comprised of equal proportions of input from the parent breeds of Siamese & Burmese.


Kitten Development in the Intermediate Tonkinese

As they develop, the Tonkinese kitten goes through a dramatic transformation by the time they are weaned at 10-12 weeks old. Having began life as blind, deaf and helpless beings, totally dependent on their mum, only weeks before, it's always amazing to see how quickly they grow and change.

As breeders we sometimes retain kittens for showing/breeding that may not make the grade when they mature.

And selecting the correct kittens to keep can be a big challenge. In reality it takes a lot of time and close observaton of the development of numerous kittens and litters raised, before it becomes apparent as to what type of kitten has the potential to mature with a lovely balance between the parental breeds.

In my experience if a kitten looks a little more on the refined type - they will usually mature with a nice balance.

As such an Intermediate Tonkinese can appear to be a bit 'gawky' as kittens, ie; their heads often look just a tad too big for the body and their ears appear too big for their head, but Intermediate Tonkinese grow nicely into their ears as they mature.

Seal Point Kitten - @ 9 weeks old

Below are some Anniesong Kittens @ different ages, demonstrating typical intermediate qualities in their headtype.

Anniesong Memphis - Seal-Point @ 9 weeks

Anniesong Stella - Seal-Mink @ 12 weeks

Anniesong Whisper - Lilac-Mink @ 14 weeks

So how does the type develop as an Intermediate Tonkinese matures ?

In the images below we explore the transition from an intermediate kitten head-type to that of an adult, in each case the first of 3 demonstrates the headtype of a 'weaning' age kitten followed by 2 images that demonstrate their eventual adult head shape and ear-set.


Principles that underpin a Intermediate Breed Program

In breeding to a recipe that is 50/50 (50% Siamese & 50% Burmese) the intention is always to create balance. Yet historically, breeders that favoured more Burmese or US-type saw the intermediate Tonkinese as merely a stepping stone, and such cats were routinely back-crossed to Burmese to fix the Burmese like traits and 'breed away from' the traits that are derived from the Siamese.

That doesn’t mean that every cat bred to an intermediate recipe looks the same - and of course there are exceptions - but my experience with is that matings are planned to maximize on the probability of the desired traits - as an example - if I have a Tonk queen that is intermediate in genotype but is swinging to more ‘cobby’ or more Burmese traits in it’s phenotype, (or appearance of the cat),  I would be matching the queen to a stud that expresses the opposite in phenotype … while maintaining as close a match in genotype of the mate…. and always with a view to striking a mid-point as required by the standard, when selecting the resulting kittens to retain and breed.

One of the theories that underpins my breed strategy is that if the phenotype (appearance of the cat) looks intermediate but the genotype describes a non-intermediate recipe - then that cat will be likely to produce less intermediate type into its offspring (depending on the recipe also of the mate) - an analogy is how a heterozygous and homozygous cat may still look the same - ie; Heterozygous (Seal carrying Chocolate (Bb) looks no different to a Homozygous (Seal (BB) not carrying - ie; the genes for those other traits are ‘hiding’ and can appear in subsequent generations.

Thus my first reference point in consideration of any cat I use in my program is to analyse the pedigree; and I now have an extensive database of most cats in Queensland and many interstate cats. Even if a cat looks intermediate but it's genotype reflects a lack of balance of the parental breeds I can assume that the cat is more likely to throw less-balanced offspring.

Due to the great difference between the characters of the parent-breeds, at Anniesong we also believe that the uniqueness of the Tonkinese temperament and character is dependent on the 'recipe' that is used to create them. The intermediate Tonkinese therefore is different in nature to a back-crossed Tonkinese.

So what 'Recipes' creates the 'Intermediate' version of the Tonkinese?
I believe that a Tonkinese should comprise equal contribution from the parental breeds, and that the unique character is also dependent on the finely-tuned and equivalent balance of genetics.

My cats are all intermediate and have equal proportion of the parent breeds regardless of their generation and thus can look very different to the squatter bodied more rounded type of the US-inspired or back-crossed to Burmese cats.

Siamese x Burmese = (Gen-1)
Tonkinese x Tonkinese = (Gen-2 & above)

What I do not breed, or use in my program cats that derive from the following recipes;

Tonkinese x Burmese - (in my opinion) is not a Tonkinese but a Burmese/Tonk Cross - this is how they are referred to in the UK.
Tonkinese x Siamese - (in my opinion) is not a Tonkinese but a Siamese/Tonk Cross - also referred to in the UK.

While some breeders regard all variations as being valid, I strongly disagree, as the multiple recipes folks are using to create tonks creates too greater degree of variation that compromises the very notion of what a breed represents.












Anniesong Avalon - Lilac-Point (Gen-2)  with her Gen-3 daughter


So what's the big fuss about Generations ?

'Generational Breeding' - All Tonkinese are described in terms of coat colour and pattern but they are also frequently described by their 'generation' ... For most pet owners there is generally no implication to the generation of their pet Tonkinese, but for breeding and showing this can have greater implications and some feline-registration bodies only 'accept' Tonkinese of a specific minimum number of generations.  

So how is the generation determined in a Tonkinese ?... and what does it really mean? When Tonkinese were first created it was through the breeding of the Burmese to the Siamese, and within Australia and Europe it is still permitted to create new lines of Tonkinese via a mating between the two parental breeds. This mating by definition produces what is called a 1st. Generation (Gen-1) Tonkinese.

If Gen-1 tonks are bred together the resulting progeny will be described as Gen-2 Tonkinese, ie; (1 generation removed from parental breeds).

If Gen-2 tonks are bred together the resulting progeny will be described as Gen-3 Tonkinese, ie; (2 generations removed from parental breeds).














Anniesong Jagger - Seal-Mink (Gen-4)

So how is generation determined from a mating between two cats of different generations - If a Gen-1 Tonkinese is bred to a Gen-4, the resulting progeny will still only be a described as Gen-2 Tonkinese, as when determining the generation, it is a matter of adding one generation to the lower generationed parent in describing the generation of the progeny..... therefore;
Gen-1 x Gen-1 = Gen 2
Gen-2 x Gen-1 = Gen-2
Gen-5 x Gen-1 = Gen-2
Gen-5 x Gen-2 = Gen-3

Complicating the issue further, when back-crossing to parent breeds was still permitted, the implication to the generation was as follows; Any back-cross to either Siamese or Burmese, resulted in a return to Gen-1 status, regardless of the Tonkinese parent's generation.

 Anniesong Storm - Chocolate-Mink (Gen-3)

Recently the ACF (national governing body) determined that back-crossing is now not permitted within the breed standard and this was very welcome news, at least to the Intermediate-focussed breeders, and will go a long way toward creating more consistency in type as the breed continues to evolve..

Some would question why I am so emphatic in my belief/strategy - and the simple answer is that I believe passionately that the breed is in a mess…..and that the breed will never be taken seriously while there are so many different variations due mainly to the past practice of breeding back to Burmese or Siamese.

One way to accommodate the number of breeders working to the Burmese-heavy type as opposed to those that want an intermediate cat to represent the breed would be to separate the breed programs - so that there would be 2 versions of the breed (just like in Siamese) - where the gene pools would remain entirely separate. (Like contemporary vs traditional Siamese) …. and for me - to have any chance of stabilising type in an intermediate program the practice of back-crossing should never be carried out, whether permitted in the standard.... or not !!


The images (right) depict a back-crossed 'Tonkinese' on the showbench.

Subequent analysis of the pedigree revealed that this cat had a genotype that was comprised of 82% Burmese / 18% Siamese.

This cat being a Seal-Solid is very easy to confuse with a Burmese.





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