Maine Coons, like American Shorthairs, are considered native to America because they?ve been on this continent since the colonial days, and perhaps longer. How they got here in the first place and where their progenitors came from, however, is anyone?s guess, since none of the local colonists happened by with their camcorders to record the event.
Many imaginative stories exist about the origin of the breed (some more believable than others), but hard proof is as elusive as a cat at bathtime. One story alleges that the breed is a raccoon/domestic cat hybrid, thus the name Maine Coon. Even though both raccoons and Maine Coons have lush, long tails and the tendency to dunk their food into their drinking water, such a union is biologically impossible.
Another anecdote, unlikely but at least possible, holds that the Maine Coon was produced by bobcat/domestic cat trysts, which would explain the ear and toe tufts and the impressive size of the breed.
A more imaginative story claims that Maine Coons are descendants of longhaired cats belonging to Marie Antoinette. The Queen?s cats and other belongings were smuggled to America by a captain named Clough, who was preparing to rescue the Queen from her rendezvous with the guillotine. Unfortunately, the Queen lost her head and the cats ended up staying with Clough in Maine.
Last, but not least, is the tale of a sea captain named Coon who in the 1700s brought longhaired cats with him on his excursions to America?s northeastern coast.
This last story has at least a ring of truth. Seafarers who used cats to control rodent populations on their sailing ships probably brought some longhaired buccaneers with them to the New World. Some of the cats went ashore when they reached the northeastern coast and established themselves on the farms and in the barns of the early settlers. Given Maine?s severe climate, those initial years must have been tough on cat and human alike. Only the breed?s strongest and most adaptable survived. Through natural selection, the Maine Coon developed into a large, rugged cat with a dense, water-resistant coat and a hardy constitution.
Regardless of where the breed came from, the Maine Coon was one of the first breeds to be recognized by the late nineteenth-century cat fancy, and became an early favorite. Mr. F. R. Pierce, who owned Maine Coons as early as 1861, noted in The Book of the Cat that a tabby Maine Coon named Leo was awarded Best Cat in the New York City cat show of 1895 and was a consistent winner in Boston in 1897, 1898, and 1899.
However, in the early 1900s, as new and more exotic breeds were imported into the country, the cat fanciers of the era abandoned Maine Coons for Persians, Angoras, and other imports. By 1950 the breed had all but vanished.
Fortunately, a small group of breeders kept this undercat from going under. Breeders held Maine Coon-only cat shows and in 1968 breeders founded the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association. The associations that had snubbed the Maine Coon accepted them for Championship competition again and today the Maine Coon has regained its former popularity.
No breed has a monopoly on love and affection, but there?s got to be some good reason that the Maine Coon has clawed its way up from near extinction to the prized place of America?s second most popular breed (according to the CFA?s registration totals). Maine Coon fanciers say that the popularity is due to the breed?s large size, intelligence, luxuriant coat, hardy disposition, and devotion to their human family.
While Maine Coons are devoted, playful, and loving to their chosen humans, they can be reserved around people with whom they?re not familiar. Given time, however, even the most cautious adapt. As befits a former seafarer, Maine Coons are fascinated by water, perhaps because their thick coats are water-repellent and won?t become annoyingly soaked as easily as a thinner coat would.
One of the largest domestic breeds, male Maine Coons weigh in at 12 to 18 pounds, while the females fall into a ?petite? 10 to 14 pound range. Slow to mature, the Maine Coon takes three to four years to fully develop. Although brown tabby is the most common color and pattern, Maine Coons come in a wide variety of colors.
The heavy all-weather coat, shorter on the shoulders and longer on the stomach and britches, makes the cat appear larger than it really is. The texture is smooth and silky rather than cottony, so the coat doesn?t mat as easily as the coats of some longhaired breeds. Breeders usually recommend a twice-weekly combing with a good steel comb.
The Maine Coon is solid, rugged, and can endure a harsh climate. Particularly distinctive is its smooth, shaggy coat.
Medium to large; muscular; broad-chested; body should be long to create a well-balanced rectangular appearance.
Medium width and length; square muzzle and high cheekbones; chin firm; nose medium long, slightly concave in profile.
Large; well tufted; wide at base, tapering to appear pointed; set high and well apart.
Large; wide set; slightly oblique setting with slant toward outer base of ear. Color should be shades of green, gold, or copper, but blue and odd-colored eyes are acceptable in white cats. No relationship between coat and eye colors.
Long; wide at base, and tapering; fur long and flowing.
Heavy and shaggy; silky with coat falling smoothly; shorter on shoulders and longer on stomach and britches; frontal ruff desirable.
All colors and patterns except for the pointed colors and pattern that would indicate hybridization.
Delicate bone structure; undershot chin; crossed eyes; kinked tail; buttons; lockets; or spots.