Maine Coons are becoming more and more popular on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet their origins are unclear, with some very strange myths being passed around. They are known to have been American farm cats, but what bout before that? I have two of these lovely big cats, and I looked into their history in some detail. Here's what I found out....
History of the Maine Coon Cat
The Maine Coon is the only truly native American cat. But its origins are lost in myth and legend. So where did Maine Coon cats really come from?
One of the best known stories about Maine Coons is that they are the result of a mating between a racoon and a domestic cat. This is, of course, genetically impossible!
Maine Coons have been thought to be the result of a bobcat/housecat cross. This is a possibility. Matings between bobcats and housecats are rare, but they have been documented. The kittens of such a cross are described as sturdy, heavily-furred cats with large tufted ears and big feet, ie they look like Maine Coons! So...it’s not impossible.
Rescued French Revolution Cats?
The next legend is an extremely romantic tale, based loosely on fact. Towards the end of the French Revolution, there was a bid to save the royal cats. A sea captain named Samuel Clough was to bring Queen Marie Antoinette and her cats to the USA. She is said to have had a number of fluffy Persian or Angora cats, which mated with the resident American farm cats. Their descendents are said to be the Maine Coons. This is not impossible, but fairly unlikely, since Marie Antoinette was not even known to have any long-haired cats.
Captain Coon's Cats?
Next there is the story on a Captain Coon, an English sea captain who was very fond of cats. He had a number of Persians and Angoras, and when he fraternized while ashore, so did his cats! When long-haired cat litters began appearing, they were referred to as “one of Coon’s cats”…and gradually the name stuck.
Maine Coons could be descended from the Norwegian Skogkatt, which possibly came over with the Vikings. In recent times there have been many comments on the similarity between the two breeds, so this is quite possible. The longhaired Russian cat could also have been a possible ancestor.
The Likely Truth of the Matter
The true origins of the Maine Coon are likely to be a combination of all of the above legends, shorn of the romance and some of the details. Throughout the period of American colonisation, ships came to the North-East of the USA with cargo and crews, and with them, their cats. These would have been cats of many breeds, which mated with the original domestic American cats. Man then added to the mix by selecting the traits that were found to be appealing, adding breeding programmes, and finally producing today’s Maine Coon.
But does it all really matter anyway? The Maine Coon is a unique, huge, lovable cat, with devoted fans the world over. Do we really care where he came from?
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