Known as the gentle giants of cats, the Maine Coon is a loving and loyal breed that can weigh up to 25 pounds. They are popular for their large size and friendly-nature, which has led to Maine Coons being the second most favored cat breed in the United States. The Maine Coon is a highly regarded breed that has forever left a large paw print of the hearts of America’s cat lovers
While the Maine Coon is considered one of the oldest natural breeds of cat in North America, the exact origin of the breed is unknown. However, there are many myths and legends, some more plausible than others, that surround the development of the Maine Coon Cat.
Some people think early Maine Coon cats were developed after longhaired cats were brought overseas to America by various seamen and then bred with bobcats. This myth was developed because people thought the tufts of hair on the Main Coon’s ears and between their toes resembled a bobcat. Some people have even gone further to believe that the Main Coon was created after the domestic cats of New England were bred with raccoons because of their bushy tails and the trills and chirps they often use to communicate. Despite being genetically impossible for these myths to be true because species of different divisions can not be hybridized, a handful of people still believe that today’s Maine Coon cat was bred with American bobcats or raccoons.
A more fantasized version of the development of today’s modern Maine Coon revolves around Marie Antoinette, the vivacious last queen of France. Before she was beheaded in 1983, Marie Antoinette hatched a plan with Captain Samuel Clough to escape to Wiscasset, Maine on a ship filled with her most prized possessions, including her six long-haired Angora cats. She was captured, tried and sent to the guillotine before she was able to make it to the United States, but according to legend her six cats made it under the care of Captain Clough. Eventually the cats bred with the domestic cats of America and created the breed we know today.
If you don’t find Marie Antoinette’s involvement the the breed’s development likely or credible, another myth of the Maine Coons has to do with an English sea captain known as “Coon.” It is suspected that Coon loved cats, which he had a multitude of, and he traveled up and down the New England coast with his feline friends. The majority of his cats were longhaired and they followed their owner to shore when he left his ship. Eventually his cats began breeding with the local cats and when longhaired kittens became apparent in domestic American litters the owners knew it was because of one of Coon’s cats
Another legend that surrounds the Maine Coon’s creation, which is the most likely to be true, involves Vikings. It is thought that early descendants of the breed were developed in New England when the Vikings brought their Norwegian Skogkatts, also known as Norwegian Forest Cats, to America with them. These large cats and their attributes closely resemble the appearance and temperament of the Maine Coon. When these bigger, longhaired cats began breeding with the domestic shorthairs that were already in New England, the continuation of the new breed depended upon the survival of the fittest These cats needed to be able to withstand the harsh conditions and snow of winter in the Northeast. Eventually, nature fine-tuned the features of today’s Maine Coon cat, which was named after the state of Maine where it is the official state cat.
Description and Temperament
The cat that resulted from nature’s breeding program is a large and hardy cat, known for its mouse-hunting skills and natural intelligence. Maine Coon cats are more trainable than most other breeds and can even be taught to fetch and return their catch. These cats are not needy, meaning they aren’t usually lap cats, though they do like to be in your presence at most times. Expect that your Maine Coon will follow you from room to room just to see what you are doing.
A Maine Coon’s friendly, loving and laid-back disposition makes the breed a great choice for families. They get along with most anyone- including pets- and are known to be very loyal to their family members. Maine Coons mature more slowly than other breeds, usually not reaching maturity until three-years-old. This makes the Maine Coon much more kitten-like and has resulted in the breed being described as silly.
Weighing between 10 and 25 pounds, the Maine Coon is the largest breed of domestic cats. They have solid and muscular bodies protected by a silky, water resistant coat. They have thick, bushy tails that they display proudly for added balance, agility and warmth, and some have a lion-like mane around their neck. Despite being a longhaired breed, grooming your Maine Coon is only required occasionally.