and picture from http://www.mainecoon.info/)
of the oldest natural breeds in North America, the Maine Coon is generally
regarded as a native of the state of Maine (in fact, the Maine Coon is
the official Maine State Cat).
A number of attractive legends surround its origin. A once wide-spread,
though biologically impossible, belief is that the breed originated from
matings between semi-wild, domestic cats and raccoons. This myth, bolstered
by the bushy tail and the most common coloring (a raccoon-like brown tabby)
led to the adoption of the name "Coon Cat" which eventually was changed
to "Maine Coon Cat." Another popular theory on the origin of the Maine
Coon is that it sprang from the six pet cats which Marie Antoinette is
said to have sent to Wiscasset, Maine when she was planning to escape,
with the help of New England seaman Captain Clough, from France during
the French Revolution. In fact, the house that Capt. Clough was said to
have built for her still stands across the Sheepscott river from Wiscassett
in Edgecomb, Maine.
breeders today believe that the breed originated in matings between
preexisting shorthaired domestic cats and overseas longhairs (perhaps
Angora types introduced by New England seamen, or longhairs brought
to America by the Vikings).
recorded in cat literature in 1861 with a mention of a black and white
cat named "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines," Maine Coons were popular
competitors at early cat shows in Boston and New York. A brown tabby
female named "Cosie" won Best Cat at the 1895 Madison Square Garden
their popularity as show cats declined with the arrival in 1900 of the
more exotic Persians. Although the Maine Coon remained a favorite cat
in New England, the breed did not begin to regain its former widespread
popularity until the 1950's when more and more cat fanciers began to take
notice of them, show them, and record their pedigrees. In 1968, six breeders
formed the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association to preserve and
promote the breed. Today, our membership numbers over 1200 fanciers and
200 breeders. By 1980, all registries had recognized the Maine Coon, and
it was well on its way to regaining its former glory.
Maine Coons were well established more than a century ago as a hardy,
handsome breed of domestic cat, well equipped to survive the hostile New
England winters. Nature is not soft-hearted. It selects the biggest, the
brightest, the best fighters, and the best hunters to breed successive
generations. Since planned breedings of Maine Coons are relatively recent
and carefully monitored, these cats still have their strong, natural qualities.
Maine Coons are healthy, disease-resistant, rugged cats. Interestingly,
the breed closest to the Maine Coon is the Norwegian Forest Cat which,
although geographically distant, evolved in much the same climate, and
lends credence to the theory that some of the cats responsible for developing
the Maine Coon were brought over by the Vikings.
Everything about the Maine Coon points to its adaptation to a harsh climate.
Its glossy coat, heavy and water-resistant, is like that of no other breed,
and must be felt to be truly appreciated. The coat is longer on the ruff,
stomach, and britches to protect against wet and snow, and shorter on
the back and neck to guard against tangling in underbrush. The coat falls
smoothly, and requires little maintenance ?a weekly combing is all that
is usually required to keep it in top condition. The long, bushy tail
which the cat wraps around himself when he curls up to sleep can protect
him from cold winters. His ears are more heavily furred (both inside and
on the tips) than most breeds for protection from the cold, and have a
large range of movement. Big, round, tufted feet help them negotiate uneven
terrain and serve as "snow shoes." Their large eyes and ears are also
survival traits, serving as they do to increase sight and hearing. The
relatively long, square muzzle facilitates grasping prey and lapping water
from streams and puddles.
Although the Yankee myth of 30-pound cats is just that, a myth (unless
the cat is grossly overweight!), the Maine Coon is one of the largest
domestic breeds. They are tall, muscular, and big-boned; males commonly
reach 13 to 18 pounds, and females normally weigh about 9 to 12 pounds.
Add to that two or three inches of winter coat, and people will swear
that they're looking at one big cat.
Maine Coons develop slowly, and don't achieve their full size until they
are three or four years old. Their dispositions remain kittenish throughout
their lives; they are big, gentle, good-natured goofs ?the gentle giants
of the cat world. Even their voices set them apart from other cats; they
have a distinctive, chirping trill which they use for everything from
courting to cajoling their people into playing with them. Maine Coons
love to play, and many will joyfully retrieve small items. They rarely
meow, and when they do, that soft, high-pitched voice doesn't fit their
The important features of the Maine Coon are the head and body shape,
and the texture and "shag" of the coat. The head is slightly longer than
it is wide, presenting a gently concave profile with high cheekbones and
ears that are large, wide at the base, moderately pointed, and well tufted
inside. They are set well up on the head, approximately an ear's width
apart. Lynx-like tufting on the top of the ears is desirable. The neck
should be medium-long, the torso long, and the chest broad. The tail should
be at least as long as the torso. One of their most distinctive features
is their eyes, which are large, round, expressive, and set at a slightly
oblique angle. Overall, the Maine Coon should present the appearance of
a well-balanced, strongly-built, rectangular cat.
Throughout their history there has been no restriction on the patterns
and colors acceptable, with the exception of the pointed Siamese pattern.
As a result, a wide range of colors and patterns are bred. Eye colors
for all coat colors range through green, gold, and hazel (green-gold).
Blue eyes and odd eyes (one blue eye and one gold, green, or hazel eye)
are also permissible in white cats. There is no requirement in the Maine
Coon Standard of Perfection for particular combinations of coat color
and eye color. The only color-related restrictions in Maine Coons intended
for breeding are buttons, lockets, or spots on any solid color (tabbies
or non-tabbies without white), and deafness in white cats.
Many people consider Maine Coons the perfect domestic pets, with their
clown-like personalities, very affectionate natures, amusing habits and
tricks, willingness to "help" with any activity, and easily groomed coats.
They make excellent companions for large, active families that also enjoy
having dogs and other animals around. Their hardiness and ease of kittening
make them a satisfying breed for the novice breeder. For owners wishing
to show, the Maine Coon has reclaimed its original glory in the show ring.
Welcome a Maine Coon into your home, and you will join the thousands who
sing the praises of this handsome and lovable cat!
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