MAINE COON ORIGINS

As its name suggests, the Maine-Coon cat's origins are related to the state of Maine, located in the top North Eastern coast of the United States.The Maine-Coon is the first recognized All-American breed of cat and is now the official cat in Maine.

 

Yet this official recognition was made but only very recently, despite the fact that Maine-Coons started to be shown as early as the 19th century, along with other, more exotic, breeds such as the Persians. But during the 20th century the Maine-Coon underwent a long period of disregard on the part of the cat fancy, which ended in the 50s-60s, thanks to a group of dedicated Maine-Coon cat owners and breeders who fought for the recognition of the Maine-Coon as a breed. The first standard of the Maine-Coon was written in 1965, and in 1968, the Maine-Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association was created to help promote the Maine-Coon and fight for its recognition. By 1976, the Maine-Coon was officially recognized and registered as a distinctive breed of cat.

 

The Maine-Coon cat of old is sometimes refered to as "the Maine Shag", and this name is still given to the actual Maine cats - non pedigreed long haired barn cats- who still live in that state.

Thunderpaws Seedrack is a nice example of Maine cats that you can still find in the Maine State. He has got the typical sturdy body, square muzzle and wonderful expression of the breed. He was selected by Doona Chase, a Maine-Coon foundation breeder (Siberia Farm), and used as a new foundation cat in the early 90s. Seedrack can be found in many Maine-Coon cats' pedigrees nowadays.

Pawpeds Maine-Coon ancestors gallery

The first pictures of Maine cats can be seen in the 19th century, at a time when the cat fancy started to develop. The Maine-Coon cats are basically barn cats, who were bred by Mainers to chase unwanted mice in the farms, and who had to face a hard climate and difficult living conditions. They adapted to their environnement - only the strongest and hardiest survived. Their long shaggy fur helped them get through harsh winters, their long legs and long heavy-boned body enabled them to "get through snow, through terrain, through wooded areas, over things". (Don Shaw)

Thunderpaws Pansy (Pawpeds Ancestors gallery), another new foundation cat, enjoying a ride in the woods

 

There are many legends around the origins of the Maine-Coon. One of them states that the Maine-Coon is a cross between a raccoon and a cat and since this crossbreed is genetically impossible, it can be thouroughly ignored. But there are many other theories, which Marilis Hornidge very well sums up in his book, "That Yankee Cat":

"Some people think [Maine-Coons] are a cross between a native wildcat and a domestic cat. Many claim that Maine sea captains brought back Angoras and Persians, which mixed with the local talent. There are those who believe that the original ancestors came over with the Vikings. Every theory has its partisans, and they all have some backing for their theories, however, nobody has proof positive."

You can read a very good presentation of the Maine Coon cat on the MCBFA:

The Maine-Coon, America's Native Longhair, by Mike and Trish Simpson

 

We also strongly recommend you to read Marilis Hornidge's book, That Yankee Cat (Tilbury House, Publishers); it is a great source of information on the Maine-Coon cat and I believe every Maine-Coon fancier should have it on their bookshelf.

You can also read an interesting discussion on the origin of the Maine-Coon by TICA Allbreed judge and geneticist Don Shaw: The Origin of the Maine-Coon

And we also recommend you to read Mrs Pierce's historical account on the origins of the Maine-Coon:

The Maine cats

Mrs Pierce was a contemporay of the Maine-Cats of old and her account is really of interest since it is a first hand one.