One 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 wide-spread
(though biologically impossible) belief is that it 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
'Maine Coon.' (Originally, only brown tabbies were called 'Maine
Coon Cats;' cats of other colors were referred to as 'Maine
Shags.') Another popular theory is that the Maine sprang from
the six pet cats which Marie Antoinette sent to Wiscasset, Maine
when she was planning to escape from France during the French
Revolution. Most breeders today believe that the breed originated
in matings between pre-existing shorthaired domestic cats and
overseas longhairs (perhaps Angora types introduced by New England
seamen, or longhairs brought to America by the Vikings).
First recorded in cat literature in 1861 with a mention of a
black and white cat named 'Captain Jenks 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 Show.
Unfortunately, their popularity as show cats declined with the
arrival in 1900 of the more flamboyant 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
(MCBFA) to preserve and protect the breed. Today, MCBFA membership
numbers over 1000 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. Planned breedings of Maine Coons are relatively
recent. Since planned breeding began, Maine Coon breeders have
sought to preserve the Maine Coon's "natural," rugged
qualities. The ideal Maine Coon is a strong, healthy cat.
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 appreciated. It 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 the underbrush.
The coat falls smoothly, and is almost maintenance-free: 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
many breeds for protection from the cold, and have a large range
of movement. Big, round, tufted feet serve as 'snow shoes.'
Their large eyes and ears are also survival traits, serving
as they do 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!), these are indeed tall, muscular, big-boned cats;
males commonly reach 13 to 18 pounds, with females normally
weighing 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 to five
years old. Their dispositions remain kittenish throughout their
lives; they are big, gentle, good-natured goofs. 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, tiny voice doesn't
fit their size!
While Maine Coons are highly
people-oriented cats, they are not overly-dependent. They do
not constantly pester you for attention, but prefer to "hang
out" with their owners, investigating whatever activity
you're involved in and "helping" when they can. They
are not, as a general rule, known as "lap cats" but
as with any personality trait there are a few Maine Coons that
prefer laps. Most Maine Coons will stay close by, probably occupying
the chair next to yours instead. Maines will follow you from
room to room and wait outside a closed door for you to emerge.
A Maine Coon will be your companion, your buddy, your pal, but
hardly ever your baby.
Maine Coons are relaxed and
easy-going in just about everything they do. The males tend
to be the clowns while the females retain more dignity, but
both remain playful throughout their lives. They generally get
along well with kids and dogs, as well as other cats. They are
not as vertically-oriented as some other breeds, prefering to
chase objects on the ground and grasping them in their large
paws -- no doubt instincts developed as professional mousers.
Many Maine Coons will play "fetch" with their owners.
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 a a slightly oblique
angle. Overall, the Maine Coon should present the appearance
of a well-balanced, 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 green-gold. Blue
eyes and odd eyes, (one blue and one gold eye) are permissible
in white cats. There is no requirement in the Maine Coon Standard
of Perfection for particular combinations of coat color and
Maine Coon owners enjoy the
breed's characteristic clown-like personality, affectionate
nature, amusing habits and tricks, willingness to 'help' with
any activity, and easily groomed coat. 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 first breed for the novice breeder. For owners
wishing to show, the Maine Coon has reclaimed its original glory
in the show ring.
(adpated from the information