Maine Coon

Largest Domesticated Cat Breed

Maine CoonThis highlight on cat breeds is the Maine Coon. This breed is one of the top most popular cat breeds in the world. It is the largest of the domestic cat breeds.  It has a distinctive physical appearance and valuable hunting skills. The breed was popular in cat shows in the late 19th century, but its existence became threatened when long-haired breeds from overseas were introduced in the early 20th century. 

The ancestral origins of the Maine Coon are unknown—there are only speculation and folk tales. One story involves Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France who was executed in 1793. The story goes that before her death, Antoinette attempted to escape France with the help of Captain Samuel Clough. She loaded Clough’s ship with her most prized possessions, including six of her favourite Turkish Angora (or possibly Siberian) cats. Although she did not make it to the United States, all of her pets managed to reach the shore of Wiscasset, Maine safely, where they bred with other short-haired breeds and developed into the modern breed of the Maine Coon. The Maine Coon Cat is the native American long-haired cat and was first recognized as a specific breed in Maine where it was named the official cat of the state. These cats were held in high regard by the locals for their mousing talents and special competitions were even held to reward the best “Coon Cat.” 

Evolution Of The Maine Coon Cat

The Maine Coon cat evolved through nature’s own breeding program developing characteristics by following a “survival of the fittest” evolution. The characteristics all have a purpose or function. Maine Coon cats developed into sturdy, working cats suited to the harsh winters and varied seasons of the Northeast region. The Maine Coon Cat of today is known for a sturdy, rugged appearance, which includes an uneven, shaggy coat of three distinct lengths and a long, well furnished tail. They carry that tail proudly and use it to surround themselves for warmth and protection. A Maine Coon Cat has large, well tufted paws to allow ability to walk on top of snow despite size and weight. Ears are large and well tufted for protection and warmth. Even more than for beauty, Maine Coon Cats are noted for intelligence and kindly disposition. After all, what they couldn’t obtain themselves, they could always get by charming a nearby human. Though their size can be intimidating, they are known for their friendliness towards just about anything and are especially good with children and other pets. For these reasons, they have been dubbed the “Gentle Giant” of the cat fancy and are commonly sought after as family pets, companions, and therapy cats.

After years of local competitions and adoration, the Maine Coon Cat was chosen as Best Cat at the first major cat show ever held in the United States. “Cosey,” a brown tabby neuter Maine Coon Cat, was awarded this distinction at the Madison Square Garden show held in NYC in May of 1895. The silver collar and medal awarded to Cosey is on display at the Feline Historical Museum at CFA headquarters in Alliance, Ohio.

From Barn Cat To Pedigree

The transition from adorned or glorified “Barn Cat” to pedigreed CFA finalist was neither an easy one nor did it happen quickly. The Maine Coon Cat was all the rage in the early 20th century but lost popularity after the introduction of other long-haired breeds to the U.S. The Maine Coon Cat was even thought extinct in the 1950’s. Luckily, rumors of their death were greatly exaggerated and thanks to the dedication and perseverance of breeders, the Maine Coon Cat breed was accepted for CFA championship status in 1976. At present, sometimes the largest number of entries in a CFA show will be Maine Coon Cats and it is not unusual for one of them to be named Best Cat in a ring or even of the entire show. Recently, GC, NW, Highlander Tony Bennett of Wenlock achieved one of CFA’s top awards: Highest Scoring Cat in Premiership.

Maine Coon Cats are intelligent, trainable, described as “dog like”. They will offer you hours of enjoyment with their antics but can at times be intrusive. Without question they want to be part of everything and your privacy may require a closed door between you and your cat. Most Maine Coon Cats have a fondness of water, to be in it, watch it, wash their food in it, or just plain play in it, so don’t be surprised if you have an uninvited guest in your shower or help washing the dishes on any given day.

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