The Maine Coon is the largest breed of domesticated cat that has a very distinct physical appearances as well as hunting skills. It is one of the oldest natural breeds in North America and is the state cat of Maine, where it is said to originate.
There are many tales about the origins of the Maine Coon but the definitive history of the breed is unknown. One story said that Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, attempted to escape France ahead of her execution in 1793. She loaded the ship of one Samuel Clough with her most prized possessions, including six Turkish Angora cats. While she didn’t make it to the States, the cats did and landed at Wiscasset, Maine, where they bred with native breeds and this led to the Maine Coon.
Another story says that the English seafarer Captain Charles Coon kept long-haired cats on his ship. Wherever it anchored across New England, the cats would go and mate with local feral cats and when long haired kittens began appearing in these populations, they were referred to as ‘one of Coon’s cats’.
While Maine Coons were referred to in books from the 1860s, it wasn’t until 1895 that they began to appear in shows. The first North American Cat Show in Madison Square Gardens was held in 1895 and a female Maine Coon named Cosey was entered. She won the silver collar and medal and was named Best in Show.
Popularity waned in the early 20th century as with many long haired breeds and the last win in the national show for over 40 years was in 1911. The breed was actually declared extinct in the 1950s but this was discovered to be premature. The Central Maine Cat Club worked to increase the popularity of the breed and created the first written breed standards.
Today the breed is the third most popular cat breed in the country after Persians and Exotics, based on the number of Maine Coon kittens registered with the CFA.
Maine Coons are the largest breed of domestic cat and the Guinness World Records holds the longest cat as a Maine Coon male named Stewie who measured 48.5 inches. The normal size is around 10-16 inches in height and up to 48 inches in length, with around 14 inches of this being tail. The males weigh 15-25lbs while females 10-15lbs.
They have a solid and muscular body with a broad chest and a rectangular body shape. Their coat is soft and silky being shorter on the head and shoulders and longer across stomach and flanks. Some cats even have a lion-like ruff around the neck. Compared to other long-haired breeds they need minimal grooming, maintaining their own coat well due to a light-density undercoat.
There are many colours of Maine Coon and some are a result of hybridisation: chocolate, lavender, or Siamese point patterns are examples. Brown tabby is the most common colour seen.
In temperament, they are known as gentle giants. They are above average in intelligence and can easily learn to train. They are very loyal to their family but aren’t too needy and are cautious around strangers. Whilst not a lap cat, they are good around other cats, dogs and children. Many have a fascination with water and are known for being very vocal.