traits health and history
Traits Health and History
The Maine Coon is the largest domesticated cat breed. It has a distinctive physical appearance and valuable hunting skills. It is one of the oldest natural breeds in North America, specifically native to the state of Maine, where it is the official state cat.
No records of the Maine Coon’s exact origins and date of introduction to the United States exist, so several competing hypotheses have been suggested, the most credible suggestion is that it is closely related to the Norwegian Forest cat and the Siberian. 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 Maine Coon has since made a comeback and is now one of the most popular cat breeds in the United States. traits health and history
The Maine Coon is a large and sociable cat, hence its nickname, “the gentle giant”. It is characterized by a prominent ruff along its chest, robust bone structure, rectangular body shape, an uneven two layered coat with longer guard hairs over a silky satin undercoat, and a long, bushy tail. The breed’s colors vary widely, with only lilac and chocolate disallowed for pedigree. Reputed for its intelligence and playful, gentle personality, the Maine Coon is often cited as having “dog-like” characteristics. Professionals notice certain health problems recurring in the breed, including feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and hip dysplasia, but reputable breeders use modern screening methods to minimize the frequency of these problems.
A Maine Coon Polydactyl is a Maine Coon cat with polydactyly. This variation is acceptable within general judging standards for the breed, and is even separately certified by some organizations like TICA.
The ancestral origins of the Maine Coon are unknown — there are only speculation and folk tales. One such folk tale 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 favorite Turkish Angora (or possibly Siberian) cats. Although she did not make it to the United States, her pets safely reached the shores of Wiscasset, Maine, where they bred with other short-haired breeds and developed into the modern breed of the Maine Coon.
Cat shows and popularity
Cosey, winner of the first cat show in the United States, 1895
A two-year-old Maine Coon (American Longhair) cat
The first mention of Maine Coon cats in a literary work was in 1861, in Frances Simpson’s The Book of the Cat (1903). F.R. Pierce, who owned several Maine Coons, wrote a chapter about the breed. During the late 1860s, farmers located in Maine told stories about their cats and held the “Maine State Champion Coon Cat” contest at the local Skowhegan Fair.
In 1895, a dozen Maine Coons were entered into a show in Boston. On 8 May 1895, the first North American cat show was hosted at Madison Square Garden in New York City. A female Maine Coon brown tabby, named Cosey, was entered into the show. Owned by Mrs. Fred Brown, Cosey won the silver collar and medal and was named Best in Show. The silver collar was purchased by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) Foundation with the help of a donation from the National Capital Cat Show. The collar is housed at the CFA Central Office in the Jean Baker Rose Memorial Library.
In the early 20th century, the Maine Coon’s popularity began to decline with the introduction of other long-haired breeds, such as the Persian, which originated in the Middle East. The last recorded win by a Maine Coon in a national cat show for over 40 years was in 1911 at a show in Portland, Oregon. The breed was rarely seen after that. The decline was so severe that the breed was declared extinct in the 1950s, although this declaration was considered to be exaggerated and reported prematurely at the time. The Central Maine Cat Club (CMCC) was created in the early 1950s by Ethylin Whittemore, Alta Smith and Ruby Dyer in attempts to increase the popularity of the Maine Coon. For 11 years, the CMCC held cat shows and hosted exhibitions of photographs of the breed and is noted for creating the first written breed standards for the Maine Coon.
The Maine Coon was denied provisional breed status — one of the three steps required for a breed not yet recognized by the CFA to be able to compete in championship competitions — by the CFA three times, which led to the formation of the Maine Coon Cat Club in 1973. The breed was finally accepted by the CFA under provisional status on 1 May 1975, and was approved for championship status on 1 May 1976. The next couple of decades saw a rise in popularity of the Maine Coon, with championship victories and an increase in national rankings. In 1985, the state of Maine announced that the breed would be named the official state cat. Today the Maine Coon is the third most popular cat breed, according to the number of kittens registered with the CFA.