History of the Maine Coon Cat

The Maine Coon is North America’s oldest native breed of cat. There are many legends as to how they first originated, from the absurd to the theoretically possible.

One theory that we definitely can throw out of the bus is that a raccoon mated with a big, fluffy barn cat and that their fluffy, ring-tailed, chirping offspring’s became the foundation of the Maine Coon cat. Of course a raccoon and a cat cannot possibly breed!

Another theory is that a cat and lynx/bobcat mated. This is not a general occurrence, but I guess could happen. Many of the physical characteristics of the bobcat/lynx, sturdy, large tufted ears and big furry feet, are characteristics that distinguishing the Maine Coon cat from other cat breeds.

A more romantically theory is that Marie Antoinette send her belongings, including her beloved cats, on a ship to Maine. We know how it ends for the French queen, but her furniture and cats arrived safely in the state Maine.

 I think the most interesting theory is that they came over with the Vikings, and this might be true because we know cats often lived on ships to control the rodent population and help preserve the food supply. ”If they did come here with the Vikings, they probably interbred with traditional American shorthaired cats, and developed into what we call the Maine Coon,” says Martha Auspitz, CFA Maine Coon breeder. The Vikings’ cats, known as Norwegian Skogkatts, are actually the ancestors of the Norwegian Forest Cat. Put them side to side and you can see how they might share a common ancestor.

Less romantically, Maine Coons are most likely the product of breeding between long haired cats from other countries that accompanied sailors and traders when they visited the eastern shore of America, and domestic shorthaired cats that were already there. Once these cats hopped ashore, they often made kittens. Considering the cold weather, it is no wonder that the cats most likely to survive were not only shaggy and heavily furred, but also gentle tempered too. An anxious, high-strung cat wouldn’t have survived very well on a long transatlantic voyage, and certainly would not make friends easily in a new world. A gentle giant, on the other hand would be a welcome companion on the open sea and family homes.

Auspitz theorizes that the Maine Coons’s size also had something to do with the breed’s original ability to survive in Maine. “These cats had to have enough size and strength to take down small game”.  I think we have retained that feature in the Maine Coon today.

Pierce says many of the early Maine Coons were probably brown tabbies, a colour scheme that would blend into the natural environment and camouflage the cat for better hunting success. Maine Coons today are available in a rainbow of coat colours and patterns.

The Maine Coon has two looks, the sweet and then the more wild look. Breeders have gone their own way with different looks. The cat looks feral if the ears are slightly closer together, with smaller eyes and a longer muzzle. The sweeter look have eyes a litter larger and a little further apart and the muzzle is slightly shorter. “The sweeter look is probably more characteristic of the early Maine Coons”, says Auspitz.

There may be more legends than facts about the first Maine Coons, but what I do know is that once you have been owned by a Maine Coon cat, you will never ever want another breed of cat! They are truly special!



Marilis Hornidge, writer of  “That Yankee Cat”

E.R Pierce, writer of maine coons chapter in the book, “Book of the cat”

Eve Adamson, writer of “Adopting a pet for Dummies”

Martha Auspitz, CFA Maine Coon breeder