You have probably encountered one of the beautiful Maine Coon cats in your lifetime, but what is the history of Maine Coon cats?
Let’s take a look at some theories along with the history of the breed we do know.
Scientific analysis of ancient cat DNA suggests Maine Coons descended from cats that traveled the world with Vikings and other sea-faring folks. Their unquenchable love of water seems to contribute to this theory. Despite this evidence, there isn’t a definitive answer to the origin of the Maine Coon.
But did you know that some stories suggest the Maine Coon originated not from Vikings, but from raccoons?
Let’s dive into that right away.
The History Of Maine Coon Cats
Where do Maine Coon cats originate from?
In truth, they have been around for so long that no one’s 100% sure.
But here are some popular Maine Coon theories:
1. Did Maine Coons Sail With Vikings?
A commonly spread belief is that Maine Coons sailed with Vikings during the 11th century.
But is this true? … yes and no.
The Maine Coon breed we know and love today was not pillaging villages with their Viking brethren.
But, a breed called the Norwegian Forest Cat was found to have sailed with Vikings according to an analysis of ancient cat DNA.
So… why is this important?
Well, the Norwegian Forest cat looks suspiciously similar to today’s Maine Coon cats. If you haven’t seen one of these giant cats, take a look here.
Many people even think that the Norwegian and Maine Coon look pretty much like the same cat, just in different parts of the world.
Further analysis of the ancient cat DNA found that Maine Coons descended from these seafaring cats. Maybe this is why Maine Coons love water so much? (source 1).
2. Are Maine Coons Part Racoon?
You are probably asking where the heck this question came from, but this theory has actually been spread around for quite a few decades!
The typical tabby Maine Coon colors, their larger size, bushy tail, and somewhat wild appearance have caused some people to (perhaps jokingly) claim that Maine Coons are the result of a wild cat mating with a raccoon.
This belief has been debunked by science for a while now since raccoons and cats are just too different genetically to produce any offspring.
3. Are Maine Coons Related To Lynx?
This is another popular rumor, and probably a bit more probable.
Both the Maine Coon and Lynx are excellent hunters, have tufts on their ears, and have fur thick enough to live in colder climates.
The Maine Coon looks like the perfect mix between a wild cat and a domestic cat. So has there ever been a Maine Coon/Lynx hybrid?
Unfortunately, this idea of a hybridized wild cat is not all that probable either
Scientists have not found a genetic link between the two. Plus it is doubtful that it would even be possible for the two to mate.
They just happened to have lived and evolved in similar cold climates.
4. Are Maine Coons Connected to Marie Antoinette?
You’ll want to sit down with some popcorn for this story!
Basically, the myth goes that Marie Antoinette owned six Turkish Angora cats that she loved dearly. These Angora cats would have had long beautiful fur just like a Maine Coon.
However, during the French Revolution, she tried to flee France with her cats. Her cats managed to get on the boat safely, but obviously, Marie Antoinette did not make it.
The boat ended up leaving towards the US anyway, landing in Wiscasset, Maine. These cats were then allowed to roam freely where they eventually bred with other cats in the area.
Had these exotic cats actually mated with nearby breeds, they would have likely created a cat that looked similar to the Maine Coon breed.
So how much truth is there to this theory?
Unfortunately, like most of the other theories on this list, there is not much evidence to support it. There are not even any paintings of Marie Antoinette with her cats that she allegedly loved so much.
Sadly, this dramatic story is a little too out there to be true.
Maybe the Maine Coon’s origins are not as romantic or fun as we hoped they would be.
5. Are Maine Coons Named After Captain Charles Coon?
Charles Coon was a grade-A crazy cat person. He’d sail with an army of cats, personally favoring his Angoras and Persians, breeds known for their beautiful, long hair.
When the English captain would travel on land, he’d take his cats with him too!
At the time, spaying and neutering cats was not really a thing so oftentimes, Coon’s cats would mate with the area’s other cats which allegedly created kittens that looked a lot like Maine Coons.
It is believed that the kittens that resulted from this ‘invasion’ were dubbed ‘Coon’s Cats’ by the locals.
So did Coon go to Maine and allow his cats to breed there? And, did Maine Coon’s come from a captain with a suspiciously similar name?
This is a fun little theory that unfortunately does not have much evidence behind it, either.
Maine Coons were originally just called Maine cats so it does not really make much sense to suddenly add the ‘Coon’ back in over a hundred years after Coon sailed around the US and Europe.
Maine Coon Show Cats
Maine Coons have been competing in and winning cat shows in America since 1878.
Here’s a fun Maine Coon fact:
The first-ever cat to win a major cat show was a Maine Coon named Cosey in 1895. In the following years, Maine Coon cats continued to win show after show.
But as cat shows grew in popularity, Maine Coons began to be outshined by other, ‘fancier’ long-haired cats with pedigrees, such as the previously mentioned Angoras and Persians.
It was not until about 50 years later that two women named Alta Smith and Ruby Dyer formed the Central Maine Cat Club (CMCC) in a bid to keep the Maine Coon breed from fading into obscurity.
These ladies sponsored cat shows and even held exhibitions full of photos of Maine Coons to spread the word about this beautiful cat breed.
By the mid-60s, the organization had created a written standard for the breed among other achievements.
At this point though, CMCC had become too big to continue to operate in an amateur capacity.
They eventually shut down, leaving other Maine Coon enthusiasts to spread awareness of the breed.
At this point, Maine Coons were not officially recognized as a breed. This meant they were unable to compete in champion-level shows.
Efforts to make the Maine Coon breed official continued into the 70s, but because only about 20 Maine Coons were registered, the CFA board denied the breed provisional status.
It would not be until May of 1975 that the Maine Coon was given provisional status as a breed by the CFA.
A year later, it would receive Championship status and be officially allowed to compete in shows.
A couple of years later in 1977-78, Silent Stranger, a white male with copper eyes won the grand championship.
1980s and 1990s
Through the 80s and the 90s more and more Maine Coons were achieving grand championship status and the breed was becoming increasingly popular.
In the 2020’s, the Maine Coon is ubiquitous with:
We now could not possibly imagine a world without Maine Coons. Or, a world that did not want them competing in cat shows (source 1).
How Did The Maine Coon Get Its Name?
The answer to this commonly asked question is deceptively simple.
Maine Coons are believed to have originated in Maine and are also the state’s official cat breed. Hence the first half of their name.
In the early days of the breed, before they reached official status, they were just called Maine cats.
It was not until later (around the mid-20th century) that their name was changed to the Maine Coon.
The justification is that their tails are so bushy and are often striped, so people began to compare them to raccoons, giving them the second half of their name. Hence the name Maine Coon.
‘Maine Coon’ honestly fits the breed so much more than simply ‘Maine Cat’. The name Maine Coon sounds so playful and happy, fitting in with the kind, gentle temperament of the cats within the breed.
So, I guess we can thank everyone who believed some wild cats bred with a raccoon, even if it is a strange idea to think about (source 1).
What Are Maine Coon Cats Known For?
Maine Coons are the official state cat of Maine.
Having had to adapt to the harsh climate of their home state, their hair is long and semi-waterproof, keeping them safe from the elements.
They are known for being excellent hunters, contributing to their intelligent, energetic disposition.
Maine Coons are:
- Incredibly Friendly
- Love Playing
- Make Excellent Family Pets
A Maine Coon sees its life purpose as providing companionship and love to the people they are around.
The genetic analysis mentioned at the beginning of this article seems to suggest that even their ancestors were excellent companions to their seafaring owners.
Maine Coon Voice
Interestingly enough, Maine Coons do not meow like typical cats, preferring to trill and chirp instead.
Love Of Water
Maine Coon cats love water, opting to go for swims while other cats would rather stay dry and warm inside.
Film Star Cats
The most famous Maine Coon would have to be Pebbles, who played Mrs. Norris the cat from the Harry Potter movies.
Famous Maine Coon Cats
Some other notable Maine Coons would be Richie, a black smoke Maine Coon.
Originally, he was a dark gray, but as time went on, his body grew lighter while his face became darker.
His owners have made an Instagram for him (@richi_the_mainecoon_) where you can see this lemur-looking cat for yourself.
Oldest Maine Coon Cat
Rubble the Maine Coon lived to be 31 years old and at one point was not only the oldest Maine Coon, but the oldest cat ever recorded!
He was born in 1988 and lived with his owner Michele until passing away in 2019.
Longest Cat In The World
Maine Coons Omar and Stewie are currently competing for the longest Maine Coon ever recorded.
Stewie currently holds the record, measuring a whopping 48.5 inches while Omar’s closing in at a recorded 47.0 inches.
Omar currently lives in Australia where his owners feed him kangaroo meat.
Sadly, Stewie was diagnosed with cancer and ultimately died in 2013, leaving his owner and the world at large grieving over his loss.
Longest Cat Tail In The World
Cygnus, another famous Maine Coon held the record for the longest Maine Coon tail in the world, measuring in at 17.58 inches in length.
He sadly passed away in a house fire with his brother Arcturus in 2017 (source 1).
Are Maine Coons Rare?
Whilst the following Maine Coon colors are more difficult to breed, the Maine Coon breed as a whole is no longer all that rare:
- Shaded Silver
Due to the efforts of the people mentioned in the Maine Coon’s history section above, Maine Coons have not been considered a rare breed since around the 1950s.
Their high price is more likely due to their popularity as show cats and family pets along with the extensive genetic and health testing done by breeders to ensure they are breeding healthy kittens.
Maine Coons also require a high-protein diet which can contribute to their cost. Learn about the best Maine Coon raw food diet in this article I wrote.
A lack of ‘rare’ status means you will not likely run into any laws that are typically given to endangered animals. Thus, you will not get in any legal trouble for owning one (source 1).
Are Maine Coon Cats Legal In ALL Countries?
Considering how large Maine Coons tend to get, it would be fair to wonder if you are allowed to own one in your country.
But, before you panic, rest assured there is no need to worry.
Due to the Maine Coon’s friendly and patient disposition, it is legal to own a Maine Coon cat in every country in the world.
However, if you are interested in breeding Maine Coons, there may be certain requirements to breed or sell kittens.
Additionally, some countries may require you to be licensed to open your own cattery so make sure you check your country’s requirements before making any big decisions (source 1).
What’s So Special About Maine Coon Cats?
The biggest difference between this breed and other cats would have to be the Maine Coon size.
These cats can grow up to 40 inches long and as tall as 16 inches.
The world’s longest Maine Coon was a whopping 48.5 inches long!
Granted, most Maine Coons aren’t going to be that long, but regardless, Maine Coons are typically twice as long as other house cats. View the size comparison table.
Polydactyl Maine Coons
Maine Coons also have a special gene that makes them more likely to be born with extra toes.
This is called polydactyly and some catteries specialize in breeding this type of Maine Coon.
Originally, polydactyly was a pretty common trait among Maine Coons. However, breeders about 40 or 50 years ago attempted to breed this gene out of the cats, considering it to be an undesirable trait.
Nowadays, there are tons of people who love their extra-toed cats!
These polydactyl Maine Coons appear in cat shows across the country, and are now embraced by the world at large.
It is amazing what can change in a few decades!
Polydactyl-toed Maine Coons often have much bigger feet than their five-toed brethren so if you just cannot get enough of big, fuzzy paws, this cat breed may be the one for you.
Typically, breeders will charge more for these polydactyl kittens since they are a bit rarer than other Maine Coon kittens.
Maine Coon Personality
The Maine Coon personality also contributes to its being thought of as a special cat.
As previously mentioned, these cats are gentle giants.
They love following their family around, being petted, and overall being an awesome family cat.
If you are looking for a cat that gets along well with children and other pets, a Maine Coon is an excellent choice.
A Cat That Swims!
Maine Coons also love swimming, unlike just about any other cat in the world.
Their long fur keeps them insulated from any water, keeping them warm and dry.
This love of water has even led some Maine Coons to get in the shower with their owners!
What Two Breeds Make A Maine Coon Cat?
While there is not a definitive answer regards the history of Maine Coon cats, the previous genetic analysis done on ancient cats seems to suggest Maine Coons are a mix of a cat similar to the Norwegian Forest Cat and the domestic shorthairs common to America.
What could have happened was that a ship with one of these ancient cats landed in the US.
The cats aboard may have mated with the American cats and after generations and generations of kittens, created the Maine Coon breed we know and love today.
It’s a fascinating history for a fascinating cat.
So far, the history of Maine Coon cats is a little hazy.
In this article, we have explored a variety of theories ranging from the probable to the silly.
While some of our guesses can be backed up by a decent amount of evidence, it seems unlikely that we will ever get a definitive answer to the origin of the Maine Coon cat.
But who knows? Maybe one day, we’ll have the technology or the scientific know-how to get to the bottom of this question.
All of this mystery just lends itself to the inescapable allure of such a wonderful cat breed!