The Maine Coon cat is the largest domesticated breed of cats known to exist. Indigenous to the state of Maine where it gets its name from, the Maine Coon is the most commonly found household cat in all parts of North America. The reason for its popularity and likableness is the friendly, quick and spirited nature of this breed of cats.
Having a sturdy bone structure, rectangular body shape, silky flowing coat made of tufts of long hair; and a thick, luscious, bushy tail; this breed of domesticated cats is famously known for its distinctive features that are not found in any other breed of cats. An average Maine Coon male weighs between 5.9 and 8.2 kg while an average female cat weighs between 3.6 to 54 kg.
In addition to being heavyweight, the Maine Coon is also quite taller than ordinary cats. The standard adult height ranges between 25 and 41 cm. Other remarkable features of the Maine Coon include tufts of brown hair that grow inside-out from its ears, a usual brown tabby color (although it is also found in various other colors including lilac, cream and silver tabby) and a polydactylism-having extra pair of toes. There is no specific eye color for the Maine Coon breed.
To add to its domesticated charms, the Maine Coon breed seems to possess impressive hunting skills. For its friendly nature and large size, the cat is lovingly known as the gentle giant among its admirers.
The Maine Coon has no recorded ancestral history, and the stories of its origin are only a combination of popular folk tales and fascinating myths which were given birth by its new owners or contemporary writers. One of the tales revolves around the central character of Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France. She tried to flee out of France with the assistance of Captain Samuel Clough on a cruise heading towards the United States. She brought along with her six Turkish Angora cats on the ship. Although, unfortunately, she did not reach her destination, but her cats did make it to the land of Wiscasset, Maine, where they are said to have bred with the other short-haired breeds. Their offspring are what we see as the modern Maine Coon breed. Some people say that this is why they inherited the name, Maine Coon.
However, others have another story to tell. The other folk tale goes about an English sailor, Captain Charles Coon. The captain was said to keep and carry long-haired feline cats on his many ships. According to the tale, the felines sneaked out of the ships whenever they anchored in New England and mated with the local short-haired cat population to breed hybrids having long hair. These hybrids were named the Maine Coon breed after the captain of those ships.
Another legend holds that the Maine Coons are a result of mating between household cats and wild bobcats. But these are not just all. Since tale-telling is not a prisoner of credibility, highly unusual and genetically impossible stories came to be heard as well. One of them is that the Maine Coon was bred as a result of mating between medium-haired household cats and raccoons. Although cats and raccoons belong to different genera and are incapable of fertilizing, the tale is still skeptically alive.
The largely accepted and genetically plausible tale is that of Captain Coons. As occurs in the legends, the Maine Coon seems to be related to Norwegian Forest Cat, another progeny of cats that is thought to have descended from the cats which were brought in ships by Norsemen in the 11th century owing to its resemblance to this breed.
Occurrences in Literature
The first time the Maine Coon Cat found its way into literary works was in 1903 when Frances Simpson wrote his ‘The Book of Cats.’ F.R. Pierce, who owned several Maine Coons, also wrote a book on them.
During the late 1860s, farmers who owned Maine Coons held contests and told stories about them. Later in the 1890s, these cats started appearing in shows and contests and became the hype of not just Maine, but the whole North America.
These shows were mainly hosted in Boston, and the New York City and a dozen Maine Coon cats took part in the contest.The famous brown tabby Maine Coon, named Cosey, was a silver collar winner in 1895 in the show hosted at Madison Square Garden in the New York City.
History of Decline
In the early 20th century, the popularity of the Maine Coon started to decline as a new breed of domesticated cats, the Persian cats, arose in the Middle East. It wasn’t until 1985 that the Maine Coon breed regained its popularity when the state of Maine announced it to be the official state cat, a privilege enjoyed by felines until then.