History of the Maine Coon Cat


There are many unofficial tales about the origin of Maine's official state cat. According to one decidedly homespun tale, the Maine Coon is a product of a union between a domestic short hair cat and a raccoon. This theory, while quaint, is genetically impossible. Another version of this transpecies love story substitutes the bobcat for the raccoon. This version has a great deal to recommend it and many advocates that do. There have been many eyewitness reports of similar breedings from across the country. Interestingly, the breeds closest to the Maine Coon are the Norwegian Forest Cat and the Siberian. The similar characteristics lends credence to the theory that ancestors of all three breeds originated in Northern Europe. And the cats responsible for developing the Maine Coon were brought over by the Vikings. The most romantic explanation of the Maine Coon's origin involves a seafaring man named Samuel Clough. Samuel Clough was one of the principals in the plot to smuggle Marie Antoinette from France to Wiscassett, Maine, during the French Revolution. The scheme was cut short by the guillotine, but not before Clough had transported some of the Queen's belongings, including six longhair cats to this country. Since the queen was not up to traveling, her belongings became part of the Clough household, and her cats became part of the foundation stock of the Maine Coon breed.  


Nonetheless, Maine Coon cats were an established breed more than a century ago. They were first found in cat literature in 1861 with mention of a black and white Maine Coon known as Captain Jenks of the Horse Marines. Maine Coons were popular in early cat shows in Boston and New York with a female tabby named Cosie winning Best Cat in Show at the 1895 Madison Square Garden's show. Their popularity dwindled with the introduction of the more exotic Persian cats from England. However, Maine Coons continued to be treasured as household pets and in the 1950's cat fanciers again seriously began to breed, show, and record their pedigrees. In 1968, six breeders formed the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association to protect and to preserve the breed. By 1980, all nine cat-registering associations again recognized the Maine Coon for championship status. Today, the Maine Coon is the second most popular breed in the United States.