The Maine Coon is a natural breed cat that developed in Maine, a state in the United States. The Maine Coon is the State Cat of Maine.
Maine Coons are known for their large size and friendliness. Maine Coons are one of the most popular cat breeds in the United States.
The Maine Coon is considered a landrace due to its development over a long period of time in the harsh climate of the northeastern United States, resulting in its distinctive physical and behavioral characteristics.
Origins of Maine Coon Cats
The exact origins of Maine Coon cats are unknown and several competing hypotheses have been suggested. Some of the more believable stories suggest that the Maine Coon origins stem from cats that arrived after crossing the Atlantic from Europe.
In The Book of the Cat by Frances Simpson (1903), she writes (page 325), “From my earliest recollection I have had from one to several long-haired cats of the variety often called Maine cats. As to how and when they came, I would say, like Topsy, they just “groomed” for their advent reaches far back beyond the memory of the oldest inhabitant.”
The specific traits that make Maine Coons a recognizable breed developed through natural selection.
Maine Coons are one of the oldest naturally developed cat breeds in the United States and originated from the Northeast region of the United States. The Maine Coon name has evolved over time, with earlier names being Maine Angora and Maine Cats.
The most recognizable feature of the Maine Coon is the size. Along with the Norwegian Forest Cat, Maine Coons are one of the largest-sized domestic cats.
Adult Maine Coons on average grow to be between 10 – 16 inches tall. This is much taller than the average domestic cat at around 9 – 10 inches.
Maine Coons are also much longer than the typical house cat. Maine Coons average in length between 30 – 40 inches.
Maine Coons have dominated the Guiness records for World’s Longest Feline. The current world record holder is a Maine Coon named Barivel who lives in Italy and measures 3 feet and 11.2 inches long.
Maine Coon Fur
Maine Coons have shaggy medium to long fur and a well pronounced tail. Their thick coats help to keep the Maine Coon warm during the very cold Maine winters.
The large, tufted paws also help to keep the cat warm when walking over snow and ice. The large paws and tufts also function similar to snowshoes to keep Maine Coons from sinking into the snow.
The large ears of the Maine Coon are also tufted for warmth.
While the earliest Maine Coons were mostly brown in coloring, today Maine Coons come in all colors thanks to purposeful breeding. Maine Coon cats have 75 different color combinations and two different tabby coat patterns: classic and mackerel. The only color pattern that Maine Coon cats don’t have is Siamese (pointed).
Polydactylism in Maine Coon Cats
About 40% of all unregistered Maine Coons are polydactyls, making them the most common cat with extra toes. The Maine Coon’s polydactyl paws made it easier for them to navigate the snowy terrain.
What are Maine Coons Known For?
Maine Coons have the nickname, “gentle giants” because they are known for being very people oriented and friendly. Some people liken the personality of Maine Coons to dogs because of how affable they are.
Maine Coons are also very intelligent cats and can be trained.
Unlike many domestic cats, Maine Coon are also know for their love of water. Maine Coons enjoy playing and being in water.
Best Cat at the First Major Cat Show
The first major cat show of general interest, the National Cat Show, was held in May of 1895 in New York City. The neutered male Maine Coon, named “Cosey” (sometimes written as Cosie), won over the judges at the first National Cat Show. A NY Times article from May 10, 1885 notes Cosey as wining first place in the Tabby, Any Color, No White category and notes on May 11, 1885 that Cosey was offered $10 in Gold and silver medal for best cat in show.
The entry in the catalog for the 1895 National Cat Show list Cosey as being a 1 year 9 month old black and gray tabby Angora.
While some sources listed Cosey as a female cat, articles written around the time refer to Cosey as a “he”. The March 5, 1986 edition of The NY Times listed Cosey as winning a First in the “Tabby, Any No, but With No White” under the Long-Hair Gelded Cats category, further supporting the contention that Cosey was a male Maine Coon cat.
Maine Coons Nearly Became Extinct
The introduction of Persian cats resulted in the declining popularity of the Maine Coon cat in the early 20th century. By the 1950s, the population of Maine Coon cats was so low, people were worried they might become extinct.
In 1968, the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association was formed in order to promote and repopularize the cat breed. The Maine Coon has since rebounded and has, once again, become a favored cat breed in the United States.
In 2020, the Cat Fancier’s Association named the Maine Coon as the third most favorite cat breed with Persians in fourth place.
Maine Coon Rescue
The Maine Coon Rescue is a 501c3 non-profit organization that rehomes Maine Coon and Maine Coon mix cats across the United States.
Cosey (c 1883). (n.d.). The History Project – CFA Foundation. https://cat-o-pedia.org/cosey.html
Maine Coon cat (n.d.). The Cat Fanciers’ Association. https://cfa.org/maine-coon-cat/
Simpson, F. (1903). The Book of the Cat. United Kingdom: Cassell, limited.