This is my understanding of the difference between European and American Maine Coons. It is a technical and tricky discussion. I welcome input from breeders in a comment. It is important to recognise that the difference between European and American Maine Coons is not because breed standards demand this difference. It is because the breeders have interpreted breed standards in their own way and exaggerated certain features to make them more outstanding, in the case of European Maine Coons. Breed standards are guides which allow for breeder discretion within limits.
The breed standard that guides breeders in Europe comes from The International Cat Association (TICA) and FIFE. I have checked the breed standard for Maine Coons by both these cat associations and they are very similar (see below). The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) in America which governs many American breeders is also similar in terms of the need to make the muzzle square for example.
But it seems that if a breeder is affiliated to the CFA they tend to breed more ‘refined’ Maine Coons while those affiliated with TICA bred Maine Coons which have a more natural or wild, it is said, appearance (click this link to read more on this – a detailed discussion). As cat breeders based in Europe are often affiliated with TICA it is probably fair to say that their cats are a little wilder or more natural in appearance. I would argue too, that they make them bigger particularly the ears, the hair coming out of the tips of the ears (lynx tips) and above all else the muzzle.
Back in the day, the Maine Coon face was fairly moderate but you will see enormous and chiselled muzzles on European Maine Coons. There appears to be an emphasis on extreme breeding but that is not to say that all European breeders indulge in extreme breeding.
Also, it must be said that cat breeders in America also breed European Maine Coons. As I understand it, they import foundation cats from Europe in order to get what they consider to be the European Maine Coon appearance. An example is Eurocoons in Kansas. They say that they imported a foundation cat from Ukraine. The Russians (adjacent to Ukraine geographically) can breed very large Maine Coons with pronounced features. I guess they might be described as European Maine Coons.
Also, I don’t think all Maine Coon breeders in Europe breed extreme Maine Coons. And in any case the UK is in Europe, although not in the European Union, and you will find that UK Maine Coon breeders create fairly moderate Maine Coons in my opinion.
The photograph at the top of this page shows an extreme bread Maine Coon compared to a CFA Champion Maine Coon. The difference is quite stark and it is that difference in general terms which I’m referring to when comparing European and American Maine Coons.
More precisely European Maine Coons compared to American Maine Coons tend to be:
- the muzzles are squarer and larger;
- the ears are larger and the lynx tips more pronounced;
- one website says that the European Maine Coons are more feral or wild looking but I’m not sure that is entirely correct;
- some breeders say that the European variety has higher cheekbones.
CFA breed standard for muzzle: “MUZZLE/CHIN: is visibly square, medium in length and blunt ended when viewed in profile”.
Above are the differences in the breed standard of TICA and FIFE (and CFA) in respect of the muzzle. It needs to be square, i.e. needs to be emphasised and rather large, some would say unnaturally large. But going back to the CFA Maine Coon picture on this page, you can see how moderate it is compared to the over-bred cat on the right. One issue though is that the cat on the right gets far more attention than the one on the left.
This is probably why European Maine Coon breeders go for these large interesting looking cats. They sell better to the public consumer. And they sell for very high prices. The bottom line really is not about creating show cats which win competitions but how much money they can make from their breeding operation.