You see it often: cat show judges and even Wikipedia describing the Maine Coon cat as a “natural breed”. In fact, Wikipedia opens up with the statement that the Maine Coon cat is “one of the oldest natural breeds in North America”.
It seems to me that the phrase “natural breed” is an oxymoron, which happens when two words contradict each other in a phrase. I say this because all cat breeds are unnatural because they are created through artificial selection or selective breeding. Their existence is entirely due to human intervention. Nothing to do with nature or naturalness.
The opposite to artificial selection is natural selection. Natural selection is how animals evolved over millions of years and continue to evolve in order to improve their chances of survival. Natural selection is the creation of new species over millions of years thanks to the success of genetic mutations which made a species more able to survive.
But when Maine Coon cat breeders create their kittens, it is an entirely unnatural process. They select the foundation cats, probably buying a foundation cat from a well-known breeder, even one who is abroad, and then set about mating them. There is nothing natural about it. I stress, the word “natural” is not a bedfellow with the word “breed”.
However, what the cat show judges and Wikipedia mean is that the Maine Coon cat’s ancestors are the barn cats of the state of Maine and of the east coast of America. These were moggies. They were natural domestic cats but they weren’t members of a cat breed. They were random bred cats. They were imported from Europe as moggies. They had to be moggies as this was before there were any formal breeds as there was no cat fancy at the time (1700s).
So, in conclusion: the ancestors to the Maine Coon cat were natural but they were not members of a breed while the Maine Coon cat is unnatural and a breed. That’s the accurate description.
I don’t think that I need to say more. If you would like to comment please do so.
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