There are perhaps as many as a dozen different theories on the origin of the Maine Coon believe it or not. One of the most unusual is that the Vikings imported Norwegian Forest Cats into North America in Newfoundland, Canada, in 1021AD! They sailed from Norway on those small boats. Sound feasible? 🤔
The Norwegian Forest Cat (NFC) evolved into the Maine Coon (MC). It is not a bad theory as the NFC looks somewhat like the MC but there is no hard evidence for it.
If it is true the Vikings imported the domestic cat into North America well before any others.
The better story which is supported by good historical evidence is that the pilgrim immigrants from England and European immigrants were sometimes accompanied by domestic cats. In Europe at that time domestic cats were well established but there was no cat fancy and no formally accepted purebred cats. These were British and European longhaired and shorthaired cats – moggies. Formally speaking, at that time all domestic cats were moggies.
They landed on the east coast of North America which includes New England and the state of Maine. New England includes Boston in Massachusetts at the highest proportion of polydactyl Maine Coons live in the Boston area. Polydactyly is associated with the MC.
This fact is said to support and add to this MC origin story as sailors believed that domestic cats with more than the usual number of toes were good onboard ship as they could keep their balance better. They were selected as ships’ cats. A rather fanciful theory I think you’ll agree.
But overall, it makes sense that the Maine Coon ultimately comes from Europe if you go back far enough to the time of the first and early European immigrants into North America.
The cold winter climate of Maine would have enhanced the development through evolution of the now familiar shaggy, medium-longhaired MC coat over the 400 years or so that the cat has been in Maine.
RELATED: Origin of word ‘moggy’
The name of course comes from the state of Maine. The second part of the name probably comes from the fact that at one stage – rather remarkably by modern standards – people believed that the MC was a raccoon hybrid! That’s because of the toes and tail. But this is beyond fanciful and entirely fictional. There are other theories – about as many as on the origin of the breed – including a story of a ship’s captain whose name was Coon. He liked cats 🙄.
However, hundreds of years ago science was not what it is today. For instance, Charles Darwin, the founder of the concept of evolution died in 1882 which is about the time that the MC was first recognised as being a good enough barn cat to become a purebred pedigree cat. Breeders latched onto the idea of turning the barn cat Maine Coon into a fancy purebred cat by ‘refining’ the raw material through selective breeding over 125 years or more. The original Maine Coons from the late 1800s in Maine were completely different to today’s extreme-bred monsters. They are world’s apart.
The classic MC look of today: the large square muzzle and huge lynx tipped ears did not exist in the 1890s in the US. They are all the product of artificial selection by breeders.
That’s the time when the cat fancy emerged leading up to the first American cat show at Madison Square Garden (NYC) in 1895 where a Maine Coon won best in show!
Perhaps an MC won because they were and are considered to be America’s purebred cat. We can grant the cat that award even though they originally came from Europe.
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