Whilst the history of the Maine Coon cat might be shrouded in mystery, this impressive and majestic looking cat breed continues to be highly desirable, and massively loved across the world. But where do Maine Coon cats originate from? … If you’ve heard the myth that Maine Coons are part raccoon, you will be sadly disappointed! Are you ready for the truth?
Maine Coon cats originate from Wiscasset, Maine in the United States. Their true lineage is surrounded in mystery. Three myths surround this cat breed, the first claiming that Maine Coons are part raccoon. The second Myth believes Maine Coons to be descendents of Viking ship cats. The third myth claims Maine Coons are descendents from Marie Antoinette’s treasured cats.
In order to answer this question satisfactorily, it is important to give you a wider understanding of the Maine Coon cat. Therefore, we shall touch briefly on a range of subjects, including:
1. Maine Coon Characteristics
The Maine Coon cat is one of the largest domesticated cat breeds in the world. It is the only native American cat in existence. Known as ‘gentle giants’, this breed often grows larger than some smaller dog breeds, such as the Chihuahua or the Papillon!
It is impossible to not be impressed by the size and stature of the Maine Coon cat, often described as the ‘dog of the cat world’. Not only does an average male Maine Coon weigh between 15-25 lbs (6.8-11.3 kg), they are also extremely stunning beasts, often described as mini lions due to the large mane of hair around their neck. Furthermore, their loving, affectionate and playful characteristics have given them a reputation for being a great family pet.
Here’s a short video of our Maine Coon interacting with our five year old daughter. You can see both are fully relaxed around each other, and ‘Pippin’ is very tolerant to being stroked.
But what of this magnificent breeds true lineage? Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten that you are keen to discover ‘where do Maine Coon cats originate from’! I simply wanted to give you a brief overview of the Maine Coon personality and characteristics first, so you can understand what makes this pedigree cat breed so special, and unique.
2. Maine Coon Myths
There has always been great speculation regarding the true lineage of the Maine Coon cat. The following three myths have stood the test of time though, so it’s worth taking a quick look at each of these myths in greater detail:
b) Viking Ship Cat Myth
a. Part Raccoon Myth
One of the most common historical myths regarding the Maine Coon cat, is that the Maine Coons distinctive features (i.e. bushy tail and unique colourings) derive from a mating many years ago between a semi-wild cat, and a raccoon. This comical myth would be more laughable, if so many people didn’t adamantly argue it to be true!
Thanks to the wonders of modern science though, scientists have now discredited this myth, arguing that it is biologically impossible. Science supports the theory that matings between animals from two different species cannot biologically create offspring in this manner.
For more details on this subject, take a look at my article ‘Is a Maine Coon part raccoon‘.
Why The Raccoon Myth Became Popular
It is thought that the raccoon myth gained in popularity due to the physical similarities between the Maine Coon cat, and the Raccoon. Many argue that these physical attributes are proof of a link between the two species.
Physical similarities include (source):
- Long bushy tail
- Brown tabby colouring
- Love of water
- Semi-prehensile paws
- Climbing capabilities
- Black ring on tail
- Visually similar
Long Bushy Tail
Both species have a long bushy tail.
Brown Tabby Colouring
Roughly 75 Maine Coon colourings are thought to exist, though historically only the brown tabbies were given the title ‘Maine Coon’, whilst the others were named ‘Maine Shags’ (source).
Supporters of the raccoon myth argue that the tabby Maine Coons colourings come from the raccoon. The colourings are considered too similar, to be ignored.
Love Of Water
These species both love to play with water, which isn’t considered to be a normal cat personality trait.
Both the Maine Coon, and raccoon, enjoy dipping their food in water! They use their semi-prehensile paws to hold onto their meal.
Both species have great climbing abilities.
Black Ring On Tail
Supporters of the raccoon myth argue that the unusual black ring colouring on many raccoon and Maine Coon tails, is undeniable proof that the myth is true.
If the two species stood side by side, it would be hard to argue that they are not visually similar to each other.
The Maine Coons large stature has always set it apart from other cat breeds. Since both species are large, could this be further proof of a connection?
b) Viking Ship Cat Myth
One of the more likely Maine Coon historical myths, relates to the Vikings. Vikings were known for sailing the seas, and kept ship cats on-board their vessels to ensure the mice population was kept at bay.
The premise of this myth is that the Maine Coon descends from the Norwegian Skogkatt, thought to have been brought over by the Vikings. The Norwegian Skogkatt, and its counterparts, the Swedish Rugkatt, and the Danish Racekatte have various similar physical traits to the Maine Coon (source). All of these cat breeds have all evolved in climates considered to be harsh and challenging, and many argue that Maine Coons might descend from one of these cat breeds.
Folk legend talks of boats mooring up on land, and ship cats being let off the vessels onto dry land. During one such stop off, it is thought that a long haired cat from the ship mated with a short haired domestic cat, already living in Maine.
Whether this myth be true, or not, nobody will ever know. However, this doesn’t stop the people of Maine celebrating this particular cat breeds very existence. They have even named the Maine Coon the state cat of Maine, as a tribute to the breed!
c) Marie Antoinette Myth
The final myth is also thought to have a level of legitimacy, and relates to the famous attempted escape of Marie Antoinette (the former Queen of France), during the French Revolution.
History tells us that during this time Marie Antoinette owned six Turkish Angora cats. She loved these creatures so passionately that when she tried to flee France, in hope of reaching the United States via ship, she is thought to have loaded her prized cats onto the ship with her.
Marie Antoinette was assisted in her escape by Samuel Clough, the ship’s Captain. Despite such assistance though, her escape proved fruitless and she was executed in 1793.
Supporters of this legendary myth argue that Marie Antoinette’s six cats remained safely on Samuel Clough’s ship. They travelled to the United states, and were set free by the ship’s crew when the ship docked at Wiscasset, Maine. It is probable at this point, that these six long haired cats then mated with the short-haired domestic cats already residing in the state of Maine.
Mythical Maine Coons
Even to this day, many people regard the Maine Coon cat breed as mythical, and magical. It is heralded as the most famous cat breed in New England, or possibly even the United States!
Life on Maine forced the Maine Coon cat breed to adapt, to enable it to survive the harsh weather conditions on Maine.As a result, this hardy breed is definitely tougher than most costs. Coons are extremely furry cats, their huge padded paws are covered in fur, which enables them to walk across snow without sinking in!!
It is thought that the mythical Maine Coon breed survived for many hundreds of years, without mixing with other cat breeds. This is primarily thought to have occured due to the lack of other existing cats in the State of Maine, and the fact that human settlements were not very close together.
British Maine Coon
It is thought that the Maine Coon first came to Britain during the mid 1980’s. This is later than might have been expected, since American breeders were concerned that their treasured Maine Coons would not be treated correctly, due to the existing British Quarantine Laws.
The Maine Coon cat is a fascinating breed, whatever its true origins are.
These magical Maine Coons have sparked much controversy since they first appeared in Maine. Many even wonder whether we will ever truly determine the secrets to ‘where do Maine Coon cats originate from’.
Are they are really the result of a hybrid between a semi-wild cat and a raccoon? Or, could they be a hybrid between a cat and a bobcat? (a less popular theory). Alternatively, maybe we should praise Marie Antoinette for her determination to save her Turkish Angora cats, or the vikings for traveling the seas with cats aboard their ships!
Whatever the answer, one thing that we do know for sure is that Maine Coon cats are one of the friendliest cats you will ever buy. They make great family pets and will love you unconditionally. They seek out human company, so if you are considering purchasing one of these amazing cats you should be prepared for owning a cat that never likes to leave your side!