Big & Beautiful: Maine Coon
The Gentle Giants
Average weight: 10-14 lbs
Average height: 14” from shoulder to toe
The Maine Coon is one of the oldest natural breeds in North America, and is native to the state of Maine, where it is also the official State Cat.
Legends abound about this breed. Many people once believed the Maine Coon originated by interbreeding the American bobcat with the domestic cats brought to North America on the various sailing ships that came to the Northeastern seaboard. Another tale is that the Maine Coon’s ancestors came from Norwegian Skogkatts brought over by the Vikings. A letter from Mrs. Jack Bjonness to Mrs. Rod Ljostad describes them as follows:
“The head is longer than that of the shorthaired domestic. The coat is about half as long as that of the Persian. They come in all colors, the ears are high with lynx tufts, the whole cat is ‘tall’ not Cobby like a Persian. But no one could say it is a slender cat. They are ‘hardy.’”
A more romanticized legend involves Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France who was executed in 1793. The story says that before her death, Marie Antoinette attempted to escape from France with the help of sea Captain Samuel Clough. The plan was to escape to Wiscasset, Maine in her bid to escape France. She loaded Clough’s ship with her most prized possessions, including six of her favorite Turkish Angora cats.
Alas, while Clough waited, there was a sudden outburst of violence. Marie Antoinette was seized, and eventually beheaded. Captain Clough had to make sail with haste to escape repercussions for his part in the attempted rescue and with him went the queen’s possessions and the six longhaired cats still in his care. Legend has it that although Marie Antoinette did not make it to the United States, her pets safely reached the shores of Wiscasset, Maine, where they mated with a Norwegian Forest Cat and evolved into the modern breed of the Maine Coon.
Yet another legend concerns an English sea captain, supposedly by the name of Coon, who was excessively fond of cats. He sailed up and down the New England coast with his army of cats. Predominant in the group were the Persians and Angoras that were popular in England. When the captain went ashore, so did his cats. When longhaired kittens began appearing in local litters, the owner’s comment would be “one of Coon’s cats.
The Maine Coon is the largest cat breed recognized by the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA). It is noted for its large bone structure, its rectangular body shape, and a long, flowing coat. The breed can be seen in a variety of colors and are known for their intelligence and gentle personalities. In fact, they are often referred to as the “gentle giants.” You’ll need to keep an eye out for a few health problems that plague this breed. They include feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and hip dysplasia. Screening methods such as ultrasounds, x-rays and even genetic testing can help to reduce the frequency of these problems.