The Maine coon’s closest relative may be the Norwegian forest cat, lending credence to the theory that the first coon cats came to Maine on Viking ships.
The Maine coon was designated the state cat in 1985, making Maine the only state with an official domestic-cat breed. (Massachusetts’ state cat is the tabby, while Maryland’s is the calico; both are coat-color patterns.)
The Maine coon’s tufted ears and paws, water-resistant coat, and long, bushy tail are thought to be adaptations to the area’s cold, harsh climate.
The most romantic legend about the origins of the Maine coon involves Captain Samuel Clough’s plan to smuggle Marie Antoinette to coastal Maine, ahead of the guillotine. Supposedly, her long-haired cats did arrive here, where they mated with the hardy local feline stock to produce the Maine coon.
The Maine coon was America’s earliest indigenous show cat, first listed in cat-show records in 1861.
When breeders began importing the more exotic Persian cats around 1900, Maine coons fell out of favor.
A brown tabby Maine coon named Cosey won “Best in Show” at the first National Cat Show in 1895 at Madison Square Garden.
Expensive purrs: Expect to pay around $700 for a family pet, $1,000 for a breeding female, and $1,500-$2,500 for a stud.
Once thought to have died out in the 1950s, Maine coon cats made a dramatic recovery in the 1960s. The Cat Fanciers’ Association granted them championship status in 1976.
Some 70% of all pedigreed Maine coon cats today trace their lineage to what fanciers refer to as the “Top Five” from the 1960s-1970s. Among them was Smokie Joe of Whittemore, born in Augusta, Maine.
Baron, a Maine coon cat belonging to Henry Grant of East Hampton, NY, and Falmouth, Maine, appeared in a 1996 Off Broadway revival of Irving Berlin’s 1925 musical The Cocoanuts. Baron played Groucho Marx’s cat.
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