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Maine Coon cats. The history of the breed.

Discover everything you need to know about the Maine Coon, an affectionate and playful cat breed.

Maine Coon cats. The history of the breed.

If you want to get the full and truthful information about Maine Coon cats, read the article Maggitti Phil «The Maine Coon».

About the origin of the Maine Coons, as well as about the history of many other breeds of cats, there is little information. Presumably they have appeared as the result of crossing the long-haired and short-haired cats, which have been brought to Maine and other areas of New England by merchants who came from Asia at the time when these animals have not been registered.

During the ancient times, Maine Coons can live in freedom, and such name they have been given for the unusual appearance and habits that made them look like raccoons. The similarity of these animals is the presence of long hair, as well as the tabby drawing in color. It also often has purebred cats that only enhance the physical resemblance.

Maine State Champion Coon Cat, 1895Despite the complete lack of the registration data, we know that at the end of XIX century a large number of Maine Coons have lived in the states of the eastern United States. And in 1860, the cats of this breed have been distinguished at the exhibitions held in New York. Maine raccoon cat has been awarded with the title of "the best cat" at the exhibition in New York at Madison Square Gardens in 1895. After this, the popularity of the cats almost has faded. Only in 1953 thanks to the efforts to revive the public interest to the breed the Maine coon lovers again remembered about them. They have also been the organizers of the numerous exhibitions of the pedigreed cats.

At the present moment, the Maine Coons are spread far beyond the state that gave them this name. They are popular and bred in the U.S. and Europe.

Unlike other old breeds of cats found predominantly in England or in France and exported to the USA, where for many years the breeders have been working on the creation of their modern appearance, Maine Coon cats are true American natives.

The raccoon cats, natives of Maine, have been originally used to kill the rodents at American farms. At the end of the XIX century, these cats have become the first who have presented at the exhibition of cat lovers, held in the United States.

"Gentle giant" is the nickname which the cats of this breed have got in publications devoted to the first cat show, held in 1878 in Boston, where there has been presented more than a dozen of the best representatives of this breed.

To learn how Maine Coons look at that time is possible from the letter of Mrs. Jack Bjonness to Mrs. Rod Ljostad. "Their faces have been sharper when compared with the short-haired domestic cats and their hair has been twice shorter than of Persian breeds. On the tops of tall ears there have been the tufts of hair, making them similar to the trot. Cat’s legs have been long, their sizes are noncompact, like Persian, but it has not made them slim. The cats have been differed with their extraordinary endurance".

It has been the beginning of the official history of the breed, which subsequently has been described in the publications. The earlier history of Maine Coons remains a mystery. It is only known that for a long time with the first ships they have been brought from Europe to America. Their ancestors are the ship's Pied Pipers, which have been necessarily taken in every travelling. But what century it has been, is unknown. It could be the feral cats who have survived after the shipwrecks. In this case, their story runs in parallel with the history of the exploration of America.

There are a lot of legends about the cats’ stories. It is strange, but a lot of people believe that the tassels on the ears of the cats show the evidence of the crossing with North American lynx after arrival in America. And some people believe that the crossing has been with a raccoon. This version is supported by the part of the breed name “coon” (rac(c)oon; coon, which translates as "raccoon"). And the hair color of the cats very much resembles the raccoon hair. Both versions can be easily refuted by the lack of the species similarities and inability of the interspecific crossing.

The second mystery, which so far has not been figured out is long hair of Maine Coons. As on the ships there have been used mainly shorthair cats, in turn, the long-haired cats have decorated the palaces and been the luxury thing.

According to one legend the long-haired cats have come to America due to Marie-Antoinette. Before leaving the territory of France in 1793, the disgraced queen gave the order to Captain Samuel Kloa, preparing her escape, to take all her favorite luxury things, including furniture, expensive trinkets and cats.... The luck did not accompany the fugitive - she had been caught and executed. The captain had disappeared. Thus, the luxury cats could get to the American continent, to settle there and be accepted in the society of the shorthair cats arrived at these lands earlier.

Another romantic legend tells that an English captain, who had the nickname "Raccoon" and having the glory of a great lover of cats, always going on a voyage to America he took purring animals. His ship was always full of expensive cats, mostly Angora and Persian. Arriving, he gave kittens. People who had received them, said, "Kittens from Coon".

You are to decide to believe legends or not. One thing can be precise that the appearance of the long-haired cats in America is connected with its economic development. The first settlers were people of low income; they had usually been accompanied with the shorthair cats. When the country began to grow rapidly, it began to attract more affluent immigrants, who brought to the shores of New England long-haired cats.

The descendants of these animals would soon inhabit the territory of the east coast, the strongest and fittest individuals managed to survive.

Due to their long legs and powerful, strong limbs with large paws they were able to move freely during the periods of snowy winters.

The pubescence of the ears was due to the fact that this part of the body mostly needs the protection from cold. The inherited from the aristocratic ancestors’ long hair the animals had used it in conditions of extreme cold. Maine Coons change their hair according to the seasons. In winter the hair is fluffier, in summer it becomes less.

Maine coons’ tail is their pride. It is often described as the "tail with a cat at the end". Presumably, such bushy tail has defended the cats from winter frosts. It is one of the acceptable versions that the animals got a long tail with its long legs.

As they had spread through the territory of America, especially American farmers loved Maine Coons. They met all the requirements of the farm cats: had good health, cared about their food and had ingenuity.

In those days, the villagers loved to organize the fairs, at which there had been held different competitions: the competition of cowboys, canine and cock fighting, horse racing. Due to the development of the so-called American "megalomania" there had appeared the competitions of the biggest fruit grown at home, the biggest bull... and the biggest cat. The peak of popularity of such events had been in 1850-1860. It was the time when the farming cat shows had been held, the most famous of which was Skowhegan Fair. It involved only the ancestors of the modern Maine Coons. The winners got the title «Maine State Champion Coon Cat». There is the assumption that the desire of farmers to create the best, greatest individual became the first impetus of the selection.

The era of cats breeding and exhibitions with their participation had begun with the cat exhibitions in Boston. However, to say the exact number of the taking part in it Maine Coons is impossible, because all long-haired cats - Angora, Maine Coons and Persians - competed in the same group of the long-haired cats.

ÕÕ century was the real boom of exhibitions. In many cities there had begun to organize cat shows weekly. This trend had been spread from the east coast to the west. In the same period, in 1908, CFA was founded, the organization engaged in the records of the breeding, the registration of producers indicating that the parents of the kitten belonged to the long-haired cats and their family did not have shorthair ancestors.

At extremely careful selection the advantages of the breed had been the recognition of all the possible and the large number of colors at the moment of registration. Not only individual cats that had been imported from Europe, but also the unlimited local population of longhaired cats were used as the breeding material.

iDSC_0575.jpgThe main objective of the breeders was not to change the animal but the preservation of his original appearance. For this purpose, initially the inbreeding wasn’t carried out. It gave excellent health and amazing psychological steadiness to the cats, which is admirable even nowadays.

To explain such psychological tranquility of Maine Coons is very easy. Selecting the breeding material the breeders favored only those individuals that differed with the balance and good attitude to people. It was especially important, if you remembered the size of Maine Coons - the weight of the adult males could reach 17 kilos! If the cats were aggressive, there would have been the difficulties with their life at home and during the exhibiting.

It shows that the first cats selection has been based not only on the external data, but also on the nature, these cats have been exactly Maine Coons. This advantage there is in the modern cats of this breed.

It is one and a half century as Maine Coons are considered the separate breeding group. All this time the history of Maine Coons has both ups and downs.

The perfect start of the exhibition career of Maine Coons has nearly been stopped in 1911 when the description of the cats from Maine has been classified as AOV, i.e. they have been regarded as ordinary domestic cats.

Next 40 years, they have been almost forgotten, and in the late '50s the breed has been recognized as lost. Nevertheless, it has been the great exaggeration.

The restoration of the breed in the early 1950s has been started by Ruby Dyer and Alta Smith. Their idea was the creation of the independent “Central Maine Cat Club”. It all has started with the exhibitions of the cats’ photographs, and then they have demonstrated in the elementary school and in the barns of the club members, as well as in gyms. The Club has done a lot of work, but in 1963 it has been closed. Nevertheless, as a result of these events at that time there have already appeared several active breeders of Maine Coons. They have begun to exhibit their animals at various exhibitions of the associations, returning them the place lost by the ancestors 40 years ago. However, they have had to start with the exhibition class AOV.

In 1968, as a part of the famous Cat Association there has been created the club of Maine Coons, and a year later there have been the attempts to give the breed a temporary status. Fortunately, they have not succeed, because there have been very few registered animals of this breed.

Over the next 5 years the enthusiasts of the club has done enormous amount of work.

The breed club of Maine Coons has been officially registered. There have been presented the interim standards on paper. The number of individuals has increased from 20 (1971) to 133 (1977).

During the year after obtaining a temporary status in 1975, in May 1, 1976 they have managed to change this status for the championship. Thus, this day has become the second birthday of Maine Coons.

The title of the winner has been a assigned to one of Maine Coons - CH Lybe Christa’s Katy, in 1977, and a year later the first Maine Coon GC Purrbred’s Silent Stranger has been given the title of Grand Champion.

In the early 80-ies the national victory has glorified the cat GC NW Tufpaws Rosette. During the 1983-84 Rosie took the 19th place among adults.

The popularity of the cats of this breed has grown rapidly over the years. Nowadays Maine Coons are included in the U.S. top ten most popular purebred cats.

Maine Coons in Europe

ruop.jpgIn England, the Maine Coons become actively arriving in the early '80s. This breed has become popular at once. In 1988, the Maine Coons have preliminarily received GCCF status. They have been unconditionally accepted as the champions in June 1, 1994. Nowadays, among the breeds of GCCF the cats of this breed are the second in popularity.

Maine Coons will become real favorites of all the family members. They are affectionate, gentle, completely nonaggressive creatures. Nevertheless, it should be noted that these cats choose a single host, and are especially devoted all their life.

The advantages of this breed are their mind, balanced and good character. The cats are non-confrontational, easy get along at a new place. The hair care of Maine Coons is not complicated.

The only disadvantage is that if you have one of Maine Coons in your house and heart, you will definitely want one more and very soon you will start looking for him!

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