THE MAINE COON

MORE TO LOVE
WORDS BY ALYNN EVANS | PHOTOGRAPHS BY VARIOUS
If you blindly came across a Maine Coon, chances are you’d need to do a double-take to make sure you weren’t about run right into some sort of bobcat. The Maine Coon is the largest breed of domesticated cat — or at least they appear the largest under several inches of thick fluff. Their facial features are round but pronounced. Wide cheek bones and a puffy muzzle sit perfectly below two big, oval eyes. Their ears, tall and impressive, are adorned with long tufts of fur, giving them a distinguished appearance; it’s almost as if a feline wizard has ambled out of a fairytale.
Perhaps they are from a fairytale, as there are certainly many fictitious theories about how the Maine Coon came about. One suggests the Maine Coon got its impressive, bushy tail by mating with raccoons. In a more plausible scenario, many believe Vikings bred longhaired cats that made their way stateside about a thousand years before European colonizers arrived.
One of the more colorful rumors involves the downfall of a European empire. In the late 18th century, the French Revolution began and Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France and wife of Louis XVI, knew she was in trouble. Somehow, she was introduced to Captain Samuel Clough, a merchant seaman from Maine, who was trading goods with France and became involved in a plot to help her escape to America. As the story goes, Antoinette gathered her belongs and pets to escape to America before being put on trial, but was convicted and executed in 1793 before she could begin her exile. However, several of her prized Turkish Angora cats made it on the ship and eventually arrived at the shores of Wiscasset, Maine, and bred with the local domesticated cats. While it’s unlikely the Maine Coon’s origin involved French royalty, its ancestors did probably hitch a ride with European colonizers.
Once established, it didn’t take long for the breed to become wildly popular; their size alone was an awe-inducing feature among New Englanders. Owners started entering the cats in local fairs, and when the first North American cat show was put on in 1895, a Maine Coon by the name of Cosey took the blue ribbon.
As one of the oldest cats in North American history, the Maine Coon is also one of the most well-known cat breeds today, though far from typical. Unlike other cats, Maine Coons are known for their affinity for water, perhaps because of their longer, somewhat water-resistant fur. They are also more likely than the average cat to be polydactyl, sporting an extra toe or two.
We know their size and appearance are impressive, but it’s the Maine Coons’ personality that owners boast as one of their greatest qualities. They are gentle and balanced. While highly social, they are not overly needy and yet not too independent. The Maine Coons’ size alone will make their presence hard to ignore — but with so much love to give, you would never want to, anyway.

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