Maine coon cat breed: the big cat whose origin is the subject of many legends

László Enikő

2022. December 8 - Source: Photos by Getty Images Hungary

The Maine Coon's appearance commands respect, even though deep down this cat will always be somewhat of a kitten. And there are interesting legends about its origins.


The Maine coon used to be a popular mouser, helping to kill rodents on farms. Today, they are one of the most popular cat breeds, attracting fans with their charming personality and good looks. Interestingly, the record for the world’s longest cat belongs to a maine coon who grew to 120 cm long.


Like many other breeds, the Maine Coon’s origins are obscure and surrounded by many legends. Some speculate that the ancestors of the breed may be the Norwegian forest cats who lived with the Vikings. Another story says Marie Antoinette’s Angora, sent overseas, mixed with American cats to create the Maine coon. Marie Antoinette planned to escape from France with the help of Captain Samuel Clough. He sent his treasures ahead to the ship, and among them were his six favourite cats. Unfortunately, the Queen’s escape was cut short when she was captured and beheaded. But his beloved animals have reached safe haven in Maine. Another widely accepted theory is that Maine coons evolved from European cats who arrived in Maine by ship, where over time their genetics adapted to the harsh conditions.

19th century Maine coon depiction.

But there is also a legend surrounding the origin of the breed’s name, which says that the Maine coon was born from the union of a raccoon and a cat. This is what the name coon refers to, which is the English raccoon. Actually, coon does refer to the raccoon, but not because it is a descendant, just because it has a similar tail. Another story says that the coon originated from a captain called Coon (18th century), who was known for bringing beautiful long-haired cats on board to bring him luck and catch rodents. The kittens then adapted to the harsh conditions in Maine, which is why they had such a big coat and such a big body. The prefix Maine is universally agreed upon, i.e. Maine refers to the state of Maine in North America. This breed is also the official cat of the state.

In the twentieth century the Maine Coon’s popularity started to decline in the USA. Other long-haired breeds have become favourites of humans (e.g. the Persian), and Maine Coons have been significantly overshadowed.

The Maine coon and popularity

This breed once was the star of the exhibitions, in the 20th century, however, forty years have passed without a Maine coon winning a single show. The decline was so severe that the breed was declared extinct in the 1950s, although at the time this was considered premature. The Central Maine Cat Club (CMCC) was founded in the early 1950s by Ethylin Whittemore, Alta Smith and Ruby Dyer to promote the breed. For 11 years, the CMCC held cat shows, created exhibitions of photographs of the breed, and was the first to record the first written breed standard for the Maine Coon.

The Maine coon has since become a worldwide favourite, it is the third most popular breed in 2020 according to the  Cat Fanciers’ Association. The first Maine coon was imported in Hungary in 1992, and its success has been unbroken ever since, as it has found many fans in Hungary as well.

Breed standard

A Maine coon is a large, muscular, broad-chested breed of cat. Its body is rectangular and harmonious. Legs are medium long, stocky. Its paws are round and large, with tufts of fur between its toes. The neck is medium length, the coat sometimes forming a mane. The tail is long and covered with thick fur. Head medium large, broad, slightly elongated. The feet are high-set, broad-based, with pointed tips. His eyes are large, set wide apart, his gaze expressive. Its coat is dense, heavy, weatherproof but soft. It comes in a variety of colours, such as black, white, blue, red, cream, turtle, cream blue, with or without a tabby pattern. They can have white spots, which can be of any size. Color cannot be purple, chocolate, fawn, cinnamon, colorpoint, burmese or tonkinese. Body weight is about 3.5-8 kg, but larger individuals may occur. Expected lifetime 12-15 years.


At first glance, many might think that the Maine Coon is a rigid, aloof cat. But this is not the case, as he is a very people-loving and friendly character, and his affection is sometimes compared to a dog. Despite this, the Maine Coon is not much of a handful, does not demand attention, but certainly likes to be close to its owner. He is a late maturing type, reaching adulthood at only 3-5 years of age, but his personality is said by many to be like that of a kitten for life. He is also very intelligent and can be taught tricks. Some people compare its voice to that of a bird, and its meowing sounds like a kitten for its large size.

Ideal environment

The Maine Coon needs care, attention. He typically gets on well with other pets and is very friendly with children, making him a great playmate. The breed adapts easily to different lifestyles, making it an ideal companion for many. When handled, he is grateful, tends to follow the owner around the house, but is never too willful or demanding. If you don’t have time to pet him, he’ll lie on the sofa or occupy himself with something else. Since he is very intelligent, it is a good idea to keep his brain busy with different tasks and games, even teaching him tricks.


Despite its long coat, the Maine Coon is easy to groom with twice-weekly combing, which removes dead hairs and distributes skin oils. Useful grooming tools include a stainless steel comb for removing tangles, and a scrubbing comb for pulling out dead undercoat. However, if there is a patch of hair, it is often better to cut it off with scissors. The tail does not require combing. The Maine Coon is patient, but does not like to be pulled. Regular grooming should preferably be started when the cat is still a kitten, so that it will tolerate it better later. His eyes and ears should be checked and cleaned regularly.

Common health problems

The breed may have hip joint dysplasia, which can cause lameness in severe cases. He may develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a common form of heart disease in cats. The disease can be screened by genetic testing. He may develop polycystic kidney disease, which is an inherited kidney disease that can cause kidney failure. Sometimes spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic disorder affecting the skeletal muscles of the trunk and limbs, can occur. Breeders now have a test available to identify carriers and affected kittens. Obesity should be avoided in all pets. Like many cats, Maine Coons can develop periodontal disease too.

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