The Maine Coon Cat is the only show cat breed that originated in the United States. What does that have to do with Marie Antoinette?
The origin of the breed is speculative, but one legend has it that prior to her execution in 1793, Captain Clough was part of an unsuccessful rescue attempt to help Marie Antoinette escape from France. For one reason or another, the Queen never got on the ship, but it was already loaded with her possessions, which included six of her prized Turkish Angora cats. The ship sailed without her, but with the cats. Her pets reached Wiscasset, Maine, where they left the ship, interbred and developed into the Maine Coon Cat.
As speculative as is the origin of the Main Coon, so is the interbreeding. One legend is that they bred with bobcats, which explains the unusual size and tufted ears. Another version, due to the luxurious tail, is that they bred with raccoons. Doubtful as those theories are for genetic reasons, it is more likely they paired with long- or short-haired cats brought to the US in English ships; cats were kept on board to control rats and mice. One more story is that they may be descendants of cats off Viking ships in the 11th Century, as the breed shows much resemblance to the Norwegian Skogkatt, or Forest Cat.
Whatever the origin, the breed that developed has many unique qualities. The pictures above and below show their unusual size. They do not reach full size until three to four years, and have been known to approach 48 inches and near 30 pounds, which adds some plausibility to the bobcat theory, especially when one notes the tufted ears.
Unlike most cats, they are fascinated by and well adapted for water, with water-resistant coats and large well-furred paws, frequently with extra digits (called polydactyly, a fun word to impress friends). These features also make them well able to live in harsh weather, as the long and thick tail can be curled around themselves for protection and insulation, the wide heavily furred feet are like snowshoes, and the ears not only have tufts at the ear tips but inside to keep the ears warm.
As pets they are known as “gentle giants.” They are smart, affectionate, and playful clowns. They are also entertaining and known to be very vocal, making frequent yowling, chattering, chirping, and “talking back” vocalizations to their owners.
Why am I telling you about Maine Coon cats? It’s a way of introducing you to my next book, The Mystery at Black Partridge Woods, which is expected to be available in June. I have never personally owned a cat, but one of these charming pets is a minor character in the story, and when I was researching cat breeds to select one that could have been in the right time and place, I thought the breed was so interesting I wanted to share it with you. I hope you agree.
Cover concept for my New Book due out in June is below. I’d love to hear your opinion of the cover design!
Email comments to: Pat@Patcamallierebooks.com