Why are Maine Coons called that?

Why is this cat breed called "Maine Coon"? That's the question. There are two possible answers. There are various hypotheses for the origins of this breed. One of them is that a certain Captain Coon, an English sea captain (ostensibly a Chinese bloke), frequented the shores of Maine in his trading seagoing vessel. And, he loved cats! 

A Maine Coon bred in The Netherlands. Photo by Dani.

He had his little feline army on board. Whenever he went ashore some of his cats managed to follow him where they fraternised with the local strays and domestics. The offspring founded the long-haired cat population of North America and the Maine Coon cat. In that story you have both elements of the cat's name namely, "Maine", a reference to the state of Maine on the east coast of America and "Coon" a reference to Captain Coon who brought the cats to America in the first place.

There is another far-fetched possibility in that at one stage some people thought that the Maine Coon was a hybridisation of domestic cats and the raccoon! The second half of the word "raccoon" contains the segment "coon". That might be the reason why this rather strange word is in the name of this cat breed.

The former answer is by far the better one but there is little evidence other than conjecture that a Captain Coon existed. As I said, there are so many different versions of the story of the origin of this cat breed. It's hard to know whether any of them are true. Except, there is one certainty: long-haired and short-haired cats were imported into America via the state of Maine with European settlers and these became the American cats that we know today including this beloved purebred cat.

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