Where is the Maine Coon from?

The classic response to the question in the title is that ultimately, the Maine Coon cat is from Europe. At that time, in the 1600s, they weren't Maine Coon cats but longhaired European cats. They were brought over on ships with European settlers starting around the 1600s. The ships landed in Maine and down the eastern seaboard including it seems New York state.

Silver tabby Maine Coon kittens
Silver tabby Maine Coon kittens. Photo: Helmi Flick.

Over the intervening 400 years or so these longhaired cats became farm and barn cats and then they became the first show cats in the middle of the 1800s. In order to become show cats, they were then selectively bred. The winning cat of the first formal American cat show at Madison Square Garden, New York, was a Maine Coon tabby cat.

Also, during mid-late 1800s breeders selectively bred the cats which was the beginning of the journey to them losing their connection with their origins. So, when you ask where Maine Coon cats come from, I think the best answer now is to say that they come from cat breeders in America who restarted the whole process.

In fact, DNA testing from a study found that the cats of New York state have a similar genetic profile to the Maine Coon cats that you see in the show ring. Why should this be? We don't know but perhaps longhaired cats were imported to New York and then they travelled with their owners to Maine where they were eventually selectively bred to become purebred cats. That is a highly speculative and probably and incorrect assessment. Or Maine cats were crossed with cats from NY state for some unknown reason.

The truth is that many purebred cats sadly show no signs of their origins in their DNA. For example, the Persian cat has no connection with its country of origin which is meant to be Iran, formerly Persia. This is because breeders have selectively bred out of its DNA all its past. The same applies to the Maine Coon it seems to me. And the same applies to the Egyptian Mau which you see in Cairo on the streets. The real Turkish Angora - the one you see at Ankara Zoo - is not the same cat that you see coming out of hobby breeders' home in the USA.

Many purebred cats don't have any past anymore. They are created, human-made, and therefore when you ask where a Maine Coon comes from you might as well say they come from the homes of cat breeders dotted around America and in many countries of the world.

P.S. You'll also see speculation on the Internet that the Vikings imported longhaired cats well before the Europeans which became the Maine Coon. This idea has its origins in the fact that the Norwegian Forest cat and the Siberian have similar appearances.

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