Did Marie Antoinette's Norwegian Forest cats (Skogkatts) start the Maine Coon breed?

There are about a dozen different stories as to the origin of the Maine Coon. Some are fanciful and some are more realistic and plausible. Perhaps the Marie Antoinette Norwegian Forest cat story is somewhere between these extremes. It goes like this.

Marie Antoinette. The face of a cat lover!
Marie Antoinette. The face of a cat lover! Image: BBC.

Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution sent to America her Norwegian Forest cats when she hoped to escape to the New World.

RELATED: Maine Coons are non-native to the USA. Discuss.

It is plausible that the French Queen might have owned Norwegian Skogkatts because one of her most devoted admirers at the French court was the Swedish diplomat Count Axel von Fersten. He would have had access to Scandinavian random bred cats (as they were at that time) from Norway and they might have been beautiful cats. 

He might have offered her some as an exotic gift. However, there is no evidence to back this up. It is speculation as many of these Maine Coon origin stories are.

RELATED: Maine Coon Cat History.

In answer to the question in the title I think that we have to say, no. This is because the better and more plausible origin of the breed is that settlers, the first immigrants to America, brought ships' cats with them either as pets or they were genuine ships' cats.

These cats were offloaded when they arrived on the east coast of the continent, perhaps in the state of Maine or further north towards Boston, some 400 years ago. 

Some evolved into barn cats in the state of Maine and developed a beautiful, shaggy coat ideally suited to the cold winters whereupon an eagle-eyed cat aficionado decided that they should be turned into a beautiful breed in the late 1800s. However, the breed almost died out at one stage.

They've not always been popular but nowadays there's been a surge in interest probably because European breeders are involved in extreme breeding which always catches the eye on social media, particularly Instagram. These unusual cats look like humans or lions and some are as large as lynx wild cats.

RELATED: Maine Coon Early History: Eight Theories.

The Norwegian Forest cat is similar to the Maine Coon at least superficially. It seems plausible that they could have evolved into Maine Coons 😃. But there were many other random bred cats around at that time too. It's not realistic to think the French Queen's cats are the distinct origin.


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