The Maine Coon was not always a popular cat breed

In 2022 the Maine Coon (MC) is in the top 3 most popular cat breeds and rightly so. They have a great appearance and big is best for a lot of people who are in the market to adopt a cat companion. 

It is hard to believe that in the mid-20th century (1950) the breed was declared extinct! That was probably a guess and an exaggeration but clearly there were very few Maine Coon cats in the USA at the time.

Beautiful brown tabby MC with great ruff
Maine Coon. Showing the ruff around the neck, the lynx-tipped ears and the general size. This is a tabby Maine Coon which are very popular. The ruff is amazing on this cat. The photograph is in my opinion in the public domain.

Before that moment, the last Maine Coon to win at a cat show was in 1911, 40 years earlier.

This sharp decline is all the more mystifying because at the first North American cat show held at Madison Square Garden in New York City on May 8, 1895, a female tabby MC, Cosey, won the best in show. 

Cosey was owned by Mrs Fred Brown who was presented with a silver collar which was subsequently purchased by the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA). They still have it as a treasured possession. It is at the CFA Central Office in the Jean Baker Rose Memorial Museum.

MCs were exhibited in many of the early cat shows. For instance, a black and white MC named Capt. Jenks of the Horse Marines featured in 1861 in shows in Boston and NYC.

The decline in popularity is put down to new breeds being introduced into the cat fancy such as the Persian in 1900. The Persian remains very popular in the US to this day. 

The Central Maine Cat Club was created by  Ethylin Whittemore, Alta Smith, and Ruby Dyer in the early 1950s to improve the breeds standing. They held cat shows for 11 years. They created the first breed standard.

The top cat association the CFA refused to accept the MC and give it provisional breed status three times in around the 1970 which led to the formation of the Maine Coon Cat Club in 1973.

RELATED: Ragdoll is the most popular cat breed as per CFA 2020.

This appears to have helped the CFA change their opinion on the MC and they granted the breed provisional status on May 1, 1975. Champion status followed on May 1, 1976. This led to an improvement in the breed's popularity.

It climbed the popularity table and today it is the 3rd most popular based on the number of registered kittens at the CFA. It may have a higher popularity based on a poll of the public in the USA.


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