Are Maine Coons descended from Norwegian Forest Cats?

There is no hard evidence, to the best of my knowledge, which supports the view that Maine Coon cats are descended from Norwegian Forest cats. The idea for this suggestion comes from the story of Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) who tried to escape France during the French Revolution. She was imprisoned with King Louis XVI in the summer of 1792.

At that time Captain Clough was the captain of a ship called The Sally which sailed between Le Havre and the state of Maine. The ship was docked at Le Havre and therefore it was an ideal means to escape to take the king and Marie Antoinette and her possessions to America. Unfortunately, they failed to engineer her escape and both Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI were executed by guillotine.

Marie Antoinette by Joseph Ducreux
Marie Antoinette by Joseph Ducreux. Image in the public domain.

However, her possessions and apparently her cats had been loaded onto The Sally in preparation for her escape to the New World. The ship set sail without her but with the cats.

It has been suggested that the French Queen might have owned Norwegian Skogkatts, another name for the Norwegian Forest cat, because one of her most devoted admirers at the French court was the Swedish diplomat Count Axel von Fersten, who would have had access to Scandinavian felines. He might have offered her some as an exotic gift.

As mentioned, there is no evidence that this happened. And it should also be stated that in 1792 there was no such cat breed as the Norwegian Forest cat. There were no cat breeds at all, formerly. It was only in 1930 that the Norwegian cat fancy decided to turn a beautiful Norwegian moggy into a purebred, pedigree cat through selective breeding.

So, if there were cats on The Sally, they were probably medium-longhaired random-bred cats which were probably very attractive. And they might have come from Norway and therefore there was some Norwegian cat genes there provided the whole story holds water which it probably doesn't.

I think that we can conclude that Maine Coons cats are not descended from Norwegian Forest cats but they just might be descended from Norwegian moggies or at least partly descended from these cats because there were other ships' cats imported into America at that time of immigration from the Old World and these cats would also have formed the foundation for today's glittering Maine Coon.

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