When did the Maine Coon come into existence?

When did the Maine Coon come into existence? The short answer is in the 1860s on the east coast of the US particularly the state of Maine and further north. In the 1860s they were barn cats called 'Maine cats'. They were long-haired cats and moggies. I guess they were semi-domesticated or sometimes fully domesticated. 

But the lifestyle of the domestic cat was different then. There was no talk of keeping cats indoors all the time for example and pet food was hardly heard off and the same could be said about cat litter. 

The picture below is of a barn cat, not a Maine Coon, but I suspect that this is how the Maine Coon looked in the 1860s before they were selectively bred.

Barn cat
Barn cat that looks like a Maine Coon might have looked before selective breeding. Image in public domain.

It was all very natural and by today's standards quite slapdash. And of course, veterinary services were much less professional than they are today. And these semi-longhaired cats first came to the country, it is believed, with the early settlers, the pilgrims from Europe and England.

No doubt, at some stage somebody living in Maine looked upon these beautiful barn cats and decided that they could and should be purebred, pedigree cats and shown off at cat shows. And so, the cat breeders, through selective breeding, refined these barn cats into show cats. And this was in the late 1800s leading up to the first American major cat show in 1895 at Madison Square Garden's which was won by a Maine Coon cat of course.

So really, it's a continuous progression from random-bred cat coming over from Europe and then being a random-bred cat or moggy in the USA to finally become a purebred cat, the Maine Coon which has, now, in the modern era has become a very popular purebred cat.

It is worth pointing out, I believe, that there were no purebred pedigree cats before about the 1860s anyway. And that applies to anywhere in the world. The first pedigree cats were created by breeders in England in the late 1800s, so the Maine Coon was the first pedigree cat of America and sometimes it is described as "the American Cat".

But like many purebred cats the starting point is converting a moggy to a purebred, pedigree cat through selective breeding. And that kicks off with somebody deciding that an attractive moggy for whatever reason should become a cat breed. 

And they start the ball rolling by selectively breeding the cat and then asking a cat association to register their new breed. If it's accepted, then they can progress to championship status and become a fully-fledged cat breed.


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