New proof that the forerunners of today's Maine Coon cats were Norwegian Forest cats brought to North America by the Vikings

The title is a bold statement. Perhaps too bold but the evidence today is stronger than it was before. In the scientific journal Antiquity, a scientific study has been published which confirms that the Vikings came over from Norway and set up colonies in Greenland in 985 A.D., and from there they traded with further colonies in North America and northern Europe. 

Did the Vikings bring the domestic cat to North America?
Did the Vikings bring the domestic cat to North America? The cat in the picture is a Norwegian Forest cat. Image: MikeB

This happened 500 years before Christopher Columbus laid his eyes upon the Americas in 1492.

There's been lots of talk about the Vikings discovering America before Christopher Columbus and the evidence today is that it happened. It's been confirmed analysing the timber used to build the settlements some of which came from North America. 

Microscopic analysis of the wood's structure has established that it was hemlock and Jack pine and other species. These could only have come from America.

We have to make a presumption (a big one!) that they brought across with them on their longships, ships' cats. We don't know for sure about this of course. But let's make the presumption that they did bring the domestic cat with them. These would have been Norwegian Forest cats. 

Not today's purebred cat but the forerunners of the Norwegian Forest cat. These were farmland moggies with dense fur and hardy constitutions.

They would have looked quite similar to today's Norwegian Forest cat. And in that vein, we know that the Norwegian Forest cat is very similar in appearance to the Maine Coon cat.

There has been lots of talk, too, about whether the Maine Coon cat originates from the Norwegian Forest cat. Knowing that the Vikings had colonies in Greenland and traded with settlements in North America in the 10th century, it would be nice to think that the first domestic cats in North America were the forerunners of America's favourite cat, the Maine Coon.

Earlier analysis of wood from L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland provided the earliest date for a Viking settlement on the North American mainland as A.D. 1021. And it is now thought that the Greenland landings date from about A.D. 985.


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