One of the oldest natural breeds in North America, the Maine Coon is generally regarded as a native of the state of Maine (in fact, the Maine Coon is the official Maine State Cat). A number of attractive legends surround its origin. A wide-spread (though biologically impossible) belief is that it originated from matings between semi-wild, domestic cats and raccoons. This myth, bolstered by the bushy tail and the most common coloring (a raccoon-like brown tabby) led to the adoption of the name 'Maine Coon.' (Originally, only brown tabbies were called 'Maine Coon Cats;' cats of other colors were referred to as 'Maine Shags.') Another popular theory is that the Maine sprang from the six pet cats which Marie Antoinette sent to Wiscasset, Maine when she was planning to escape from France during the French Revolution. Most breeders today believe that the breed originated in matings between pre-existing shorthaired domestic cats and overseas longhairs (perhaps Angora types introduced by New England seamen, or longhairs brought to America by the Vikings).
While Maine Coons are highly people-oriented cats, they are not overly-dependent. They do not constantly pester you for attention, but prefer to "hang out" with their owners, investigating whatever activity you're involved in and "helping" when they can. They are not, as a general rule, known as "lap cats" but as with any personality trait there are a few Maine Coons that prefer laps. Most Maine Coons will stay close by, probably occupying the chair next to yours instead. Maines will follow you from room to room and wait outside a closed door for you to emerge. A Maine Coon will be your companion, your buddy, your pal, but hardly ever your baby.
Maine Coons are relaxed and easy-going in just about everything they do. The males tend to be the clowns while the females retain more dignity, but both remain playful throughout their lives. They generally get along well with kids and dogs, as well as other cats. They are not as vertically-oriented as some other breeds, prefering to chase objects on the ground and grasping them in their large paws -- no doubt instincts developed as professional mousers. Many Maine Coons will play "fetch" with their owners.
The important features of the Maine Coon are the head and body shape, and the texture and 'shag' of the coat. The head is slightly longer than it is wide, presenting a gently concave profile with high cheekbones and ears that are large, wide at the base, moderately pointed, and well tufted inside. They are set well up on the head, approximately an ear's width apart. Lynx-like tufting on the top of the ears is desirable. The neck should be medium-long, the torso long, and the chest broad. The tail should be at least as long as the torso. One of their most distinctive features is their eyes, which are large, round, expressive, and set a a slightly oblique angle. Overall, the Maine Coon should present the appearance of a well-balanced, rectangular cat.
Throughout their history there has been no restriction on the patterns and colors acceptable, with the exception of the pointed Siamese pattern. As a result, a wide range of colors and patterns are bred. Eye colors for all coat colors range through green, gold, and green-gold. Blue eyes and odd eyes, (one blue and one gold eye) are permissible in white cats. There is no requirement in the Maine Coon Standard of Perfection for particular combinations of coat color and eye color.
Maine Coon owners enjoy the breed's characteristic clown-like personality, affectionate nature, amusing habits and tricks, willingness to 'help' with any activity, and easily groomed coat. They make excellent companions for large, active families that also enjoy having dogs and other animals around. Their hardiness and ease of kittening make them a satisfying first breed for the novice breeder. For owners wishing to show, the Maine Coon has reclaimed its original glory in the show ring.