The ancestry of the Maine Coon cat is shrouded in mystery due to the lack of written evidence coupled with unsubstantiated hearsay passed down through the years. Many surprising theories exist as to the origin of the Maine Coon, with a popular one involving the raccoon. Let’s examine what the science says.
Maine Coon cats are not part raccoon because of a genetic barrier referred to as the mechanism of reproductive isolation. Despite the fact that many early Maine Coons were brown tabbies with raccoon-like ringed tales, a cat and a raccoon did not mate to create this popular breed.
Even though it is undoubtedly proven as genetically impossible for a Maine Coon and a raccoon to successfully breed, some people still like to believe that early Maine Coons were the result of a raccoon and a cat mating and that today’s Maine Coons are their descendants. The science that shows this is an impossibility is explained in a moment.
Can a Raccoon and a Maine Coon Mate?
As they are similar sizes, a raccoon is physically capable of mating with a Maine Coon cat. Remember mating and successfully breeding are two completely different things!
It is biologically impossible for a cat and a raccoon to breed and no fertilization of eggs will occur even if they do mate. Hence Maine Coon raccoon mixes have never been born.
The cat-raccoon hybrid
Rumour has it that a cat-raccoon hybrid exists and suggests that a Maine Coon and raccoon cross or Maine Coon-Raccoon hybrid is known as a Cacoon.
Some people truly believe the cacoon exists – a hybrid created from a Maine Coon and a raccoon. There is no recorded evidence that such a creature has ever been bred – just google it and you will discover a distinct lack of proof.
Hybrids are created from similar species in the same family and several cat hybrids do exist. Just to clarify there is a world of difference between a hybrid and a mixed breed cat.
A hybrid results from breeding two different species of animals within the same taxonomic family, whereas a crossbreed results from mating two animals that are different breeds within the same species.
Maine Coons are also not part-Lynx, are not hybrids and have not been used to produce a hybrid cat.
Popular cat hybrids are:
- Bengal – Asians Leopard Cat and domestic cat
- Savannah – African Serval and domestic cat
- Chausie – Asian jungle cat and domestic cat
Why a Maine Coon cat cannot be part raccoon
It is impossible for a Maine Coon to be part raccoon. The raccoon is a nocturnal mammal from the Procyonidae taxonomic family whereas the Maine Coon cat belongs to Felidae family.
Being two different species from different taxonomic families, biologically a Maine Coon and raccoon cannot breed and produce healthy, fertile babies because of a barrier known scientifically as the mechanism of reproductive isolation.
The mechanism of reproductive isolation is what keeps species distinct. If any two species ever produce offspring they either don’t survive or are always infertile because of their mismatched chromosomes.
A good example of this is the mule – the infertile result of a female horse mating with a male donkey.
The Origin of the Maine Coon
One thing that is certain is that the Maine Coon is a native American cat. Exactly how the cat arrived in the areas is undocumented but it made its home with early settlers on their homesteads.
Other than the part raccoon idea, there are many theories of how the Maine Coon arrived in North America of which the following are the most popular.
1. Captain Coon’s cats
On theory is that a sea captain named Coon had longhaired tabby cats aboard his ship. He regularly stopped off at Maine and his cats roamed freely, mating with the local shorthaired cats.
The resultant crossbreeds from these couplings became known as Coon’s cats and were popular with local farmers because of their sociable natures. They were bred to become the Maine Coons we know and love today.
2. Marie Antoinette’s cats
In the late 18th Century at the time of the French revolution, Marie Antoinette is believed to have placed her treasured Turkish Angora cats aboard a ship heading for Maine with the plan to follow them soon after.
Marie Antoinette was executed before she could escape France and her beautiful longhaired cats took up residence in Maine where they mated and produced kittens that were bred to become the Maine Coon breed.
3. Viking cats
In Norse mythology, the Skogkatt (Norwegian Forest Cat) pulled the chariot of the goddess Freyja. Between the 9th and 11th Centuries, Norwegian Forest Cats are believed to have sailed with Viking warriors.
To this day, there is no definitive evidence that Vikings ever settled in North America yet you will find plenty of claims that they did and that their Norwegian Forest cats mated with local cats to produce Maine Coons.
Many people want to believe that Norwegian Forest cats and Maine Coons are related because of their similar appearances. But it is very unlikely to be true.
Is a Maine Coon Part Raccoon? – Conclusion
The science of genetics proves that a Maine Coon cat cannot be part raccoon. However, this cat may have been named the Maine Coon partly because of the raccoon-like tail of its early ancestors.
The fact is, we will never know the true origins of the Maine Coon but my favorite idea is that Marie Antoinette’s Turkish Angora cats were involved. What do you think?
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