STANDAR BY MARY M. (CONNIE) CONDIT
Interpreting the …
MAINE COON STANDARD
By MARY M. (CONNIE) CONDIT
A MAINE WHAT?
The name «Maine Coon Cat» has given rise to amusing misunderstandings. One of the most hilarious is that this cat is a hybrid product of cat and raccoon Several years ago. a popular pet column published a cry for help from a lady who had tried to promote this crossbreed. The only result was a whale of a scrap and a lot of hairs on end. I once got a call from a man who wanted to know if my hounds hunted rabbits: and heaven help the poor breeder who advertises «Maine Coons» and forgets to add the word cats!
The Maine Coon cat is probably a «hybrid». but only Mother Nature knows what went into the mix There was probably a heavy dose of whatever kind of long haired cats the Maine sailors brought home with them. whether these were Marie Antoinette’s Angoras or Norwegian forest cats doesn’t matter. The Maine Coon is a perfect example of survival of the fittest. If we were to take all the cats from a typical show, transport them to Maine, turn them loose to make a living in the barns and woods and come back 20 years later, we would probably find the survivors looking very much like today’s Maine Coon.
The Maine Coon standard describes a working cat: one capable of surviving the rigors of the New England climate without much help from anyone Let’s take it point by point.
«GENERAL: Solid. firm. muscular: well groomed.
Choose a mature Maine Coon stallion and you will be very grateful for the kind disposition of the breed, He will have a leg full of solid muscle. For the record, the Maine Coon takes time to mature: he really shouldn’t be shown until he is at least two years old, and he doesn’t really reach his prime until he is three or four years old. By then, he intimidates judges by his appearance, which belies his kittenish personality. Females, although considerably smaller than males, are also solid. The spayed and neutered ones tend to be a bit paunchy, but often the paunchy appearance is due to the heavier coat they wear.
HEAD SHAPE: Of medium width and medium length with a square muzzle. Broadening should be permitted in older stallions. High cheek bones firm chin in line with nose and upper lip. Nose of medium length.
This is the head of a hunter That medium-sized head is correctly proportioned to provide jaws that can crush the spine of a swamp rat. Those jaws are strong! Once, a well-meaning vet surprised my Seth Parker (and me) with the end of a tube of Panalog ointment. Seth went through my leather jacket, flannel shirt and lower arm. Old stallions have broad heads, muscular necks and rock-hard pads.
They are built for battle and armored against assault.
A good rule of thumb is that the distance between the base of the ear and the bridge of the nose should be equal to the length of the nose from the bridge to the tip.
The muzzle is square when viewed from almost any angle, not pointed or pointed. By firm chin, we mean one that is plump enough to be seen below the upper lip when viewed in profile. No «Andy Gump» chins are allowed.
EARS: Large, well tufted. Wide at the base, tapering so that the hunter can hear his prey: large ears are a must. The tuft protects them from frostbite. Not only are they tufted on the inside, but many have tufted tips like bobcats, which may be the basis for the origin theory that they are a cross between the domestic cat and the bay lynx. Although they are set high on the head (to better capture sound), they should be at least one ear width apart at the uprights, this distance will increase as the head widens.
EYES: Large, wide set and slightly slanting. The Maine Coon’s eyes are large and round, which gives them an almost owl-like expression.their slanting configuration in no way gives them an oriental look.
NECK: medium long».
This cat has a long enough neck to be evident even when wearing a full ruff. In stallions. It is very muscular, providing protection to vital arteries and veins in case of a bite.
BODY SHAPE: Muscular, broad-chested. Females may be smaller than males. The body should be long with all parts in proportion to create a rectangular appearance.
There is some controversy over which is more important type or size. The answer is neither. There are very few verified 30-pound Maine Coons. Males, weighing from 15 to over 20 pounds, are not uncommon. At maturity, males should weigh about 15 pounds and females 8 to 10 pounds or more. This applies to entire cats: neuters and spavs will be heavier. Regardless of weight, the cat should feel firm and muscular, not fat and flabby.
FEET AND LEGS: Legs large, broad, of medium length and in proportion to the body Large, round, well padded feet. Five toes in front and four at the rear.
The skeletal structure of the Coon Cat is heavy in contrast to the fine-boned Angora. This is especially true of the males. Females are more feminine, but should not be «dainty». The feet are large in appearance pointed. They are set high and set wide apart.
Maine snow boots are a definite advantage. The tufting is primarily on the soles of the feet: some have tufts so long that they protrude an inch or more behind the paw. The paws are actually quite long compared to those of an average cat, but coupled with the Coon Cat’s long body, they are of medium length compared to those of a Siamese.
Polydactylism is common in the «native» Maine population, but has been eliminated in controlled breeding programs.
TAIL: Long, broad at the base and tapering. The coat is long and flowing.
The Maine Coon’s tail is its pride and joy – and its sleeping bag on cold winter nights. As a general rule, it should be about as long as his body. The tail length in my kennel averages 14 to 15 inches, with some extending up to 15 inches. The Maine Coon can curl up with its tail. covering not only its feet, but also its ears. The tail is not bushy like a fox brush; it has the undercoat with the outer guard covered. It only appears bushy when carried erect.
COAT: Heavy and shaggy; shorter at shoulders and longer on belly and breeches. The presence of a front ruff is desirable. The Coon Cat’s coat is designed to be weather resistant and self-supporting. On the head and shoulders it is short and thick, but not likely to snag when it gets into holes and brambles. From the shoulders back, it is longer and shaggier, which protects it from rain from above and snow from below. By the time he curls up in a ball with his long tail wrapped around his feet and ears, he has literally stuffed himself into a fur sleeping bag.
The undercoat is soft and fine, covered by a rougher and more slippery outer coat that sheds water. Its coat is also somewhat greasier than that of an average cat, especially the undercoat. The coat is not opaque like that of a Persian. Especially during the moulting season, tufts are formed, which gradually fall out of the skin and fall on the carpet or, in the forest, are «combed» by bushes and brambles. Combing it once a week keeps it in good shape.
The coat is also very subject to seasonal changes. In warm climates or in hot weather, many Maine Coons shed their «shorts» and only the tail retains its long-haired appearance. Contrary to some legends, the Maine Coon does well in all climates, but being a practical inhabitant of the East, it dresses appropriately.
I should comment briefly on coat colors. So far, very little has been done for long-term color breeding. The range of colors accepted in the CFA standard is only a partial list of the rainbow of shades and patterns that the Maine coon can produce. Many of us like interesting variety and do not seriously attempt color breeding Others strive to perfect reds, silvers, etc. Most breeders agree that type, temperament and stamina should take precedence over colors. We like our cat the way mother nature made it and try to keep it that way.
In conclusion, the Maine Coon cat is a robust and intelligent individual who is capable of working for his food and shelter, but, being a cat, is quite willing to live a life of luxury with human slaves to do his bidding.
Mary M. (‘Connie’) Condit
GENERAL: Originally a working cat, the Maine Coon is solid, hardy and can withstand severe weather. A distinctive feature is its soft, shaggy coat. Essentially gentle in character, it has adapted to varied environments.
HEAD SHAPE: Medium in width and medium long in length, with a square muzzle. The widening in older stallions should be taken into account. High cheek bones. Chin firm and in line with the nose and upper lip. Nose of medium length: slight concavity when viewed in profile.
EARS: Large, well set on, wide at the base, tapering to appear pointed, high and set wide apart.
EYES: Large. Wide set. Slightly oblique.
NECK: Medium long.
BODY SHAPE: Muscular, broad chested. Medium to large size. Females may be smaller than males. The body should be long with all parts in proportion to the body. Paws large, round, well dense. Five toes in front and four at the back.
TAIL: Long, broad at the base and tapering. Coat long and flowing.
COAT: Heavy and shaggy: shorter at the shoulders and longer on the stomach and breeches. Front ruff desirable. Silky texture with softly falling coat.
PENALTY: A short or uniform coat in general.
DISQUALIFY: Delicate bone structure, receding chin, crossed eyes, crooked tail, incorrect number of toes, buttons, medallions or spots……
EYE COLOR: The color of the eyes should be green, golden or copper shades, although in white cats they can also be blue or uneven eyed. There is no relationship between eye color and coat color.
legs and Feet………………5
Body Color ………………….10
POT PURRY M. (CONNIE) CONDIT
TANSTAAFL CATTERY talks about the Maine Coon
Beth Hicks has been breeding Coons for nearly four years. She is a licensed CROWN judge and the editor of the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association’s quarterly publication «The Scratch Sheet» Beth and her husband operate Tanstaafl Cattery in Memphis, Tennessee.
Like most other breeds of cat, the Maine Coon has its share of intriguing fables to explain its origin. These include the tale of Captain Coon who supposedly brought their ancesters from China. There is the theory domestic cats mating with the Canadian Lynx or some other small wildcat. For those who desire stories of royalty, there is the tale of Marie Antionette’s six cats being brought to a hideout in Maine to await their mistress’s arrival. Upon her demise, the cats were turned loose in the Maine countryside, bred with the local cats, and the offspring were Maine Coons.
While the stories make good copy, the Maine Coon is actually nature’s own creation. It was almost inevitable that the feline population in Maine would evolve into today’s Maine Coon. A cat with the characteristics of the Maine is best suited for survival as a hunter in Maine’s environment. The development of a breed to fit the environment is not unique. Both the Russian Steppe Cat, a small wildcat found on the steppes of Russia, and the Norwegian Forest Cat are remarkably similar to Maine Coon and evolved in the same type of environment.
The Maine Coon can be called this nation’s first show cat. People in Maine took great pride in their unique cats. They considered them faster, stronger, more intelligent, and generally better than other cats. Starting in the 1860’s, people brought their favorite, prized Maine Coons to compete with their neighbors’ cats at the county fairs. Unfortunately, we do not know how the judging was conducted.
The first cat show as we know them was held in 1871 at Crystal Palace in London. The cat fancy was a new concept at that time and the cats shown did not even have pedigrees. The first American cat show was held in Madison Square Gardens in 1895. At that time, all longhaired cats were judged as one class under a single standard. Mrs. E.R. Pierce had been scientifically breeding Maine Coons for several years. Cosie, a brown tabby neuter bred by Mrs. Pierce, was Best Cat in Show at Madison Square Gardens. Another of Mrs. Pierce’s Maines, a brown tabbly male named King Max, was a consistent winner in Boston shows in 1897, 1898, and 1899.
With the introduction of exotic cats from England, especially Persians, in the early 1900’s, interest in America’s original longhair died out. Fortunately, the Maines were not forgotten in their native state. In 1 1953, the Central Maine Cat Club was formed and, again, shows were held in Maine exclusively for the Maine Coon. Interest continued to grow and in 1968 a nucleus of six breeders formed the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association.
Since that time, the breed has made tremendous progress. In the late 1960’s, CCA became the first association to recognize Maines for championship showing. This year, CFA became the last association to grant them championship status. Today, MCBFA has fifty breeder members and hundreds of fancier members. Breeders can proudly point to Grand Champions in almost every association. One of the most difficult objectives of the Main Coon breeders was achieved in 1972 with the acceptance of a unified standard.
The primary problem was not a lack of information but rather an overabundance of it! Many books about the state of Maine include descriptions of Maine Coon cats However, many of the authors are actually describing the cats they saw on one of the numerous islands off the coast of Maine. Since each of these colonies of cats was isolated from the mainland and one another, each tended to develop in a slightly different way. Fortunately, a copy of the standard used by the Central Maine Cat Club was also found. Through a process of nationwide voting by breeders, a common standard was formed.
The breed still faces problems but they are minor compared to those of ten years ago. Unfortunately, the myth about the Maine’s tremendous size is still widespread. The twenty-five to thirty pound monster is extremely rare and is not a goal of Maine Coon breeders. This common misconcep tion has probably survived for so long because the Maine appears to be much larger than it actually is. This illusion of size is created by the structure of the coat. The average female is eight to ten pounds and the male is twelve to eighteen pounds.
To the occasional frustration of breeders working with other colors, most people will still think of brown tabbies whenever they hear the term Maine Coon. Actually there is an historical reason for this. From the 1800’s up until the early 1900’s, the name Maine Coon was used only for tabbies, especially brown tabbies because the markings were so much like those of a raccoon Parti-colors and solid colored cats were called Maine Shag cats.
One thing which many people found surprising and puzzling when the Maines began to make a comeback in the cat fancy was the occasional sight of street cats who looked amazingly like the Maine. Actually a look at the Maine’s history shows that these cats are probably distantly related to the earner Mames. The pioneer settiers of this nation took with them the livestock they would need in new terntories. This would certamly include their cats. In fact, one of the breeders today knows her family history back to the early 1800’s.
When her ancestors moved from New England to Ohio, they took their Maine Coons with them! Maines were always highly respected for their ability as tatters Since New England was the center of this nation’s shipping industry during the 1800’s, Maine Coons have probable logged more sea miles on American ships than all the cat fancy’s other breeds combined Colonies of cats that are almost identical to Maines are relatively common along America’s coasts especially in Texas and southern California. A prized possession of one of today’s breeders is an original oil portrait of three Maine Coons which was painted in 1876 in England. Their owner was extremely proud of them because they were very rare in England. Those three cats might have been shipboard deserters or their descendents.
Maine Coons make excellent pets. They are very gentle and loving with their owners but do tend to be rather shy around strangers. They do not usually like to be picked up and held and cuddled. However, when a Maine does decide it wants attention, it will literally demand to be petted! The females are unbelievably graceful and feminine but the males tend to he sweeter and more out going.
Hearing a Maine speak for the first time usually surprises people. They expect a meow in proportion to the e’s size. Instead they hear an almost pitiful little squeak which would sound much more appropriate coming from a kitten! Actually, Maines are vocal in a unique way. Instead of meowing, they will make chattering noises in their throat which are impossible to describe in print!
Perhaps because their ancestors were such great ship’s cats, Maines are fascin ated by water. It is not at all unusual to find one happily curled up in a wet sink or playing in a stream of water from the faucet. A breeder in Illinois has a female who will turn on the water in the kitchen sink herself whenever she wants to play in it. We have had several kittens who delighted in turning over the water bowl and then playing in the mess on the floor.
Every Maine Coon owner probably has their own favorite feature but one of the most striking characteristics of a Maine is its tail. It is full at the base gradually tapering to a point with long guard hairs that flow when the cat walks but enough undercoat to make it full and bushy. A Maine’s tail is longer than that of most breeds. When a Maine holds its tail down, it will actually hit the floor and turn up an inch or two. A lot of Maines will drape their tail over a paw to be able to reach the end easily when they are washing.
A Maine’s ears are also a striking feature. They are large, wide at the base, and quite mobile with tuffs on top and curving around the sides that make them appear very pointed and lynx-like. Maine Coon kittens go through a stage when they look like two ears with a cat underneath.
The Maine is not a grooming problem. The fur is short on the head and shoulders getting gradually longer down the back and sides ending with full britches and rather shaggy belly fur. The undercoat is heavy enough to make the coat feel substantial and full bodied but the coat still flows and lies down.
A Maine Coon is not fully developed until it is about three years old. Watching kittens change from cute but rather nondescript balls of fur into the beautiful, elegant adults they will be is fascinating. One week you have a fellow with a short body and skinny tail; then, suddenly, he is a nice long rectangle sporting a magnificent, full, bushy tail!
Today, the Maine Coon is becoming a familiar sight in show rings across our nation. Cat lovers are discovering, as New Englanders have known for years, that this marvelous breed is a joy to live with.
WHERE ARE WE GOING? By Helen Wohlfort, ROSELU Maine Coons
Where Are We Going?
By Helen Wohlfort, ROSELU Maine Coons
Where is our breed going? Are we headed for obscurity again because we can’t make up our minds? Do we want the traditional Maine Coon Cat? Do we want the supposedly ‘feral look?» What do we want?
From all indications, no one person can answer all of those questions. Take a look at pages seven and eight in the Summer 1992 Scratch Sheet. Are all these types of cat supposedly one breed?.They certainly don’t look like it. No wonder judges in all associations are com plaining that we aren’t consistent. I agree!
I know that my opinion will not be the deciding factor on where the Maine Coon is going. I also know that my personal preference would be to go for the tradi tional Maine Coon Cat with a sweet expression.
I don’t have a photo the first Maine Coon Cat I saw back in about 1939. We do have a photo of Karen Jacoby’s Maine Coon Cat from 1948. He was a lovely boy with a shaggy (I prefer ‘graduated’) coat, large ears, a convex forehead and convex nose. He had a square muzzle. (As one old time breeder put it, the muzzle should look like a little box on the front of the face.)
Many standards now allow copper eyes in Maine Coon Cats. The old stan dards, written at the time MCBFA origi nated, did not allow copper eyes and even whites were allowed only green-gold or blue eyes. The beautiful green-gold eye required by the original standards and consisting of a green center surrounded by a gold ring has practically disappeared from the breed. Most Maines now have gooseberry green eyes.
The standard calls for a coat that is short on the shoulders and gets longer as it goes toward the cat’s rear. Nevertheless, we are seeing more and more cats with an overall even coat, which should disqualify them but doesn’t. For that the judges are also responsible since they put up cats that don’t meet the standard. By that I mean cats with short bodies, no snow shoes, no ear furnishings, receding chins,etc. They are quick enough to disqualify for lockets or spots, but not in any other area.
Whose decision was it that Maines should have fat whisker pads, the ruff around the face instead of on the shoul ders, and a grouchy expression that would be called ‘feral? A local breeder has begun calling them the ‘Mumps’ cats.
Why are the Maines now supposed to look grouchy? They didn’t originally! Is it so both the breeders and the judges can tell them from the Norwegian Forest Cats? Who decided Forest Cats should look sweet and Maines grumpy? Do we want our Maines to look like that? Well, I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not!
Has anyone, anywhere done genetic testing to verify that the Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest Cat are separate breeds? Kay Hanvey, an ACFA judge and one of our top geneticists says that ge netic testing would not answer anything as all Northern European cats have the same number of chromosomes. Is it just a matter of selection for head and body type and coat type? And what about the Siberian and now the Plume? All of these cats appear to be very similar. I believe it is time for some scientific profiles.
I don’t begin to know the answers to all of these questions, and I will probably have everyone mad at me for bringing them up. My reason for doing so isn’t for a popularity contest; my reason is that I am afraid that if we don’t do something to standardize our breed it will go back to obscurity as it did from the early 1900’s through the 1960’s.
One possible solution is for everyone to keep the type they like and develop a new standard. For example, a Forest Cat breed with divisions for Maine Coons, Norwegians, Siberians, and whatever else turns up under the class.
How many of you out there have many years of Scratch Sheets? I have them back to 1977, and it was enlighten ing to look at the pictures through the years. All the cats looked alike in 1977; in about 1982 a few different looks began to appear, and now we have a large vari ety of appearances. By the way, if anyone has Scratch Sheets from 1968 through 1976, I’m interested in buying them (but remember, I’m not rich!)
As I said, I just don’t know the an swers, but I do know that we must do something, and soon. Maybe we should take a vote?
THE SCRATCH SHEET- WINTER 1992
MAINE COON in Europe
MCS in Europe (Following is an excerpt from a letter sent to me by Pat Robbins. Thanks, Pat, for permission to print it.)
«I own, or I like to think I do, Maude Agnes Kittycat a grey shorthair who is rather nondescript in looks and would never be eligible for the feline DAR. Nonethe less, she is in charge and now tolerates my husband after four years (Maude is 6).
When we added Emily (Bo Chat’s Emily R) that was just a mild insult because we had a house and yard that was roomy enough for two cats to ignore each other. Then we were able to accept an overseas assignment and moved into the military family housing: a two bedroom apartment no balcony, no yard, no ‘nuthin’. After the indignity of taking her first tour of the continent in a wooden crate in a baggage compartment no less, we had really piled it on her!
Connie was here so Emily and Henry met. The result of that, naturally, was four lovely MC kittens. Unlike their mama, they are typical Maine Coons Big, dumb (really dumb), lovable, and hungry.
Maude spends her days ignoring them, searching for sunbeams in this miserable rainy climate, and complaining most vocally. The kittens (they are now 12 months old and not very kitteny) on their part don’t realize Maude is here since she weighs six lbs. dripping wet- and she usually is not even damp unlike her housemates.
The kittens love the water and it is not unusual to find one on each side of the kitchen sink watching the water drip, one in the bath room sink and one in the tub! Army plumb ing being what it is (old and cheap) our faucets drip no matter what steps are taken. Since the cats love it so much, we have quit trying to get it fixed.
I don’t profess to understand genetics but tortie & white Emily and silver mack Henry produced a classic silver, a black, a lovely smoke, and Hester, a bi-color football with feet. I am going to show for the first time over here in May and try to see if the Maine Coons can get a championship. The DRU group of clubs accepts them for championship showing but as far as I can tell only one neuter MC has ever been shown and that was quite a while ago.
Connie has joined the FIFE group of clubs. It is closer to her and seemingly affiliated closely with CFA. They do not yet accept MCs for champion status. I went with her to the Munich show last November and it was quite a production! However, I chose to belong to the other group since it is closer to where we live and there is no question about cham pion status. I attended one of their shows as a steward last year.
The stewards deliver the animals to the judges who are in a sepa rate room not accessible to the public. It is an interesting system. It certainly was an eyeopening experience since neither my husband nor I had ever done anything at a cat show but pay our money and look. The two groups, DRU and FIFE, do not speak to each. other and have restrictions about showing and breeding with the other group.
Connie and I plan to keep our CFA/ACFA registration and ignore this rather unpleasant aspect of European cat fancying. Besides, who else would we breed with!? All this is leading up to the fact that soon we hope to add to your show reports with good news from Europe. Since I have never shown MCs or anything else, and since I have little experience at this sort of thing, I cannot state for sure that the «babies» are going to win anything, but more knowledgeble folk than I seem to think that they are right good specimens.
The article on how much it costs to keep cats was most interesting. Locally cat food is poor quality and high cost, litter is astronmical, and vet services quite reasona ble. I am told that the doctor’s fees are regulated by the German government, although I have spoken to Americans that have paid outrageous fees. I assume there are «Park Avenue» vets here like anyplace else and they are no more reluctant to part a foreign er from his money than anyone else. The military has bet service of a sort. The pri mary purpose of the Army and AF vets here is meat inspection and canine corps care. What time is left goes to the pets. Shots are available and quite cheap. Rabies is endemic here and the shots are required for all small animals suseptible to the disease.
Stray and abandoned pets are a real problem. Many GI’s bring home a cute kitten or puppy and then just dump it when they find out how expensive it is to ship home. The military is unable to do any thing since it is German law being violated. The German police don’t usually get involved in the American commu nity unless it is really serious murder, etc. The local animal shelter is not fond of Americans!
Connie and I both try to keep supplied with cat food and litter from the Commissary. Our joint shopping trips cause a lot of interest in the lines at the checkout. Be cause the supply is so flakey, we notify each other when one of the nearby facili ties gets a good shipment of things – litter, canned food, etc. She comes up or we both go to Frankfort and buy, oh 200 pounds of litter or 10 cases of food.
We strip the shelves and constantly get the question, «How many cats have you got??». Since regs state a limit of two, we reply, «Just one, but its yellow with a long tufted tail». Usually that’s it, no more questions. Litter, incidentally, comes in IO pound bags nothing larger. And it is about the same price in the Commissary as it is in the discount stores at home. So is the food.
We pay no sales tax, but there is a maintenence and operations surcharge that is about equivalent, so no matter what you read, the commissaries aren’t much cheaper and the quality of goods is often rotten. At least they car ry a few decent cat foods. Connie has been a great help to me in getting started with all this and helping out with things. The cats, of course, just look upon all this as their «just due».
MAINE COON VIKING CATS?
Perhaps one of the most interesting letters I have received as secretary of MCBFA came from MRS.JACK BJØNNESS of JERSØY, NORWAY. I have gotten permission to quote her, and the following article is an excerpt from one of her letters.
«Here in Norway we have big shaggy cats we call skog-cats — — forest cats. They are however not wild cats, but descendants of tame cats, but are often pretty self-supporting. It is supposed that the Vikings had Persians from the middle east and shorthaired British cats, which they took home to their wives and children, and these shaggy cats are their descendants. The mixing has been going on for years.
The female skog-katt has a lovely little face… sweeter than other cats’ faces. The head is longer than that of the shorthaired Domestic. The coat is about half as long as that of the Persian. They come in all colors, and if I should make up a standard, I would insist on a white front! The ears are high, with Lynx tufts, and with Persian tufts. The whole cat is «tall», not cobby like a Persian, or even a good shorthair. But no one could say it is a slender cat. They are hardy have to be to live out in the kind of winters we have and this may have something to do with the development of the breed. The shorthaired kittens probably did not live through their first winter. Like most of the non-pedigr eed cats in Scandinavia, their tails are «too» long.
There are none of these cats in Denmark, and only a few in Sweden, on the border near Norway, where they are called «rugkatt». That, I suppose, means ‘rough and applies to the coat. The coat is not soft like the Persian’s.
I would say that most of the Norwegian cats in this area are of this type. At any rate, it is seldom I see a shorthaired cat running loose, and since most of the cats run loose here, it would seem that skog-katt predominates.»
Sounds like a facinating animal, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Skog-Katt and Maine Coon were very much alike!
VIKING CATS-MAINE COON ANCESTORS???
According to a report published in News of Norway, January 13, 1984, scientists are gathering data to prove the Vikings not only discovered America, but also established permanent settlements. This information has been gathered by studying varieties in cat populations in Iceland, the other Nordic countries, Britain and the United States. The studies have been conducted by Icelandic geneticist, Dr. Stefan Adalsteinsson and American scientist, Bennett Blumenberg.
The information gathered was fed into a computer, and it was determine that a type cat with features similar to those found in the original areas of Viking settlement was found in Boston and New York. Another test performed determined that these cats came from the time of the Viking settlements rather than the time of the British settlements.
Scientists have developed the theory that the Vikings brought their cats with them to America, and their cats bred with the local cats and eventually evolved into the current type.
MAINE COON CAT–OFFICIAL STATE CAT OF MAINE
Hilary Sangster contacted the Governor’s office for an update on the proposal to declare the Maine Coon Cat the official state cat of Maine. Special assistant, Maggie Cox said that Governor Brennan is very interested in the Maine Coon issue, not only as a fun topic but as a consumer protection issue. The Governor is very consumer oriented and sees educational issues such as this one on the Maine Coon Cat as a good way to make the public aware and guard against those breeders who are doing an injustice to the breed.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON PUSH TO MAKE MAINE COON STATE CAT’
Some members of MCBFA In Maine have gotten together to have the Maine Coon Cat declared the State Cat of Maine. Mark and Hilary Sangster have received a response to their proposal from the governor’s office saying that it will be considered. According to Carol Pedley several Representatives are willing to push for approval.
Here is an excerpt from Carol Pedley’s letter to us which explains their purpose behind this movement:
«We have reasons for wanting It to pass. Our primary goal is to protect the breed and to educate the general public about this breed which is a native to our home state and named for the same. Unfortunately there are some ‘backyard breeders’ who are breeding mix breed longhairs Including colorpoint blood and calling them Maine Coons.
They clam the cats are registered, but they are only second generation. Often they are sold quite young and even without shots and in with bad health. We have received complaints from people who have unknowingly bought kittens from these people only to find that they had enormous vet bill’s to get the kittens healthy and then they discover that what they have bought Isn’t even a Maine Coon!! We have developed the Society of Maine Coon Cat Breeders here In Maine. Our goal again is to educate the general public. We will be pushing Maine Coon Breeders and Fanclers for Information and membership. We will offer two telephone numbers for people to call here In Malne for Information on the breed and the names and telephone numbers of legitimate breeders within the state.»
We have not had any more news about this project, but hope to have more In the summer Issue. If you want more Information, contact Mark/H1lary Sangster, P.O.Box 154, Scarborough, Me. 04074 or Carol/Tom Pedley, RR1, Box 453
NOT WITH OTHER BREEDS Maine Coon cats protection
«…And Protection of the Maine Coon Cat»
by Lynne Sherer
Vice President, MCBFA
«CBFA’s motto has always been «For the promotion Land Protection and of the Maine Coon Cat.» Promotion of the breed is something which all Maine Coon lovers do quite willingly. Back in the early days, this wasn’t so easy.
Maine Coons were virtually ignored in the few associations where they were al lowed to be shown. There were very few of us breeding and showing at that time. Sue Servies and I were both showing Maine Coons in ACFA in 1973 in cities just a few hours apart and did not learn of each other until several years later. When I went to buy my first Maine Coon, I travelled from California to Idaho to find one.
In 1976, CFA recognized the breed for championship status and with all of TICA’s formation in 1980, the currently active associations sponsoring the breed. Now, part of cat shows recognize Maine Coons are a very visible most shows in all associations, finalling regularly and receiving regional and national wins in all associations.
Even the game show «Jeopardy» recognized their popularity, stating that the Maine Coon is the most popular pet cat in the country (this was related to me by someone who has one of me my cats). Maine Coons are often featured in books, magazines, greeting cards, and even on TV with the appearance on the «Today» show last March by Mt. Kittery Katahdin of Donnahugh.
It seems that the time has come to focus on the protection of the Maine Coon Cat. It is inevitable when something becomes popular, people will try to cash in on this popularity without having the welfare or betterment of the breed in mind. Many of us who are members and officers of MCBFA work behind the scenes to be aware of potential problems and try to do something about them before they become serios featured an article about a new breed called the American Bobtail.
This breed has an appearance something like a Siamese, but with a curled/kinked tail. In this article, the author stated that the Maine Coon an acceptable outcross for use in the de velopment of new lines. Since this is not accurate information, our MCBFA President at the time, Sue Servies, wrote a letter to the magazine clarify ing this error and this was printed as sort of a rebuttal.
She also wrote to CFA and TICA (the two associations indicated in the article as accepting this outcross) to be sure that they still had the correct information the Maine Coon is not an acceptable outcross in this breeding program.
Summer 1994 Scratch Sheet
Concerns From the Orient
In 1991, when I registered my first Maine Coon in the Tokyo Cat Club (a TICA branch in Japan of which I am a member). Her registration number was only 56. When I registered kittens born in my home last November, the first one was given.I am sure that the Tokyo Cat Club may have the largest registration in Japan. It means that the number of Maine Coon registrations in the club has in creased more that six times in less than 2 years. It clearly shows how the Maine Coon is strongly admitted and loved in Japan, but on the other hand, problems arise in proportion with such a trend.
I have been breeding the Maine Coon in an orthodox way, in support of the intention of MCBFA, and for the purpose of better understanding the Maine Coon, so that I can protect this wonderful cat. Problems have arisen that surpass my ability of counter measurement. I need your assistance.
First, as far as I know, TICA prohibits breeding between the Maine Coon and the American Curl, but currently outcrossed cats that may be called the Maine Coon Curl are sold in great numbers mainly in pet shops. Is this type of breeding approved? I don’t think so, but not sure. When I asked a chair person of the American Curl Breeder Committee of TICA, she gave me a different answer.
I belong to TICA and know nothing about other clubs. Is there any kind of cat currently approved for outcross-breeding between with the Maine Coon? If no club is approving breeding between the Maine Coon and the American Curl, I would like to run an advertisement stating that such breedings should be prohibited. I would like to ask you for your contribution by posting me your signatures sup porting my proposal. Postcards with signature will be fine.
Some people run ads in our newspapers of «GRC» while their cats have not won a smallest bit of the GRC.
Others declare that they are MCBFA members while they are not. Some breeders are forcing deliveries on their cats as many as 3 times a year. A kitten having congenital defect is sold and the breeder is not responding to troubles arising after wards. Other people are importing cats saying that they will be treasuring those cats in their own home, but turn around and re-sell them for two to three times the purchase price.
Pet shops are deceiving breeders in an attempt to obtain appreciated Maine Coons–telling lies, using false names, that they will be caressing those cats privately has been more than four years since I started breeding. I have not only seen and heard these unpleasant stories, but also have acquired many wonderful friends thanks to the kittens. The number of people who sincerely love the Maine Coon is predominant in reality. I wish to take a first sten within my ability so that there shall no more be any un happy cat.
Sincerely, Mamiko Kawahito
There is no cross-breeding with a Maine Coon allowed from the Maine Coon’s standpoint. The other breeds– American Curl, American Bobtail allow it from their point of view. But if we Maine Coon breeders hold firm. to our ethics, they will be rele gated using Maine Coon «apparents».
A few years ago, a lady from Mt. Angel, Oregon who raises other exotic animals visited my cattery with an interest in breeding the American Bobtail. She wanted to purchase, or use some of our studs in her breeding program. She said, «Oh, we’re allowed to use Maine Coons as an outcross.» I told her that no reputable Maine Coon breeder would uld go along with that.
She wasn’t wash aware that it wasn’t a two-way agreement. I’m not sure where her breeding program is today, but now that she is aware, my but hope is that all you other breed ers are cautious of each person who approaches you to purchase a kitten.
Ms. Kawahito brings up a good point: People will promise anything!
NOT WITH OTHER BREEDS Maine Coon cats protection II
This is the statement from the ACFA Maine Coon Executive Breed Committee (Carol Lawson, Elizabeth Haeberer, Dorie Eckhart, and Judy Liggett) to the ACFA Board of Directors which was read at the ACFA Annual Meeting in Ft. Worth, Texas, August 21 – 24.
It’s important, be cause we must protect ourselves when the American Bobtail applies for NBC Status in ACFA.
«With the recent introduction of the American Bobtail it has come to our attention that the use of Maine Coons is permitted and encouraged as a viable outcross to obtain an improved specimen for this new breed.
As the Maine Coon is a totally natural breed, we are strongly opposed to the use of Maine Coons in the American Bobtail breeding program. We are also very much opposed to any reference in the American Bobtail breed standard to the use of Maine Coons as a viable outcross.
On behalf of the breeders and members of our Breed Section, we ask that if and when the American Bobtail applies for NBC Status within ACFA that this statement be taken into consideration.
Maine Coon Cats are simply not a viable outcross for the American Bobtail, or for any other breed».O Carol Lawson, Lawmaine Maine Coons, Chair, ACFA Executive Maine Coon Breed Council.
More on the Bobtail Issue
The following letter appeared on page 35 in the April issue of Cats Magazine:
Not in Standards
«There is information in a breed article, «The American Bobtail» which disturbs me very much. This involves a statement that the «decision to use» Maine Coon cats in the breeding pro gram will provide hybrid vigor. This leaves the reader with the idea that the use of Maine Coons is sanctioned by the breeders of Maine Coons and of the registering associations in the United States. Both ideas are very wrong.
The Maine Coon breeders have never been asked if they wished to bring hybrid vigor to this breed. The Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers’ Association does not sanction the use of Maine Coons in this breed. In fact, Maine Coons are not to be used as an outcross for any breed.
I have spoken with both TICA and CFA and neither of them would allow this outcross. TICA stated that Maine Coon cats were not men tioned in the standard presented to them by American Bobtail sup porters.
MCBFA has many new breeders and they do not understand when they receive calls from Bobtail breeders that the Maine Coon is not a legal outcross. We do not wish to have our cats used in any old way by others. We have worked hard to perfect our cats and we wish to have them stay the way they are.»-Suzanne Servies, MCBFA President
American Bobtail Alert, Part 2
Some of you may have been surprised after the «alert» in our last issue about the supposed out cross status of our Maines with American Bobtails. at the timeliness of Phil Maggitti’s Bobtail pro file in the latest edition of Cats Magazine.
As usual. Mr. Maggitti has written a devilishly entertaining and stylish piece. However, a morsel of information near the end certainly stuck in our craw: Maggitti says that the American Bobtail breeders are fortunate, because «the decision to include another native American breed. Maine Coon Cats. as allowable outcrosses for bobtails … should introduce a healthy MCO sure of hybrid vigor.»
Sue Servies says that it may be fortunate for them. but it certainly is neither fortunate or acceptable to us. She has written to Cats about this, and her letter on the subject will be published in their next issuc.
Meanwhile, it appears that when a new breed is created and a standard is written for it, the named outcross breeds do not have a say on whether or not they appear in the new breed’s standard for allow able outcrosses.
Therefore, the ball’s in our court. Every breeder member of MCBEA has signed the Code of Eth ies, and agreed that only registered Maine Coons will be used in in their breeding programs. In order to maintain the integrity of the Maine Coon Cat. we must all make certain that our cats are bred only with other Maine Coon Cats.
THE REX GENE IN MAINE COON
THE REX GENE IN MAINE COON by Di Everett, Kaiulani Maine Coons
Hampshire, England The first Maine Coon rexed in Britain was born, as far as we know, in our home in 1988. I remember the event clearly – I almost fell down the stairs in my haste to tell my husband about the peculiar wavy-haired kitten that had appeared among all normal. He kept reassuring me that he would look good once he was dry. It was not so.
As he grew older, he just looked more disheveled, and his character was second to none. He simply loved the world. He is now six years old and his owners adore him, no matter what he looks like. But he is an exception, as will be seen below. We have raised a total of four rexed kittens, from three different mothers, all crossed with the same male. Since then, I have collected as much information as I could about the appearance of rexed kittens, although there is not much to collect. In fact, I feel quite lucky these days, as I am confident that I know as much as possible, to know where the rex gene is located and can now be confident in my own current breeding lines. Out of about 4,000 records in Britain, we only have about 20 rexed kittens.
Perhaps this puts the problem in perspective. It’s not a big problem, as far as the numbers go. However, the nature of the gene is very worrying, or so it seems. Very few of the Maine Coon rexed survive to two years. In fact, I only know three. This seems to point to the fact that it is a semi-lethal gene, although this is unproven. The deaths could also be caused by environmental factors, such as the mother reacting poorly to the different coat texture and not paying enough attention to the kittens.
This could leave rexed kittens weaker and less able to fight infection than smooth-haired ones. In my experience, rexed kittens seemed as strong and lively as their siblings, up until the moment of their sudden death. The age of death has also varied, from a few days to almost two years. This leads to difficulties with the breeding experiment as, with this type of possible semi-lethal gene, statistically accurate results cannot be obtained, as the kittens could also be dying in the womb and being reabsorbed. This would lead breeders to believe that certain crosses are safe when, in fact, they are unaware of the rexed kittens conceived. Breeding experiments, while statistically reassuring, are not absolutely reliable. It is necessary to work only with litters of a large number of kittens to demonstrate the negative, using the incidence of litters with a lower than average number of kittens to point out possible «invisible» problems.
Clearly, this is not simple for the hobbyist. We are building a long list of things that we DO NOT know, but very few of which we know for sure. We know that two particular cats appear in every known affected pedigree, but even this is not a reliable scientific reason to avoid certain lines. It is not known whether the cats in question have ever produced a fully rexed kitten. The owners are apparently completely unaware of the existence of said gene, so again we hit a dead end. We know, and can prove to our immense relief, that the gene did not originate in Great Britain. We also know from tests that I was fortunate to have performed by a well-known geneticist in this country that the gene is not Devon Rex, nor is it American Wirehair.
A brave Cornish Rex breeder is doing experimental breeding for us, but to no avail. It almost seems that the two genes are totally incompatible, since pregnancies do not occur, but this could be pure coincidence. We ourselves were able to test one of our carrier females on a Cornish male. We had two straight-haired kittens that showed nothing at all and I was not about to go through with the experiment! From the beginning, I have endeavored to avoid involving cats from particular breeders, until a single cat actually produces fully rexed kittens, at which point now, due to a decision issued by the Maine Coon Cat Club in Great Britain, that cat has a name and is added to our acquaintances list. The rumor and innuendo have been dire, and people have been «blacklisted» for no reason. It should be remembered that until a cat has had curly-haired kittens, it cannot be assumed that he is a carrier of the rex gene. If the gene is a simple recessive, then any smooth-haired cat with two KNOWN carrier parents has a 66% chance of carrying the gene.
A smooth-haired cat with a known carrier parent has a 50% chance of carrying the gene. But any cat with a completely rexed parent TENDRY to carry the gene. That is, IF the gene is a simple recessive! There is no evidence that it is [simple recessive]. It seems to behave like one, in the sense that the father and mother of curly-haired kittens have, until now, always had some questionable common bond in their pedigrees. But this will not necessarily always be the case. Some highly skilled people have put forward the idea that it could easily be a genetic EFFECT, that is, a visual effect created by two or more totally unconnected genes sitting at a certain position on the chromosome and having an effect on each other that of it suddenly produces waves in the coat.
I’m trying to follow up on this right now, it would be wonderful to call some university or professor and ask them to do a definitive blood test on the cats to give us an instant answer. Unfortunately, there is currently no such test for cats, none that we can access anyway. I have had extensive discussions with two British geneticists and the «animal reproduction expert» at one of our most respected universities in the veterinary field and they have been unable to find anything. We could do some tests for chromium, but it still wouldn’t show us which genes were located in which location. Another dead end. This article, as always when it comes to the rex gene, has become a catalog of negative points.
I only regret that there is nothing simpler and more positive to say. It seems that the only way to eradicate the gene now would be to apply a very strict sterilization regimen, taking perhaps two or three generations on each side, plus siblings, of a known carrier. In practice, this would certainly do no more harm than good, as many totally unaffected cats would be lost, many of which would be very valuable to the progress of the breed. It should also be noted that most breeders do not care at all about this gene until it happens to them.
Then the Third World War breaks out! Try not to let it happen to your breeding community. Take it easy on this miserable gene. With patience we will get to the bottom. We have an expression in England that says, «Hurry up, slow down.» That is exactly what I am trying to do. If you have ANY information about the appearance of a rex gene in the Maine Coon, PLEASE contact me and tell me, in complete confidentiality, if you wish. It can still be used to add to the general profile of the gene. Likewise, if there is something you would like to ask me about, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will try to answer any questions.
Di Everett Euling Cottage List of known Rex gene carriers as of March 22, 1994 Published and freely distributed by the Maine Coon Cat Club, the Rex Gene Subcommittee, consisting of Di Everett (chair), Daphne Butters, Barbara Rouse, and Tony Wilcox
- -Patriarch Silkoon Cascade
- -Adixil Tara Loo
- -Caprix Marvelous Marvin
- -Cloverwood Double Truffle
- – Patriarch Dexycoon
- -Chesara Lady Tabatha
- -Kaiulani Silver Cirrus
- – Belujondra Bathsheba
- – Snoshu Durbeam Brimstone
- – Kaiulani Tasha
All owners and / or breeders have given their permission for these cats to appear on the public list. Other people’s cat names have not been used to avoid indiscriminate blacklisting of certain lines. (Editor’s note: Linda Koehl at The Dalles, Oregon is trying to introduce a new breed called «The Dalles LaPerm» into TICA. From a group of cats she kept on her farm, she started having curly-haired kittens.
We saw several in the shows last year. The coat is very soft and of medium length, not as short and tight as the Cornish or Devon Rex. The type was similar to the Maine Coon, but the size was smaller. I had some that had the color Siamese. The reason we mentioned this is because it was something that was shown spontaneously, the work of art of «Mother Nature», no one is to blame, no one should be ashamed. If anyone is interested, you can contact Linda at 2945 Dry Hollow Rd., The Dalles OR 97058. Phone 503-296-3589) In response to Ms. Everett’s article On the rex gene in some UK Maine Coons, I can offer more information to reassure her and other readers.
A lot of work has been done to promote rex gene emergence research at the University of London, where I have a research position. The rex gene has been found to be a malignant autoso (any chromosome that is not a sex chromosome) recessive from Maine Coon rexed kitten breeding data … numbers of which are slightly higher than she has stated . There is no evidence to consider any such multigenic effect; while there is no reason to contradict simple Mendelian genetics, it does not seem to make sense to look for complexity.
In reply to Ms. Everett’s article
About the rex gene in some UK Maine Coons, I can offer more information to reassure her and other readers.
Much work has been done to promote research into the occurrence of the rex gene at the University of London, where I have a research position.
It has been discovered that the rex gene is an autosomal (any chromosome other than a sex chromosome) recessive from the breeding data of rexed Maine Coon kittens … numbers of which are slightly higher than she has stated.
There is no evidence to consider any such multigene effect; while there is no reason to contradict simple Mendelian genetics, it does not seem to make sense to look for additional complexities.
From analysis of the coat of rexed Maine Coons, the coat type, which lacks guard hairs, is consistent with the coat of the Cornish Rex breed, with the exception that the coat is longer than would be expected in a semi-long-haired cat. However, the unusual length of his whiskers remains somewhat puzzling.
In discussing with my colleagues, we are of the opinion that there is no reason to suggest the existence of a semi-lethal gene found in rexed Maine Coons and absolutely no evidence of in utero resorption. In fact, if this were the case, rexed kittens would only be born from very large litters and our statistical findings would be less predictable.
The cross-breeding experiments being coordinated at the university in an attempt to eliminate suspect carriers have been controlled under very strict guidelines, i.e., using results from litters larger than the CFA Maine Coon average of 4.15 and the results are accurate to within 99% confidence.
It may be of considerable relief to the writer that, although cat chromosome maps have been around for several years, we hope to locate the first gene , although this is still a few years away … in fact, a rex gene would be an ideal starting point since its effect is easily identifiable . Naturally, if any MCBFA members have more information, I would appreciate hearing from them.
Amanda Thomas B.Sc. Overseas Director, England
German rexes were imported to the USA in the early 1960s and it is conceivable that some of the smooth-haired progeny went to homes as pets and were allowed to breed with local cats. That gives enough time for the gene to enter the Maine Coon foundation cats in the 1970s and the slight differences in gene expression would explain why the results of the cross with Cornish Rexes gave inconsistent results.
David Brinicombe first became involved in 1993.
Scratch Sheet 1994 winter -1995 sprinG MCBFA
The History of Maine Coon Rex
By David Brinicombe
The History of Maine Coon Rex
In the late 80’s, in the course of some line breeding with a good Silver line, Maine Coon Rex first made its appearance in Britain. It popped up on some other lines as well, and what happened since is an object lesson in handling recessive genes.
The initial reaction was horror at the appearance of these oddball kittens. Where had they come from and where were they going? Were they outcrosses, deliberate or accidental? The stage was soon set for controversy.
The original discoverer acted commendably. Test mating was done with Devon and Cornish Rex. considering what was to happen later, this was a brave move. There is always a lot of resistance to crossing pedigree breeds, and, with Maine Coons, all outcrosses are unapproved. The outcome of these limited test matings was negative to inconclusive, but they indicated quite strongly that Maine Coon rex was not a result of a recent outcross.
Pedigree analysis and other research pointed to three cats which had been imported into Britain but this was circumstancial evidence only based on cats which appeared more frequently in rex pedigrees. Key cats were dead, neutered or unavailable for testing and nobody out of Britain was reporting any rex sightings. The pattern of inheritance was clearly recessive rather than dominant, which makes it difficult to be certain about inheritance paths.
One test which has never been done which is essential to be more certain of the genetics involved is a rex to rex cross. This is needed to indicate whether a single recessive gene is involved. This is often assumed, but is not certain. The appearance of rexed Maine Coons varies widely, encompassing fairly tightly curled coats to almost straight hair and this indicates that more than one gene is involved. However, I have a theory which might explain this while assigning the basic rexing to a recesive gene, but might also relate it to an essential Maine Coon characteristic.
The late Roy Robinson was extremely helpful as he usually was in all matters concerning cat genetics, and he suggested that rex may be caused by an incompletely dominant gene as there are a number of anomalies in the traced pedigrees. This is where the trouble bagan. Some likely inheritance paths included cats which were claimed to be «rex Free». Wild theories began to spring up.
A crucial decision had to be made. Was the known information to be made public, shared between affected breeders or, or should it be kept confidential? This is a question which arises any time an inherited defect appears. How it is handled is crucial.
The first option, to go public, seems sensible and scientific. The only problem is that many cat breeders are not either sensible or scientific. Half understood or totally misunderstood genetic principles are used to rubbish other breeder’s cats or to promote their own. The simple mathematics of dividing by two is not appreciated and any cat with any supposed carrier in its pedigree is marked down as a carrier itself although its risk factor may be acceptably low. Breeders panic about their breeding stock being declared tainted and nobody wanting their kittens. The pressure not to tell is overwhelming.
Option two, to tell just the breeders who may have affected animals may seem to overcome objections of an overall panic. Except, once it is known that some people have the information, it is very difficult to tell the others they can’t have it. This option accord with the noble British Art of Compromise which has stained history from the early Colonists to the present day. Most of the World’s trouble spots today have had a British finger poked in the pie at some time or other, but I digress. I am an ex-colonial type. There is a worse option than this one – see below.
Option three, to keep everything under wraps, is still not the worst option, At first sight it seems the most pragmatic. What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over. Much. It’s pragmatic till you involve cat breeders and their grapevines. Gossip abhors a vacuum and invention fills the vacant ecological niche. With this option, the combination of ignorance with invention is very productive and I will forebear from reproducing the most lunatic of the theories that were invented.
There is of course a fourth option for those who are able to anticipate the dilemmas inherent in the first three, but it must be taken up from the very start. Option four is to declare the new gene a minor problem and acceptable at a low incidence level. This defuses all but the most virulent troublemakers and, if everyone could have the gene which didn’t matter anyway, nobody’s cats will be rubbished by invented stories.
One of the more damaging was an accusation that an early breeder had deliberately or accidentally (which is worse? – cluck cluck) crossed Maines with Cornish Rex. This also assumes that that breeder falsified pedigrees. Apart from the testing which failed to astablish a link with Cornish, this breed looks nothing like a Maine, and nothing that looks like an outcross or throwback has ever been seen. It was convenient that a certain breeder was by now out of the running and could be safely slandered.
It is however impossible to completely eliminate a rumour like this, like a recessive gene, and one can only hope to reduce it to less harmful levels. I am not suppressing information by not listing the even sillier ones, but if anyone really wants to do more lasting damage they will have to take the trouble of inventing their own malice, like computer virus writers.
But just imagine the glee of the Conspiracy Theorists when a cat which later proved to be a rex carrier turned out to be called Cornish Cream! Boy oh boy.
Did I say I had the answer? Nope. Such is the way of smartypants. But I hope I can make out a case for how not to do it and here comes the worst option of all – option three followed after a suitable interval by option one. Oh what fun you can have if you are not involved!
I first got involved in 1993, when I took over a huge queen and her eight kittens from another breeder. I did not know at that stage that the father of the litter, Cornish Cream, was a rex carrier, and if anyone did know, they weren’t saying. Option one was in full force at that time.
Factoids were leaking out thick and fast. I had heard of rex by now but was confused by conflicting disinformation and decided to make my own decisions. My new litter was doing well and two lads in particular were catching my eye. A sister was a lovely pale silver and I didn’t know Maines came that pale. I studied the pedigree long and hard and concluded that any cats that I had heard were associated with rex were a long way back and the risk was very small. I kept a boy with white boots and the silver girl and sold the big tabby as a stud.
I made no secret of the fact that I had selected these three for breeding with the assumption that they were low risk. The clucking tongues at that stage still didn’t reckon rex was a disastrous problem – not yet. Nobody but nobody came forward to say I shouldn’t use these kittens, but I kept asking. A rumour surfaced that Cornie may have fathered two rexed kittens by an unnamed queen but it was only a rumour and any information reliable enough to take action over was not forthcoming. With hindsight, those that knew just weren’t going to say, and they still haven’t said.
Then the axe fell. One particular rumour monger who I have no time for came out joyfully with the news that Cornie was a carrier as he had fathered another two rexed kittens. I checked back with someone who was very reliable and she said she’d heard it too. I had not handed over the young stud by then but had cashed the cheque. I cancelled the sale and returned the money.
Now I was in limbo. Cornie had been sold and the loudmouth told me he was about to be neutered. I tracked down the new owner and pleaded for his entirety over a whole weekend, but he was neutered. I gathered they were really upset by being told that their new purchase wa a rex carrier and I could only sympathise although I saw the last chance of verifying his status disappear. Cornie has fathered a number of top show winners and I am still upset that a cat of his stature was lost to the Breed. No point crying over lost whatsits.
I set out to tell of the history of Rexed Maine Coons but in the context of (mis)handling unwanted genes. The above digression could be repeated and has been repeated with other genetic abnormalities, faults, defects, whatever you like to call them. But what you call them or how you rate them is important. Refer to Roy Robinson’s book and he gives two «acceptable» levels for genetic abnormalities, 5% for less serious ones and 1% for severe ones. I had assumed that a curly coat was a nuisance that would be better not there, but not nasty enough for elimination to 1%.
Roy was the High Priest of Cat Genetics, and I love the common sense in his book. While it’s open, Let me quote: «Instances are known […] where a much admired and widely used animal has subsequently been found to be a carrier of a recessive anomaly». On the nose! «Inter-breeding […] will ultimately bring into being a rash of the same anomaly.» Rush out and buy this book! «Breeders may suddenly find themselves confronted with the twin problems of preserving the breed and of eliminating the gene causing the anomaly.» Prophesy indeed!
In Britain it seems some breeders hadn’t read Roy Robinson. On the basis of one or two unexplained and unautopsied early deaths, the «rex gene» was declared to be deleterious and the «post nutritive substance» was set to hit the cooler.
After having operated secrecy option three for long enough for the rumour mill to get into full production, full disclosure option one was invoked and a list of known carriers published. Breeders with any of the listees in their pedigrees were targeted and their cats rubbished. Many gave up what had ceased to be a happy hobby. Others imported «rex free» stock. The reputation of the original British Maine Coons was brought to an all-time low. The rumour mill had burst into flames.
At the same time, in 1994, it was decided to neuter all known male carriers but only to restrict known female carriers. All other cats were free to breed on. There was one exception made; males could be kept entire for test mating.
Details of Cornie’s rexed kittens never surfaced and it became likely that the second two kittens reported was just a retelling of the original two. I decided to test mate Cornie’s son, the boy with the boots, now a magnificent big untarnished silver tabby who would become Grand Champion Addinlo Meddybemps. I didn’t need to test him, but it seemed to me the responsible thing to do. He proved to be a carrier and I stopped using him except for test mating. This also gave the final evidence to prove Cornie was indeed a carrier.
I still have Meddy’s sister who has been tested to well below 1% risk as is Meddy’s son, and these two have given me the first UK true Shell (Tipped) Maine Coon, a red girl, (MCO ds 12) in the UK. This is a vindication for all the trouble I have had clearing rex from Cornie’s excellent silver line which is otherwise lost to the breed.
Meanwhile, the Club has announced that no more rexed kittens have been born. Problem beaten? Hang on a bit.
Elevate your knuckles from ground scraping level to about brow altitude and think. How many male carriers are now in use? How many female? The answers are: almost none, and quite a lot, respectively, It takes two to make a rex, so if all the carrying studs have been eliminated, no rexed kittens will be born to carrying queens.
Hang on, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, surely? Not at all. If there is a sprinkling of carriers across the breed, estimated at about 10%, male carriers will show up much more quickly than queen carriers. This is because studs meet many more partners than queens. Queens have about six to eight matings in a lifetime, often to the same stud, but a popular stud could be doing his best work once a month for six years, mostly with different queens.
Put all this together, and it is unlikely that a queen will ever meet a carrier at random, while a stud is very likely to mate with one or more carrying queens so male carriers are very likely to be shown up and eliminated.
This policy of eliminating male carriers does nothing to limit any unknown female carriers or to stop them passing on their rex genes. But surely the proportion of carriers halves each generation? Yes, but if more than two kittens per lifetime are used for breeding, then the total number of actual hidden carriers will go up on average each generation until they eventually resurface and cause a whole new rex panic in the future.
If you ban test mating, the last chance of ever discovering any new carriers is virtually nil, and any recessive gene is here to stay.
What would be an alternative policy? If you’re happy to live with the gene, say so from the start and tolerate the occasional affected kitten. At its peak at about 1% of kittens born, rexed kittens were well outnumbered by runts and kittens with worse anomalies. I believe I have shown that rex is a benign trait which does not disadvantage a domestic pet cat in the same way as other short haired or Rex breeds.
Allowing the occasional rexed kitten to be born at least allows rex to be tracked and avoided within the Breed. The preferred option to ban test mating is in effect a policy guaranteed to allow rex to reproduce unseen for years.
Remember option four above? Accepting the gene and deciding to live with it? If breeders had decided on this as a policy years ago, what a lot of acrimony could have been avoided! Breeding Maine Coons could have been a happy hobby for all and they would not have lost a first class Shaded Silver line.
Unfortunately, it is far too late to implement option four but it could have happened. The final irony is that I have heard that Rexed Maine Coons have been shown on the Continent and have been awarded certificates. What a beautifully healthy attitude to a genetic curiosity and what a contrast to our bitter and damaging attitudes in Britain.
Excerpt from The Book Of The Cat circa 1903 by Frances Simpson
And if that’s not a Maine Coon, there ain’t a cow in Kansas… ..Up to this point, I have been writing of the cats of the long, long ago and perhaps only interesting to myself, being as full of plain facts as Gradgrind.
Before coming down to some of the fine cats of the present day, I will say that am told by an eye-witness that on a little island quite well off the coast (of Maine) which is inhabited by only 3 families and where a few gentlemen have a quiet nook to fish in summer, they found pure white longhaired cats with the most heavenly blue eyes.
So far as is known, no other cats are on the island. I had the promise of a pair last year, but cruel fate had visited them in their sheltered nook and the kittens that year died. The promise still holds good and do not want to believe it is a «fish story.» Time alone can finish it. I really know nothing of the cats that are said to be found on the islands;but no doubt they are much the same as those found all along the New England coast.
For a long time, the long-haired cats seemed to be confined mostly to the coast towns and cities. But the giving of their best to «their sisters and their cousins and their aunts» have spread them inland, as well as scattered them over nearly every state in the Union. They thrive as well as any other long-haired cat. No doubt they do better in Maine, but the difference comes from the fact that they have the freedom of living natural life without dopes or over-coddling. Their off-spring are beautiful because they come from their own choosing and not from compulsory mating-often distasteful, no doubt.
About 1895 or 1896, the cat fad struck the Middle West. The time was ripe for its development. The high, the low, the rich, the poor have all felt its force, as the real love of animal pets is no respecter of persons and this fancy has made the whole world kin.
A few people who had never seen a cat show in their native land «go across,» attend cat show or pick up a cat at a bargain on the streets of London; they fetch it home and lo! their neighbor has seen something very like it while at their summer home on the coast of Maine. The fad is contagious and if they have the fever running very high, they send back east to their handyman to get them a long-haired cat and these cats become popular. Clubs are formed to discuss points and exchange knowledge, shows become a necessity, large premiums are offered, numerous valuable specials become a feature, cats must be found to fit them, the home market at a low figure is looked over, many attic treasures are brought out and have often tipped the scales in favour of the Yankee Cat.
We all turn green with envy. Before another show, we must import a ready-made winner at any cost! In the meantime, the demand for the home-grown article is increasing and prices are getting much inflated, the dealers in large cities keeping their buyers busy in the New England field during the fall and winter months. But the stock of kittens has been looked over by the summer residents or visitors; the real cream disappeared with the first frost to some winter homes in the big cities; the dealers get what is left at almost any price they have indiff to pay, many of the specimens being indifferent, and some, no doubt, mongrels pay.
In the last few years, have known less of the Maine cats, except through the shows and a few I have owned myself, which have not been shown much or shown remarkable in any way; but among the gems that have shown out with more or less brilliancy when on the bench, we find Cosie, a brown tabby, taking first and special for Best Cat in Show in New York, 1895. Mrs. Lambert brings out Patrique in New York in 1896-blue and a nice one. King Max-first brought out by Mrs. Taylor-won in Boston first in 1897, 98, 99, only to be beaten by his sire, Donald, in 1900.
Mrs. Mix has shown a fine Persian type from Maine called The Dairy Maid. I believe she has also Imogene from the same place, a tortoiseshell. Mrs. Julius Copperberg’s Petronius, of whom we all expected great things, was from a line of creams coming well down from a fine cream brought from some Mediterranean port by one Captain Condon about 15 years ago. I have secured for friends several kittens from his cat’s descendants, which are now some what scattered, but all showing great strength, form, bone and sinew. Mrs. Chapman’s Cusie Maxine, a fine type of brown tabby, dam of Young Hamlet, who won over his sire, Prince Rupert, was also a Maine cat.
Mr. Jones, of The Cat journal, has from time to time had some fine brown tabbies of the Maine stock, winners at some of the larger shows.
A fair representative of the whites, who has acquit ted himself well at the various shows in competition with large classes, is Swampscott, owned by Mrs. F.E. Smith of Chicago. He comes from Mrs. Georgia Thomas’ white cats of Camden, Maine, his maternal great-grandsire coming from France.
Midnight, a younger black cat, winning second in Cincinnati to a cat from New Hampshire in better coat, and second in Chicago in 1901 in large classes-has become a gelding and pet of Mrs. J.J. Hooker of Cincinnati. He comes from line of blacks owned by a retired sea captain named Ryan, who had at one time four generations of black cats.
They loved their cats like babies and for years looked for people suitable to give their kittens to. I have been the flattered recipient 3 times in the last dozen years of these beautiful black diamonds. Antonio, a gelding, now owned by Mrs. A.B. thrasher of Cincinnati, Ohio, is also a fine representative of this stock.
In the last few years, since cats there [Cincinnati] are at such a premium and old age getting nearer every day, these good people have hardened their hearts and now sell like others to the highest bidder. I can also think of Peter The Great, a neuter cream and white, owned by Mrs. Carl Schmidt, shown at Detroit, 1901.
Also Black Patti, originally owned by Miss Ives, and Rufus, both Maine cats, now owned in Detroit and winners in some of the Middle West shows; many, many other winners whose place of nativ ity is a sacred secret with their owners, which we will not willfully expose to public gaze until our native cats have been accorded the place that is due to them.
I would like to tell you of some of the handsome geldings in Maine. No cat is too good for a pet with them. They may be seen on nearly every lawn or stoop; but as that is a little out of the province of this story I will describe only one: a handsome smoke owned by Dr. and Mrs. E.A.Wilson at their beautiful home in Belfast, Maine. He is now 10 years old; his mask and feet are black or nearly so, his hair is very dark, rather brownish at the tip, but as white as snow at the skin. I have begged them to show him in Boston or New York. The answer is always the same: «Not for any amount of money or prizes. Tags wouldn’t like it; he would be unhappy. Wouldn’t you, Tagsie?»
The smokes have not been well developed there yet. In a letter received recently in regard to that variety, I am told that one of the regular agents said he found only one in about 200. The silvers and chinchillas are not common. The strong coloured predominate. Whites, blacks, blues, orange and creams, tabbies also being well divided and distributed along the coast and for quite a distance back, perhaps 60 miles or more; but I have not known of their appearing to any extent in the northern portion of the state, which is less thickly settled.
Having had this fancy from my infancy and before it became a fashion, I took kindly to all the new developments. I have since had some experience with imported and kennelbred cats and from time to time had opportunities of seeing the best we have in our shows. And I fully believe that cats that have their freedom, as most of the Maine cats have for the greater part of their lives, are healthier than kennel cats can be.
The cool climate and the long winters, with clean air full of ozone, is what is needed to develop their best quali ties and, with a few years of careful breeding for types, they would be able to compete quite successfully in an international cat show.
MAINE COONS CATS REVIVAL by Mimi E.B. Steadman
This article first appeared in the February 1978 issue of «ANIMALS» magazine. Many thanks to Mimi Steadman for allowing us to reprint her article.
Always partial to the native product, Mainers point with pride at the popularity of their bushy-tailed felines.
Maine’s Coon Cat Revival The eyes have it! Coon kitten Fog models distinctive wide-set eyes.
by Mimi E.B. Steadman
Exactly where he came from may remain a mystery, but where he’s going is clear: the Maine coon cat, a popular breed in the 1800s but practically un known outside his native state by 1900, is headed once again for the recognition he deserves.
The only truly American domesticated cat, the Maine coon’s origins are fogbound in Down East lore, with at least four separate legends enhancing the appeal of this long-coated, affable feline. A part of our colonial heritage, the coon cat was a common sight on the cobbled streets of eighteenth-century Maine seaports, most probably descending from bewhiskered stowaways on the tall-masted schooners that plied the umbilical trade routes between Europe, the East and the New World. Surefooted and carefree, ships’ cats earned their Animals passage by discouraging rats from pilfering valuable cargoes, and as ships put into ports throughout the world feline adventurers of many local varieties climbed aboard. What with the camaraderie of a long ocean voyage, Oriental cats and European cats who met over the grain sacks in the hold would soon become quite friendly. Such shipboard romances may very well be responsible in part for the evolution of the American Maine coon cat, whose genealogy may include the An gora, the Russian longhair, the English shorthair tabby and even small native American wildcats.
Whatever his roots, this melting-pot cat ap pears to be indigenous only to this country. His charac teristic car tufts and somewhat tapered face, reminiscent more of a bobcat than of the typical «pussycat» visage, have reinforced theories that he is descended from the cross-breeding of imported foreign cats and small wild cats that roamed the woods in the early nineteenth century. In fact, experts who favor this theory have conducted detailed genetic research to support its verity. Also inspired by the coon cat’s feral appearance, imaginative colonists are said to have attributed his imposing size and bushy tail, often marked with rings, to mid night matings between domestic cats and raccoons. Al though genetically impossible, the legend may explain the origin of the cat’s name. Another popular tradition, however, maintains that coon cat forebears were brought to this country from China by a Captain Coon, and it is from their human «sponsor,» about whom next to nothing is known, that they took their name.
Still another intriguing story brings in the star crossed French queen, Marie Antoinette, whom history has surprisingly linked with the coast of Maine. Before she lost her head, the queen planned with an American sea captain, Stephen Clough, to escape to the bustling port of Wiscasset, Maine. Her furniture was indeed brought to Wiscasset, where a house was set aside for her. Some students of coon cat lore maintain that Cap tain Clough also took along the queen’s favorite long haired cats, and that today’s coons are descended from them. The house still waits on the bank of the Sheepscot River, but it offers no clue to the authenticity of this legend.
Paralleling the claim by some historians that the Scandinavians were the first white men in America is yet another coon cat theory. In Norway today there is a sturdy breed called skog-katt that in size, coat I facial features bears a resemblance to the Maine coon cat. Some experts maintain, then, that the coon’s ancestors were brought to this country by Viking fishing ships ex ploring America’s northeastern coast.
Their bushy coats perfectly suited to the New England climate, Maine coons quickly assimilated themselves and by the 1850s they were contentedly warming their big tufted paws by many a hearth, their seafaring days behind them. They were not pampered pets, however, and many were counted on to earn their room and board by keeping the barn rodent population in check. Numerous stories of coon cat service above and beyond the call of duty have sifted down from those early days; even today, Mainers enjoy perpetuating such tales about their very special cats. One account that is «took for true» by Down Easters tells of an exception ally responsible coon that kept his human family from starvation by bringing them fish he’d caught through ice-crusted waters while the head of the household was off in the Revolutionary War. Another eyewitness re port details the considerable dexterity of Maine coon cats in catching fish off the docks of Castine.
Whether or not the coon cat is capable of such feats, he would certainly do nothing to dispel the rumors. Obviously under the impression that he can do just about anything he sets his mind to, the self-assured coon cat has unswerving confidence in the world and his place of honor in it. The perennial kitten, the Maine coon bounds through life, wide-eyed and friendly. «A coon cat is like a freckle-faced kid with snakes in his pockets, while other cat breeds are more like teenagers who don’t think anyone else knows as much as they do,» says Marilis Hornidge, a Waldoboro, Maine writer now busy preparing a book on the breed.
When she asked coon cat owners to list three adjectives that ac curately described their pets, one woman replied:
- very self-assured.
- but not stuck-up about it.
Straightforward rather than slinky, bold rather than elusive, the coon cat has few adjustment problems when he settles in with a family-he simply assumes that he is the privileged character, regardless of how many four-footed family members there already are. But coon cats don’t acquire this position of top cat (top dog?) by brute force; they’re merely quite expert at duping other pets into thinking that they are indeed special. Truly social animals, they enjoy the company of other pets and often seek out playmates, taking it upon themselves to initiate games of chase and tumble.
They’re also quite demonstrative of their affection for other pets. A certain gray coon kitten named Fog who joined our menagerie last spring immediately adopted our spaniel puppy as his mother and curls up for a nap between her outstretched legs whenever possible. He shows his attachment to our Siamese-cross by sitting down next to her, stretching his paw across her shoul ders and giving her a careful grooming. After a few minutes, though, his enthusiasm usually gets the best of him and loving licks become playful nips, much to the displeasure of our elegant Oriental lady.
Proud of their handsome, intelligent cats, nine teenth-century Mainers were soon getting together to compare their pets and compete for prizes. Out of these informal gatherings in the 1860s came the first cat shows in this country, giving the Maine coon the considerable prestige of being the first show cat in America. As more organized shows were held in New York and Boston, the Maine coon traveled south from his native state to earn «Best Cat» awards time after time. Richelieu, a Maine coon owned by a Mr. Robinson, was a consistent winner in shows in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Bangor in the early 1880s. Grace Pond, editor of The Complete Cat Book, mentions Leo, a Maine coon tabby who took top honors in New York in 1895 and repeat edly in Boston until he was deposed by his son in 1900. The first volume of the registry of the prestigious Cat Fancy of America lists no fewer than twenty-eight champion coons.
And yet, despite his award-winning and heart winning ways, the Maine coon was elbowed out of the spotlight by growing enthusiasm for more exotic breeds, such as the Persians and Siamese that were being im ported to this country in increasing numbers around the turn of the century. By 1904, the Maine cat was all but invisible outside his own state. Books on cat breeds written during the first half of this century seldom men tion Maine coon cats, and when they do, it is only in passing. Most authorities during this time would not consider the Maine coon a true breed, although many, like Frances and Richard Lockridge, in Cats and People, concede that he is «considered by owners to be without equal in all that makes for delightful cats….» Says Marilis Hornidge, «People in Maine are quietly stubborn about their opinions, particularly on the superiority of native products, and are not likely to be swayed by current vogue.» They kept their Yankee secret, happily sharing their homes and hearts with their big fluffy cats, often called shags in their home state.
During these years, few formal breeding records were kept, but in the early 1950s the Central Maine Cat Club was formed to provide a registry and shows for coon cats, and to work toward establishing an acceptable standard for the breed. By the 1960s, several other organizations had joined the effort to once more establish the Maine coon cat as a nationally-recognized breed. In more recent years, the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association has become the standard bearer.
Unlike dog breeders, who must gain recogni tion for a new breed only from the American Kennel Club, cat breeders must petition nine separate organiza tions for acceptance. Slowly, through years of diligence and carefully controlled breeding programs, the Maine coon cat’s patrons have reached their goal. Appropri ately enough, the old and established CFA, largest of all nine bodies and last to re-register the Maine coon, awarded this all-American cat complete show-breed privileges in the bicentennial year of 1976.
What exactly does a Maine coon cat look like?
Well-known for his imposing size-fifteen to twenty pounds solid, muscular cat about average-and his long coat, the Maine coon is often thought by the unin itiated to be any large, long-haired cat that isn’t a Persian. This notion has also served over the years to rein force the opinion that Maine cats weren’t a true breed. On the contrary, the show standard makes it clear that a coon cat doesn’t resemble other long-haired cats any more than a Siamese resembles a garden-variety, domes tic short-haired cat.
Although the standard has been purposely kept free of exaggerated points that have caused problems in other breeds, the show requirements are strict enough to allow for a clearly defined type. The medium-wide head features high cheek bones, a square muzzle, and a straight, slightly elon gated nose. The large ears, wide at the base and tapered to a point, are set high and far apart and have striking, bobcat-like ear tufts that curl out to the sides of the head from within the ears, and are often complemented by tufts on the ear tips. The arrestingly large eyes are wide-set and angled. They are green, gold or copper, ex cept in white coon cats, which may have blue eyes or eyes of two different colors. The tall, muscular body stands on wide-set legs that end in very large, round paws with distinctive tufting between the toes.
Although A chatty cat, the Maine coon talks to his people, to other pets, and often to himself as he bounces through his day. His vocabulary is extensive, from in quiring mews to declarative meows, with an extra fillip particular to coon cats-a trilling chirp that sounds somewhat like the voice of a young raccoon. This curi ous sound is usually uttered in transit-a sort of music to race about to-and is often a warning, «here I come,» as he streaks across the room in hot pursuit of a hapless fly, a sleeping owner, or his dinner dish.
Taking most things in stride, Maine coons do not appear to be overly concerned about visiting dogs. I’ve watched Fog calmly wash his paws while being eyed by a setter eagerly straining at her leash, and Elizabeth Eastman reports that the mere appearance of one of her hefty coons was enough to convince a black poodle that jumping into an open car window was the better part of valor.
If you decide to take on such a formidable fe line, there are two ways to go about it. The first is to adopt a so-called «come-by kitten.» If you live or visit in northern New England, stop by humane society shel ters and keep an eye peeled for «free kittens» notices along country roads, in local newspapers and on public bulletin boards. (The other day, I was reading about coon cats while my clothes tumbled at the laundromat and I happened to glance up to see «free shaggy kit tens» posted on the wall just above my head. In this area, chances are good they were coon cats.) If you know what you’re looking for, you should be able to pick up a good example of the breed in almost any color you choose. As the breed increases in popularity, however, free coon kittens will probably become harder to find.
If you live elsewhere in the country, or if you want a kitten bred from show stock, you’ll have to go to a registered cattery. The Maine Coon Breeders and Fan ciers Association lists member breeders in twenty-five states as well as in Canada and Germany, and Elizabeth Eastman will be glad to send you the complete listing if you write to her at RFD 2, Brunswick, Maine 04011 (please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope). For a kitten whose genealogy is carefully traced back at least three generations, you should be prepared to pay about $75 for pet quality and as much as $150 for a kit ten intended for show. Acutely aware of the problem of pet overpopulation, the association insists that all pet coons be neutered. To insure continued quality of breeding strains, they require that show stock be bred only to other registered Maine coons.
Whether he comes from a long line of cham pions or a long line of country cats makes no difference to a Maine coon cat. Regardless of whether his parents ever saw the inside of a cat show, there’ll be no question in his mind that he’s a real champ.
GOLDEN MAINE COON CATS
SCRATCH SHEET 1991
Letters to the Editor
Re: Barbara Truitt and Lee Polk
Dear Editor, «golden» tabbies This has been on my mind for some time actually, but it took some a combination of things to make me write this letter.
The first thing was the experience I had recently at a German show where the judge told the owners of a brown mac with white kitten that I had bred that his color had to be changed to «golden» – because 5 generations there were 3 silver tabbies in his pedigree (Heidi Ho Sonkey Bill, et. al.) and, of course, he is a beautiful warm brown boy! ….then what is a golden? It is simply, no more and no less, a nice warm brown tabby.»
Never mind the fact that his parents are a brown clasic and a blue classic with white! The second thing, and last straw, was the Truitt-Polk letter detailing their similar experiences.
I would like to state, first of all,that based on my research there is no «golden» gene. That is, there is no specific gene for «golden» as there is a specific gene for, say, a dilute tabby or a classic tabby or a solid. Therefore, genetically, a «golden» cann cannot exist. As I understand it, the popular explanation for «goldens» is that they are some of recessive of the silver (Inhibitor) gene.
Well, the silver or Inhibitor gene (I) is dominant; and any genetic book on cats will tell you that the recessive for silver (i) is non silver.
It is not «golden». Even an amateur such as myself can look at two genotypes (and in t the case of silvers, phenotypes as well) and tell which is and which a silver (II or Ii) and which is a non silver (ii).
Silver is dominant: therefore it must show when it is present; and when it is not present, you have a brown tabby (or a blue tabby or whatever but it isn’t silver).
Perhaps a better way to understand this is to look at something all breeders are fa miliar with: dilute (dd) and full color expression (DD or Dd). If two black cats carrying blue (Dd) are bred to four Littone will gether, one in four kittens will be blue (dd).
However, if two blue cats (dd) are bred together, all the kittens will be blue. Why is it so difficult for otherwise intelligent and sensible breeders to apply this simple genetics law to the silver/golden question? One more point here: a black cat carrying blue looks no different from a black cat who is not carrying blue. The same is true for a silver carrying non-silver, so I am afraid «goldens» are not possible that way either.
This being the case, then what is a «golden»? It is simply, no more and no less, a nice warm brown tabby. Breeders have been been trying for generations consolidate the polygenes to which which give us this warm brown; now that that they have done it, everyone is calling it «golden»!
Polygenes are are groups of genes which, by themselves, can’t accomplish much; but grouped together in incremental concentrations (as in selective breeding) There is something that disturbs me in almost every issue and I’m writing to try to get some additional information will enhance color genes. The best way to understand their effect is to look at the difference between a show red tabby and an alley-cat red tabby. The alley cat is usually closer a marmalade yellow; the show to a tabby has a deep, rich, warm red mahogany color.
Yet these two cats, color genetically, are identical. However, polygenes have only acumulative effect and are notoriously touchy (just ask any Persian breeder of red tabbies!).
I would welcome an exchange of information on this subject. I would like to ask all «golden» fanciers two questions. First, how can silver, a dominant gene, «hide» for four or six or even ten generations and then «create» a «golden»? This is against and principle all natural laws and principles of genetics. Secondly, if «goldens» truly exist then one ought to be able to breed two «goldens» together and produce silvers. Well? Anyone?
For anyone who would like to pursue this further, I recommend The Book of the Cat, edited by Michael Wright and Sally Waters, Of course, ,any cat book with genotypes will show the curious that there is no «golden» gene.
And to Barbara Truitt and Lee Polk: do not change your kitten’s color. He is genetically a brown tabby and hopefully soon some of these judges will sit down and read a book on genetics before they head to their next show. You as the owner and certainly the breeder ought to have the final say on your cat’s color. I have as a breeder refused categori cally to change the registered color in this situation. And, of course, good luck!
Audra Macmann Rheingold Maine Coons
In response to the letter from Audra MacMann I have gathered some information from a friend who breeds golden persians. I too have seen so-called golden Maine Coons in the show hall and have declined to inform the exhibitor that they look nothing like what is being shown and accepted as the golden Persian.
The obvious type difference aside, a golden Maine Coon and a golden Persian should be the same color.
The main point I would like to convey from my talking with golden breeders is that goldens DO NOT come from breeding brown cats to silver cats.
I hope you will be able to reprint a portion of the enclosed article, particularly the portion that explains that goldens are a result of breeding shaded silvers to black cats and then breeding those offspring together to get golden and silver cats, in the case of the Persians, with no tabby markings.
That is not to say that there aren’t golden tabbies, but that the desirable color is an overall golden cat with black tipping.
(Ed.: The following is excerpted from «Golden Prose», by Christopher Bock [I was unable to contact Mr. Renteria for the name of the publication this article came from]. (The remarks are from R.M. Prose of the Netherlands.)
«…Indeed, you can make easily a Golden without using an existing one. When you put a solid color into a Silver line, you are introducing the tool to create the Golden gene.
When you outcross a Silver… all the kittens are Shaded Silvers and all carry the Golden gene. Use preferably black or blue as solid color, as Silvers and Goldens are black-tipped. Introducing a red or cream is totally useless to make a beautiful apricot underground color. A Golden is genetically black and introducing cream will only give Golden Torties…
…My conclusion is when you want to make a Golden, use only black and blue as outcross. Well, let’s come back to the making of the Golden.
1st generation – Silver x Black gives – Silver kittens w/golden factor.
2nd generation – Two of these kittens together (or one of these kittens with the same outcross of another line) give Silver and Golden Kittens. …
You can never mistake a good Golden Tabby with a Brown Tabby. To breed a Golden Tabby, you must use a Silver Tabby as outcross….» While we are on the subject, I also tire of hearing about so-called blue silver cats.
The cat is either blue or silver, there is no such thing as a blue-silver! You can never mistake a good Golden Tabby with a Brown Tabby.»
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