A common folk myth in the Northeastern States is that the Maine Coon breed of cat is part raccoon. The legend is fueled by the breed's appearance, because they have quite a few traits similar to the wild animal. They have long, bushy tails that sometimes have ringed patterns, they have distinct tufted ears, they are excellent climbers, and-- by far the most obvious of the similarities-- they're very large, with males commonly weighing over twenty pounds and extending nearly three feet long ( counting the tail ).
This theory, however, falls apart when analyzed biologically. Raccoons are too genetically distinct from felines to be able to cross-breed. A similar theory about Maine Coons being part bobcat is also flawed; though bobcats are genetically closer, they are wild animals that would more likely treat a domestic cat as a meal than a mate. Another folklore-based " theory " is that the ancestors of Maine Coons were six long-haired cats sent to America by Marie Antoinette, as she planned her escape from the French Revolution. But even though that is genetically possible, the likelihood that six domestic cats would survive and reproduce enough times to create a distinct new breed is slim to none.
The most commonly accepted theory is that they're a crossbreed between native shorthaired cats and longhaired cats brought to America by foreigners. This is not proven, but sturdier logically than the other myths. And it speaks better of Maine Coons; why would someone want to compare these beloved gentle giants to the ill-tempered, dangerous raccoons?
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A freelance writer/cartoonist living in LA, with my fiance' and our wonderful cat. You can see my work at www.rubysworldcomic.com and rubynation.smackjeeves.com