50 YEAR HISTORY OF THE MAINE COON BREED The Three waves of Foundation by Beth Kus/Dirigo copyright 2019 Beth Kus all rights reserved
50 Year History of the Maine Coon Breed
The Three Waves of Foundation
By Beth Kus/Dirigo Maine Coons
Copyright 2019 Beth Kus all rights reserved
The Maine Coon Cat attains fifty years of official championship acceptance in 2021 in CFF and five years later, 2026 will be the anniversary of acceptance in CFA. Championship status is now taken for granted as Maine Coon Cats are bred, registered, and shown in every world-wide cat association, but that was not always the case. This article explains the development of today’s registered breed from the three basic waves of foundation. The first crucial group forever set the style in the show halls; Maine-origin cats dominated the second group; and polydactyl foundations define the third group of foundation cats.
Maine Cats were shown “AOV” with plenty of far-flung enthusiasts, and one very early breed standard was published in 1956. Written by Dr. Rachel Salisbury,
( Wanaki) this standard was broadly based and allowed for the significant variation in the unregistered Maine Cats. That standard allowed too great diversity and later in the early 1960’s a small group of Maine Coon Cat devotees strived and argued and compromised and wrote a more definitive long-haired standard. Their goal of showing in championship classes, instead of “AOV, ” was actually very difficult for such a small group to achieve and in order to agree on a breed standard, it was necessary to promote a cat that could be standardized. In so doing, polydactyl Maine Coons were not included in order to simplify the acceptance processes . However they were bred and enjoyed from the start by Whittemore and Ljostadts and were included unmarked in early pedigrees.
This establishment of a registered breed as part of the provisional process was necessary before the granting of full championship status. This effort, begun essentially by early owners of Maine-origin cats, such as the Whittemore cats, soon spread as the number of registered cats had to grow. This group successfully convinced at least 4 cat associations to open the stud books for registry of Maine Coon Cats, CFF, CFA, ACA, and ACFA. This can be determined by perusal of some of the earliest pedigrees showing registration numbers of the foundation cats, and all four of these cat associations were used and involved in the earliest registrations! An example of this would be the pedigree of Zig-Krn’s Pretty Girl, in which she is registered in ACFA, but her ancestry is ACA registered and CFF registered. Other pedigrees, for example, CH Ktaadn’s Kokadjo Knight show a combination of CFA and CFF dual registration with grandparents Andy Katt and Bridget Katt of Heidi-Ho with ACFA numbers, and other grandparents, Fluffanutter of Ktaadn and Whittemore’s Chickadee with ACA numbers.
These dedicated people soon formed a breed club during the end of the 1960’s and got the word out among their acquaintances in the cat show hobby that Maine Coons could be registered and needed to be shown and bred to pedigree. Not all of the early group were breeders, and the first and earliest loose-knit breeders and fanciers group was a small number, likely under 10. Because provisional acceptance was denied in 1969 and 1970 by CFF and in 1971 by CFA, these first defeats motivated the earliest breeders of the first foundations to breed carefully and to keep as many kittens in breeding programs as they could, and to encourage as many others nation-wide as they could motivate, to register foundation Maine Coons and to breed them and to show them. At that time, CFA rules permitted F1, first- generation, Maine Coons to be shown, and it was important to establish nationwide interest and exhibition.
While this group concurrently pursued show acceptance in the four associations, perhaps CFF was the first to officially accept the breed in 1971 and after one more denial by CFA in the same year, the early breeders worked harder to increase CFA registrations and to motivate others to join in and to register more Maine Coon Cats.
The first registered cats of the 1950’s and 1960’s were primarily bred from Whittemore. One early Best of Breed winner was Lybe Christa’s Katy, a fifth generation Whittemore. In the 1960’s, Sonya Stanislow got the word and soon her Tati-Tan lineage was registered, with GrCH Tati-tan‘s Dauphin de France born 1967 and Tati-Tan’s Tatiana 1965. A petite and determined lady from New York City, Sonya took her cats to shows via train and on foot, carrying everything herself. Persian breeders snubbing the new breed as “barn cats” did not deter her.
Soon more outcross was needed. Friends and acquaintances began to register and breed cats as well, Abnaki, Pupuli, Tuffruff, Mladia, Yankeecats, Havenwood, Illya’s, and Le Beau Minu registered and worked with first generation foundation as a partial list. Some early breeders were located in the Western States far from Maine, and their efforts helped convince CFA that the breed had nationwide interest. The second line of catteries, such as Tomoka Oaks and Zig-Krns, primarily used a blend of Whittemore and Tati-tan, in combination with lesser known foundations, depending their location in the USA. Their kittens were spread among their trusted friends and acquaintances who worked well together toward the mutual goal of successful exhibition.
One prime example of this cooperation was the way that the Heidi-Ho foundation line was developed. Andy Katt had been born in Connie Condit’s home from a stray mother, but she needed a female to pair with him. A foundation female eventually registered as Bridget Katt was found. Their offspring from 1970 until 1978 all went into breeding programs in the more Eastern part of the USA, and when stationed in Germany the kittens stayed with European breeders and is responsible for the difference between the European-bred Maine Coons and those bred in the USA from the more broader base.
The Heidi-Ho lineage was possibly the most widely spread, and bred, foundation lineage, with exception of Maine’s Whittemore line, in the early decades of the Breed development. Eventually the offspring became known as “Clones” because of their similarity to each other, and were widely used in the early generations of the pedigreed Breed. Interestingly, the registered Maine Coon lineage in the far West and Mid-West of the USA did not include Heidi-Ho in the earliest generations as Eastern Catteries did.
There were a few exceptions, and some breeders, for example, Zig-krns, preferred the earlier-sourced cats and avoided Heidi-Ho. For many years, CFA preferred the more moderate, sweet look in top winning cats, and only after Heidi-Ho features permeated into the Western and Mid-Western cats , did it permeate into the championships of CFA and CFF.
Tati-tan claimed the first Maine Coon cat to grand champion by a few months, and her cats are among the Top Five. The Top Five are from the first wave of foundations and Clones came later but became very significant in pedigrees. This by now larger breeder group still enjoyed friendly peer acceptance and nearly all the cats were by then, somewhat related and becoming more predictable in type, due to the spread of Heidi-Ho. By the time that CFA closed its open stud book for the Maine Coon Cat, competition for rosettes was intense and top-winning cats were highly publicized.
The word and eagerness continued to spread to others who had true Maine Coon cats. These eventually became the second wave of foundations. A few dedicated people, either in Maine or from Maine, were registering and breeding their native Maine Coon Cats from foundation to pedigree. Their work had to transfer to CFF because it was still open. This became the second wave of foundations, done from mid 1980’s through the 1990’s; begun in the few short years just before CFA closed and before CFF closed. This work was often met with criticism and misunderstanding by “Top Five” breeders because of shorter pedigree and lack of CFA registration eligibility at first. The motivation for this group of people was affection and love of their cats more than the thrill of rosettes, although most if not all, did show their cats to championship when eligible. The welcome in the show halls for this group was chilly at best. They were greatly outnumbered in breed clubs and outvoted in order to close stud books. Eventually some clubs and associations instituted the rule that in order to Champion, a cat had to final. This virtually eliminated the newer foundation lineages from competition. This rule solidified the use of “Clones” and “Top Five.”
Because of discouragements and difficulties, the second wave of foundations are among the more rare components in today’s pedigreed Maine Coon. These catteries include Kris-caj/Kris-ki, Lynart, Garfield’s, Whalesback, Choate and Dirigo, all from Maine. The last two, Choate and Dirigo began their work in CFA during the last part of the first wave of foundations, but were undiscovered during that time.
The third wave of Maine Coon foundation work is ongoing, and very interestingly has included the newer polydactyl foundation lines. These cats have come in through ACA in the US and Western Canada, but Dirigo’s earlier 1980’s second wave polydactyl foundations were registered in CFF . The third wave dates approximately from the year 2000. Happily, the third wave of foundations found knowledgeable world-wide breeders becoming more aware of need for healthy outcross. Increasing interest in the Polydactyl Maine Coon has resulted in most new third wave foundations being polydactyl, and has resulted in a more welcoming attitude as they spread world-wide. Thunderpaws, Four Paws, Sebagomist, Elegantcoons, Katail, all from Maine, Masterweaver, also known as Prairebaby, (Eastern and Central Canada) and Kumskaka, (Michigan) later registered Praylyne and Behold (Southern US) make up the best–known third wave catteries.
Now the more exclusive clubs are mostly disbanded and the “anti-new foundation” prejudices are nearly gone. Internet pedigree research is now available world-wide.
Internet chat groups are active and communications are more friendly. Facebook has become a friendly tool for communication about type, breeding questions and kittens, enabling breeders world-wide to communicate and share expertise and knowledge.
Breeders are aware of coefficient of inbreeding, Top Five and Clone numbers and seek to
continually improve the breed of Maine Coon Cat. As the majestic Maine-built Clipper ships sailed the vast world, the breed of Maine Coon Cat has found its place in virtually every country and corner of the world.
copyright 2019 Beth E. Kus/Dirigo Maine Coons
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