5. Maine Coon Cats
Maine Coons, referred to as gentle giants and the “dogs of the particular world” are the most popular cat breeds today. However are also among the oldest! Likely descended from cats brought over for the Americas by Vikings, or later European sailors who docked at ports in 1700s New England. Genetic testing has indicated that Maine Coon cats are actually descendants of Norwegian Forest Cats as well as a mysterious, now-extinct domestic cat.
Another surprisingly old breed, the Chartreux were thought to have originated France dating back to 1558, where it had been mentioned in a very poem by Joachim du Bellay, called Vers Français sur la mort d’un petit chat (French verse on a tiny kitten’s death). The poem reads:
“Here lies Belaud, my little gray cat,
Belaud, which had been one of the most handsome perhaps
That nature ever produced in cat’s clothing.
This has been Belaud, death to rats.
Belaud, to be positive his beauty was such
That she should be immortal.”
By far the most enduring explanation is that the Chartreux’s ancestors, just like the Turkish Angoras, were feral mountain cats with the Middle East. Throughout the 13th century, it’s thought merchants or Crusaders brought the cats to France. Once in France, the breed was continued by Carthusian monks at the Grande Chartreuse Monastery in southeastern France.