Immediately after the drafting, a commentary on the FIFe standard was published by the leading author, Nina Weigel-Tichy, also the leading representative of the former IG Maine Coon of the German representative 1.DEKZV e.V., which is still interesting and very noteworthy so many years after the drafting and which clearly explains what the authors of the standard had in mind when it was drawn up. In my capacity as Breed Council Secretary in 2012 - where necessary - I also added or annnotated something, since small things had changed.
So we believe that reading this might give every breeder, which association he ever is affilated, a greater understanding in the Standards and Features of our breed.
The commentary on the standard began and begins with the size. The standard features "large" - where earlier it was "medium to large" - and not that a cat must be at least 120 cm in length (which one measures incidentally from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail) or must weigh 18 kilos.
This also means that a medium-sized cat does not automatically have less chances in a competition than a large cat. I can hear the question already: "But what exactly is a large cat?". And I would answer: "It all depends!".
All-important is that the cat has a large frame, as is said of horses and also of the Maine Coons. Just as important is a substantial bone structure and a hard-muscled body without any fat. The weight is entirely unimportant, because it adjusts itself according to the body dimensions and mobility of the animal. And that can vary greatly without any loss of quality.
We have already mentioned the fact that since January 2001, the old "large to medium-large" agreed at the FIFe GA 2001 now only reads "large". And Eric Reijers, FIFe General Secretary, remembers:
“I want to add that I personally feel this was a big mistake and also said this at the General Assembly; in my opinion it is very bad to give a breed "one mandatory size" and take away a range for well sized, or medium sized cats, you sacrifice blood lines and limit the genepool which is always a bad thing.”
and referred us to the following much more correct preface to the Maine Coon Standard of the SACC in South Africa:
"The Maine Coon was originally a working cat, developed through a natural selection process in the woods and farms of New England. The Maine Coon is solid and rugged, able to thrive in the rough, woody terrain and the extreme north-eastern US winter climates. The cat has a well proportioned and balanced appearance with no part of the cat being exaggerated. Quality should never be sacrificed for size. With an essentially amiable disposition, companionable and playful nature, it was adapted to many varied environments."
Note in particular the sentence: "Quality should never be sacrificed for size." "Big" is also written in the standards of Norwegian Forest Cats and Ragdolls. And with the mentioned Siberians, as with the British Shorthair cats, "medium to large" is the size indication. In reality all these breeds are of course about the same size on average. But now a Norwegian Forest Cat, as well as a Siberian Cat - which is "generally rather smaller" - should be "somehow" smaller than a Maine Coon - just like the Ragdoll. In this respect I can understand the motions of the FIFe, on the other hand - as I said - even a medium-sized Maine Coon is a "real" one. And, see above: "Quality should never be sacrificed for size". The fact that the change of size would encourage the breeder to "grow bigger" and the corresponding ill-considered consequences have apparently not been taken into account: too much size can also lead to serious health problems.
The head must be in proportion with the body size – if too small or too large, the cat appears unbalanced. One sees this often when the cat experiences a growth spurt: the animal almost looks as if it has been stretched in length and everything is somehow out of proportion. This phase naturally does not make correct judging any easier.
The head should have a square outline wherever possible. The cheek bones must not be angular. Cats cannot have a rectangular body, as it is sometimes described, because there are no right angles in nature. We sometimes see Maine Coons whose heads look as if somebody had put them together from a DIY kit and didn't have enough time for the final touches. Such animals are not up to standard because they are also unbalanced.
"The gentle concave slope" of the nose in profile is gentle to varying degrees and is judged by judges very individually. Some tomcats have a "slight bump on the nose" after the slope which according to the authors of the standards is tolerable.
It is more difficult with the gently curved forehead. The authors reflected for a long time, but found no better description. Maine Coons namely have more of a flat forehead than a curved one. The authors merely wanted to prevent some breeders from breeding Maine Coons from now on with extremely flat foreheads. It is perfectly acceptable if a cat has no pronounced curves here, and if a judge criticizes this, it is not totally correct but is also not wrong either.
A Maine Coon with a long head looks like a representative of another breed. Medium length of face and nose does not mean a medium-long face and a long nose. As mentioned above, everything must be balanced. This breed has its own face with what was earlier called an owl-like expression. If the face reminds one of a Siamese or Oriental, then perhaps it is one.
On the left you see a correct, standard profile, on the right one that is definitely wrong and does not show a clear straight line of the profile. Do you see the difference?
There seems to be consensus among the standard authors about the shape of the ears. Having said that, it has been remarked with regard to the lynx-tufts that those owners whose cats no longer have them naturally do not attach as much importance to these lynx-tufts as those who are proud of them and even know to the exact centimetre how long they are. They should be present though, because they are a characteristic feature of Maine Coons. If, however, anybody advertises that he or she is a specialist in breeding this characteristic feature, then one should count these people out of the circle of serious breeders.
Above all the ears of young cats are set high on the head. The mentioned exceptions for older tomcats are that due to their wider heads, the ears "grow out to the side".
The earlier standard dictated that the ears must be placed "at least" one ear's width apart. In an attempt to make everything somewhat better, the ears shifted so far to the side as a result of breeding efforts that they were suddenly almost centred on the cheeks, and they also became smaller from generation to generation. At the time, the authors simply summed it up succinctly with "Ears should be placed one ear's width apart."
"And hardly was it written in the standard that the ears should be large" – according to the original text of the authors in the commentary – "all of a sudden they could not be large enough quickly enough. Why on earth must everything always be so over the top. Who said that cats should be able to glide with their ears?" Balance is the name of the game! These gigantic ears – seen so often these days in young animals but also in older animals – are neither attractive nor useful, nor do they correspond to the standard. Is it really necessary to stand out from the crowd at all costs? It anyway never takes long before everyone has everything. The standard specifies large because the ears of Maine Coons were still only small Persian ears at the time the standard was revised.
The description of the base of the ears has something to do with the placement of the ears and is difficult to define. The authors thought that the formulation: "The lower base is set just slightly further back than the upper base" was one that members could go along with.
The "owl-like" expression would probably be the most effective as a description here. Many discussions were held on whether the straight upper eyelids of some cats that fall somewhat low into the eyes should be recorded as a fault. The authors then decided to include only the positive description which says that the eyes must be set as described" – everything else is a fault.
The sentence "any colour is permitted" was one that rankled the authors somewhat at the time. It is without doubt logical that any coat colour is permitted. But Maine Coon eyes are not gooseberry green, they have a green and a golden ring around the pupil. Many cats in the past still had such an eye colour, and one can still see it sometimes today.
At least something turned out well. The sentence that a clear eye colour is desirable was retained. The same sentence, applied to the coat colour and pattern, even if infinitely more important, was deleted by the FIFe judges at the time. A correction has meanwhile been made. In 2007, with validity from 01.01.2008, the distribution of points within Category II was amended such that it is now possible to also award 5 points for the cat's colour – this made the future course obvious: the colour of the cat should now also be worked on.
At this point, laying a particular emphasis on the power, strength and appearance is meant to remind one of the characteristic Maine Coon shape of this large cat. Fat and cute little bears should not be the breeding target here, but rather for the benefit of the substantial bone structure and muscles, a trimmed-down, long and large cat whose body seems rectangular in spite of the high legs.
Important here, too, as already mentioned under the heading general appearance, is that the overall appearance is in proportion and that all components – i.e. legs and body – result in a balanced appearance. An elongated body on legs that are too short is just as unbalanced as long, powerful legs carrying a body that is too short.
The same applies to the tufts of hair between the toes as does to the lynx-tufts and other functions not considered so essential in Europe. Naturally, there where they come from, these cats need their snowshoes. In other words, we want nice and long, thick tufts.
The sentence currently included in the standard prompted breeders almost immediately to breed cats with extra-long tails. This is a mistake, because the proportions are again thrown out of balance. An indication was needed, and what happened?
The judges pulled the cat's tail back over its head and if it doesn't reach, their judgement is "Too short!" One immediately wants to respond "Wrong!" "Where on earth do you see the shoulder blade on a cat?"
For the sake of all cats, we would like to make a request to the judges at this point to refrain from using the above-mentioned procedure for calculating the length of a cat's tail. This method not only hurts the cat but also generates an aversion to shows. It is perfectly sufficient to stretch the tail out to the rear at a slight angle, without having to pull on it, in order to visually estimate its length.
The specified length is as least as long as the body from the shoulder blade – not from the neck, not from the head and not from the nose – to the base of the tail. If the tail is longer, this is not a problem, but at the same time is also not a particular mark of quality that might perhaps sway a judge's opinion in the cat's favour.
The structure of the coat varies widely and is often dependent on the colour. The description is infinitely more difficult than the assessment. The authors were not happy with the formulation selected at the time and it needs clarification. They grappled with the entire text passage for a long time. Every word was weighed up, rejected, reformulated and discussed in numerous meetings. One can't really tell from the few lines how much work went into them.
The authors of the standard had quite a headache with the description "baggy trousers" or "britches". They had to overcome a fair bit of opposition and met with a great lack of understanding. But it is so, the baggy trousers or britches must extend right down to the ankles of the hind legs and not to the knee or just a bit below. According to those concerned, they were amazed at the persistence with which the knee was repeatedly asserted until they discovered that a lot of people thought the ankle was the knee. That is naturally no wonder. But on the other hand, a cat's anatomy is really a basic component of breeding.
There were also discussions about the ruff or frill. There where they still abound, one should point out that in the case of the Maine Coon, we are not talking about sideburns but rather about a neck frill, which as the name implies starts on the neck and tapers down to the chest. Five hairs to the right and left of the neck do not make a frill.
A really special topic was translation into German and French of the English word "shaggy". In the end, everyone gave up. Nina Weigel-Tichy remembers: "After having studied American literature and after close inspection of the coat structure, after questioning people who were complete strangers to the subject and after meditative reflection, I ultimately offered the FIFe "strähnig fallend", and they didn't understand where the problem lay and how anyone could wrestle so much with just one word. But we can see today just how important it is, when Maine Coons are presented at shows fluffed up like teddy bears. Can anyone tell me here what still corresponds to the standard? A well looked-after Maine Coon has a shaggy coat when in motion. Judges who want these animals to be otherwise must first of all rewrite the standard."
The fact that today, Maine Coons are presented differently – in our opinion better – than prior to the millennium goes without saying. But the coat, its appearance and structure is still different than, e.g. that of Persians, and it needs also to be groomed differently. From that point of view, the comment made by Nina Weigel-Tichy still has a certain value.
One sees serious coat faults relatively often these days which are not criticized: the coat all of the same length – if we don't watch out, the Maine Coon will soon have a completely different coat.
Unfortunately, nobody was prepared at the time to include the request for unequivocal colours and coat patterns into the standard. But a correction has meanwhile been made in that in 2007, applicable from 01.01.2008, the distribution of points within Category II was amended such that it is now possible to also award 5 points for the cat's colour – this made the future course obvious: the colour of the cat should now also be worked on.
"We fought a lot over this word", remembers Nina Weigel-Tichy in her commentary, "but didn't realise that we were talking about different things. We understood this to mean the especially powerful and healthy appearance of a Maine Coon in top form that radiated strength and potency. We wanted to achieve a decent supplement in points for this, but we did not succeed. All that we achieved was that an important sentence is in the standard, but cloaked in the wrong vocabulary and in the wrong place."
Here we see random sentences that were chucked out of the other categories but were not just arbitrarily deleted because the authors had justified their phrasing several times and wanted to be sure that the context was preserved.
It should perhaps be added to the muzzle category that it is not meant here that the cat has a lopsided face because it has one pronounced whisker pad. Two pronounced whisker pads are also not desirable and obviously a fault according to the description of a muzzle with a square outline
As far as the standards are concerned - which are being reconsidered in all associations at the moment to make them more precise in the best case and to adapt them to developments in the worst case - the commentary on the FIFè standard, which you find here also, can easily be applied perfectly well and appropriately to the Maine Coon standards of CFA, TICA and WCF and the animals and breeding efforts of the breeders organised there. Even though you may have found this chapter boring and difficult, despite all our efforts, these standards will accompany everyone throughout his life as a breeder, so it is important to know them. They are not only a guideline for the judges at the shows but - much more importantly - for you in your breeding work. The judges can only evaluate the animal that you have bred and exhibited on the basis of the standard. And even if you, like all of us, succumb to wanting to change the breeds appearance to "in your eyes better": always stay within the scope of the standard. One can't stress this often enough. There are already enough breeders whose breeding work gives the impression that they don't care about the standard and they would expect the associations and associations to change the standards according to their ideas, wishes and the often already "out of standard" animals.
As it is, Beth Hicks (Tanstaafl), one of the foremost breeders and judges in various Associations some years back did a wellknown and very thorough pictorial seminary how a Maine Coon should look. Despite that quite a lot of breeders seem to favour the very feral and overtypisied look without harmony nowadays we would like to refer back to this pictorial: THAT is the look of a Maine Coon. Nothing else: if it is overtypisied, it is out of standard. And no, amending the standard to the typ is not the way it should be. After all the standard is the guiding line, not the personal preference. Beth's work you find here: http://www.calitanmc.com/mcticamainecoon.pdf .