As implied in the name, this breed is endemic to North America and is the state cat of Maine, where it was first recognized as a breed. They are a product of natural selection in a cold, rugged environment – their large size, ample coat, thickly tufted ears and paws, and intelligence are all qualities that gave them a survival advantage. While popular in the late nineteenth century, they nearly became extinct when other long haired cat breeds were introduced in the early twentieth century. Fortunately, breed enthusiasts kept the line alive and they have become very popular pets again. These generously proportioned felines are cherished for their loyal, playful personalities, huggable size, and superior rodent catching abilities.