Notes On Our Own Account
Dear customer and Maine Coon lover!
You might want to take notice that we have included some foundation offspring to our breeding program for a while now. Certainly it's not everybodies taste and not every breeders way.
Having been watched for a long time with shaking heads and mildly belittled by breeder collegues abroad it slowly becomes "fashion" for more and more breeders to own a foundation cat.
Unfortunately there are also, so to say, "black sheeps" amongst the breeders working with foundations. Not always is it a foundation what is claimed to be a foundation. Not every so called foundation cat or foundation offspring is it in reality.
If interested in a foundation offspring please check parentage very carefully, if somewhat in doubt don't hesitate to ask some other foundation breeders about the possible origin of the cat/kitten in question.
One plea to you (if either pet lover or breeder): For the sake of our beloved breed dispense with those breeders. Do not support the possibility of false pedigrees finding their way into our breed.
The following breeders will be pleased to help you with your questions:
What are foundations? Why are they needed? Where do they come from?
In cat breeding there occure repeatedly trends in accordance to meet a momentary desire or a taste. Preferences for a rare color or certain features guide breeders activities in quite distinct directions. Not always is this to the benefit of the breed in common or the individual cat in particular.
"Tobey", Maine Coon, from the "Book Of The Cat", 1903 (Court.B.Kus)
When first imigrants settled down on America's northeast shore and brought in the first cats certainly nobody thought about making them to a breed. They simply lived there, cought mice, rats and other animals and did what cats usually do: they reproduced themselves. Sailors brought all kinds of animals from their voyages and gave them away to family members. This is certainly the most likely way how longhaired cats entered the continent. The longhaired cats bred with the local shorthaired cats and soon were longhaired kittens found in "ordinary" litters too. The settlers realized very quick the better equipment of the cats for the strong and harsh climate and very fast it took place to have longhaired cats at his homestead.. The foundation for the Maine Coon was formed. Nobody thought about a genepool nor made himself headache about inbreeding. The cats were allowed to breed free, only limit: it should be longhairs.
In the "Book Of The Cat" (1903) a certain Mrs. F.R. Pierce wrote that "...when I was a child I already owned one of these longhaired cats which were called Maine cats". This remark tells us that as early as about 1850 the longhaired Maine cat was considered a "breed" amongst the inhabitants of Maine. However, it lasted another 100 years until in 1955 the Maine cat was rediscovered as "Maine Coon" and as an interesting breed for cat breeders.
The main thought in every breeding is homocygosis. You only can make a "breed" if you rule out the influence of hybridization. The difference between a genuin breed and a pedigreed breed is: the free bred animals are due to the many different genes (hybridization) robust and immune to most of the germs and infections. They have a very strong immunesystem! In a pedigreed breed it is tried to make particular traits through homocygosis to breed-specific traits. This you can get only through inbreeding (linebreeding). You breed related animals which carry the same genes to get homocygous genes. The more homocygous an animal is the more "breed specific" it is - and the more its immunesystem decreases. The originally robuste immune breed becomes a sensitive animal, susceptible to any illness. Most of the deseases which affect our cats nowadays is not only by pure chance, bad luck or environmental....
50 years passed by since the attention of the cat breeders was drawn to the native Maine Coon cat, which differed so much from other inbred breeds. 50 years, whilst it was tried - with the common practice of inbreeding - to create a particular cat which meets a certain cliché but don't have so much resemblance with the original native carrier of the name.
Outcross... What's that?
Still to find in Maine: origin Maine-cats
The term "foundation" is quite confusing, isn't it? Let's try to simplify: In the beginning of the Maine Coon breed there were several different foundation lines. Those were the lines our whole breed since its recognition through the different Associations was founded on. In the effort to give the breed a standardized appearence a few of the foundation cats were overused. Ended up with the fact that almost all of our nowadays used breeding cats are to a very big part based on only 5 cats. Go figure! Hundred of thousends of Maine Coons all over the world, only based on FIVE cats! You might imagine what this fact means to the genepool (the totality of genetic traits of the cats used for breeding). The more homocygous a breed is the smaller the genepool, the smaller the genepool the more increasing the healthwise affection of the cat due to decreasing of the immunesystem.
When the consequences of the narrowed genepool became more and more clear some breeders decided to dare a big step and started to cross in new foundations into the existing lines to increase genetic diversity and strengthen immunesystem. Foundation cats of the original Maine Coon type are still found on the farms in the northeast of America. It costs lots of time, money and effort to find them.
We presently have only very few foundation breeders in North America. They don't always share the same breeding practices, but most of them have one major thing in common: They are working hard to create valuable outcross for the breed on a continuous basis (Outcross is a breeders term for introducing new unrelated lines in existing inbred lines to increase genetic diversity and strengthen the immunesystem)
We are very fortunate that the stud books for the Maine Coon are still open in the ACA (American Cat Association). This allows us to broaden the effective population of our breed - a very important process to fight immune related and genetic problems.
Early foundation generations are often not great looking examples and need fix-up in type and size, which does not bring much glory to the Cattery. Very few people have decided to make themselves vulnerable and make their foundation projects a public matter for the sake of the breed.
So what is an F 1 or F 2?
An F 1 is a first generation Maine Coon foundation cat. This cat can be found in the wild, on a farm or can be obtained from a private home or shelter. None or only one parent of an F 1 is known and registered.
An F 2 is a second generation Maine Coon foundation cat where both parents are known and registered.
An F 3 is
a third generation Maine Coon foundation cat where both parents and both grandparents
are known and registered.
An F 4 is a fourth generation Maine Coon foundation cat - and so forth.
You haven't to mix up the "F 1" with the rules of Mendel - cat registration bodies follow their own logic. Mendel means with F 1 "first filialgeneration", this is the first generation after the parental generation, which is with Mendel the foundation generation in a new line. So means Mendel with F 1 in reality the second generation whilst in cat registrations F 1 means "first foundationgeneration" and marks the very first registered cats in a new line.
Nowadays foundation: Prairiebaby Draw Me I Will Run, F-3
Also, reading pedigrees of foundation cats turns sometimes out a big guessing game, as long as it was issued by a german speaking club. ACA (American Cat Association) is the only association where studbooks for Maine Coon foundations are held open, i.e. where foundation cats of the first generation (with unknown parents) can be registered. Following the common trend those clubs (mostly independent) allow to transfere ACA-pedigrees. Unfortunately - it wouldn't be our old Europe, if we wouldn't try to make these rational pedigrees a bit more "beautiful". While we read in ACA pedigrees very objective at the parents of an F-1 "unknown", we find some mysterious remarks in german pedigrees, because how does a simple"unknown" look? Therefor they thought about some better, more noble and elegant expression. And now we find - depending on the club and/or the phantasy of the studbook - in these pedigrees following details of origin: "Foundation", "Wildstock" or "Eastern Stock". No confusion, please! It's not a new hierarchy of the cat-aristocracy. It means all the same: parents of this cat are unknown. The expression "Eastern Stock" just wants to stress out: this cat originates in the northeastern of USA.
Here in Europe we have not so much opportunity to work with cats of F 1 generation, except you have trustworthy friends in America who are willing to go for a search for breed-typey cats. Also it's not easy for the european breeder to build up a foundation project in an useful manner. After years of fighting and discussing with the lobby of the so said "Showline-breeders" the thought about introducing new fresh blood into the existing lines had sunken in into some breeders, but it wasn't to prevent that a lot of them see the introduction of foundations of the higher generations (F3 to F 5) as a fashion gag. Not every breeder who claims to work with foundations or to want to introduce foundations does it in reality or does it in an useful manner. What is the introduction of one single foundation cat of use, if the breeder mates the offspring of this breeding back to inbred lines again and again?
For better understandig of the principle I like the comparison with the raspberry syrup.
Take a glass
of water - it resembles the present condition of the Maine Coon genepool.
Now you have a bottle of pure origin raspberry syrup. Thick and very sweet you won't drink it pure. This syrup symbolize our foundation cats.
You put a little bit of the syrup into the glass of water and you get a nice, refreshing drink.
Now add another glass of water to the mixed drink - it now will taste a little bit flat.
You add one more glass of water - now the previous refreshing drink is quite watery - has a pale color at the best.
If you add again a glass of water to the present mix you will not taste anything from the pure raspberry syrup yet. Although the water contains the syrup the effect is gone, lost in too much water.
Exactly the same happens with the foundation cats in many catteries: just used once, but the offspring is used with linebred cats, and those offspring too, and so on - after the third or fourth time we are at the same point as in the beginning of our example. The only ray of hope is: on the way to this fourth generation after the foundation was introduced a few (or a lot?) of kittens from each generation will go into breeding and therefor will help to increase genetic diversity and strengthen the immunsystem of the breed at least for a short time...
© 2002-ff, by Waltraud Novak
* * *
I'll thank Judith Schulz of Prairiebaby Cattery, Canada, dedicated breeder of new foundation lines, to allow me to use some phrases of her article about breeding foundations. To read at: http://www.prairiebaby.com/
About ancient foundations read more at: http://bowen1.home.mindspring.com/mchs/home.htm
To see pictures of ancient and newer foundation cats go to: http://www.pawpeds.com/MCO/ancestors/
© by Waltraud Novak, 2002 ff