The true origin of the Maine Coon is unknown, however, there are many folklores and theories revolving around this, the oldest North American breed of cat.
One of these theories involves Marie Antoinette. That's right, the Queen of France, who in 1793 was executed. The story is probably only that, a story. However, it adds one more piece of mythology to an amazing breed of cat.
The story goes, that prior to her execution, Marie made an attempt to flee from France. Her cousin, Captain Samuel Clough, was recruited to help her. Marie's more prized possessions were loaded onto his ship, this included six of her cats, Turkish Angoras.
While, these weren't Maine Coons yet, unlike their owner they reached the shores of the US safely. Landing in Wiscasset, Maine they mated with Norwegian Forest cats. Over time this mixture turned into what we know today as the Maine Coon.
As I said pretty outlandish. But there are other stories, just as imaginative, for example the one that involves Capitan Charles Coon.
Captain Coon was an English sailor who enjoyed raising a long-haired breed of cat. When h would dock in the New England port, his cats, like his sailors would go ashore.
Upon setting foot on shore his cats would mate with the local population of feral cats. Over time, when more and more long hair kittens began to appear the locals referred to them as Captain "Coon's cats".
I will be the first to admit that the last story is probably just an old seaman's joke. But the next one is even more absurd and can truly be referred to as a folk tale.
As people began looking for explanation for the Maine Coon's appearance they struck upon the idea of a cross species mix. While genetically impossible, the story began to circulate that the modern Coon cat is actually the result of pairing between a semi-wild domesticated cat and a raccoon. To many this probably explained two things, the origin of the name and the cat's raccoon like look. Since the cat's most common coloration is brown tabby, it sports a rather bushy tail, and it washes it's food before eating. Ok, I am joking with the last similarity. But the idea of pairings was a common one and since the raccoon didn't quite fit people began looking for another one.
This time it was genetically possible, and had even been known to happen before. Domesticated cats have on occasion mated with wild bobcats. This may not seem like a very likely occurrence today, but think back over 300 years. This would explain several unique characteristics found in the modern breed, one of these being the tufts of fur seen on many Maine Coon ears.
There is one more theory about possible cross breeding, this draws again on seafarers of old. If this really was due to a cross between an English sailors long-haired cat and the common short-hair, Captain Coon could very easily be the father of this interesting breed. Another accepted combination is with the Norwegian Forest cat. The story goes that early Viking explorers brought their cats with them. Some of these long-hair cats mated with the local cat population and the breed was born.
As you can see there are many possible "origins" of this interesting cat. Which one is true is, well, it's up to you. There will never be a clear answer to the question and that is just one thing that makes these cats so interesting!