Why are Norwegian Forest Cats large?

There are two reasons why the Norwegian Forest Cat (NFC) is large. Their size is just behind that of the Maine Coon which is the largest domestic cat breed excluding the F1 wild cat hybrids.

The NFC can weight up to around 20 pounds. The typical (not extreme) Maine Coon can weigh around 22 pounds. 

NFC Grand Champion
NFC Grand Champion. Photo: unassigned.

For the first reason we have to go back perhaps a thousand years to Norway. A relatively cold country. We all know that. 

A thousand years ago the NFC was not the NFC. It was a free-breeding random-bred cat like any other moggy. And free-breeding domestic and semi-domestic cats in cold climates such as Scandinavia, Russia, Canada and northern United States have larger and heavier skeletons.

This is natural evolution. It is nature's way of improving the survival of cats living in cold climates. The heavier and bigger the cat, the less the cat suffers from heat loss through their skin. Larger cats loss less heat than smaller cats because larger cats have smaller surface area to weight ratios than smaller cats. 

Cats living in hot climates need to lose heat and they do this through their skin. They might pant like dogs too but evolution has endowed them with a better method to lose heat than bigger cats in cold climates. This effect is best seen in the Siberian tiger in comparison to the Sumatran tiger. The former is the biggest while the latter is the smallest.

So, the first reason why NFCs are relatively big is because they come from Norway, a cold country.

RELATED: Norwegian Forest Cat’s head should be an equilateral triangle (cf. Maine Coon).

The second is selective breeding. Once the moggy NFC was selected to become a purebred, pedigree cat in the 1930s breeders set about refining and enhancing their appearance. They enhance appearance by taking the cat's attributes and exaggerating them. This means making a big cat bigger.

The Cat Fanciers' Association encourages breeders to breed big and solid. The standard has phrases such as 'solidly muscled and 'substantial bone structure' and 'powerful appearance'. They say that males should be 'large and imposing'. 

There you have it: at first nature made NFCs relatively large and then humans intervened to finish off the task.

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