The Mythical “Fairy-Cats”: All About Norwegian Forest Cats
While you may have heard of these extremely fluffy, unique-looking felines, did you know that Norwegian Forest cats play a large role in Norwegian mythology? Find out all about the origins and myths surrounding these large fairy cats!
While these large cats are believed to be around 1,000-2,000 years old, the actual origins of the breed remains unknown. Some think Norwegian Forest cats are related to short-haired cats from Great Britain, the ones Vikings used as mousers on their ships. Alternatively, they could also be descendants of long-haired cats the Crusaders brought to Scandinavia. Norwegian Forest cats were officially recognized as a breed in Norway in 1930 and registered in Europe in the 1970s. The American Cat Fanciers Association acknowledged them in 1994.
Norwegian Forest cats, also called Wedgies, have adapted to their cold, wet environment by developing insulated, double coats that are waterproof against harsh snow and rain. These felines can range drastically in appearance, but they’re most recognizable by their large and wide tufted ears. Their toes are also tufted, and this extra fur helps protect them from the weather. Norwegian Forest cats weigh an average of 13-22 lbs, making them one of the largest domestic cats.
Norwegian myths describe large, long-haired fairy cats who live in the mountains and climb rocks called skogkatt. It is believed the skogkatt were based off of the large, furry Norwegian Forest cats, as skogkatt literally translates to “forest cat”.
Old Norse (North Germanic) mythology describes these cats as being so big that not even the Gods could lift them. One famous legend depicts Thor, the strongest of all the Gods, losing in a show of strength to sea serpent Jormungandr who was disguised as a Nowegian Forest cat.
The skogkatt (or forest cat) was adored by Freya, the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. The goddess is often depicted riding a chariot drawn by several humongous cats or with cats laying all around her. Farmers believed that if Freya passed through their fields or if they left milk out for her cats, they would have a bountiful harvest. Because Freya was also the goddess of love, people thought girls who loved cats had a greater chance of having a happy, successful marriage.
In the 1950s, King Olaf V of Norway named the Norwegian Forest cat the country’s national cat.
Norwegian Forest cats are related to Maine Coons. Genetic testing proves that Maine Coons are descendants of the Norwegian Forest cat and another unknown breed.
Wedgies have sturdier claws than most breeds, allowing them to be agile tree climbers. They can even climb down trees head-first!
These fairy cats are one of a kind in looks, personality, and myths. Norwegian Forest cats love people and make great pets, but they can demand lots of attention so be prepared!
Taylor, David. The Ultimate Cat Book. Greenwich Editions, 2000, https://books.google.com/books?id=rPdFgZzns30C&pg=PA76&dq=norwegian+forest+cat+history&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCwQ6AEwA2oVChMIhrCz1IaxyAIVSXE-Ch1d2A1R#v=onepage&q=norwegian%20forest%20cat%20history&f=false
Fawcett , Kirstin. “10 Furry Facts About Norwegian Forest Cats.” Mental Floss , 26 Feb. 2017, www.mentalfloss.com/article/69586/10-furry-facts-about-norwegian-forest-cats.
Basepaws. “Norwegian Forest Cat – Mystic Wildcat Of The Fairy Tales.” Basepaws, 6 Mar. 2019, www.basepaws.com/blog/norwegian-forest-cat-breed/.