The Norwegian Forest Cat is an ancient breed of cat, having changed little from it's origins in Norway. Over numerous centuries, the Norwegian Forest cat has evolved and adapted to survive in the sometimes hostile Scandinavian climate. During the winter it develops a dense undercoat to protect it from the cold, which supplements its long, often flowing, overcoat (called 'Guard hairs') that is course in texture and water repellent to further protect from the elements.
It is a strong, muscular, heavily built cat, ideally suited to hunting in the wilderness and became a favourite as a farm cat in Norway (as you travel through Norway today, you will still see many a forest cat patrolling it's farmhouse territory). The NFO is also unique in the cat world since it will often been seen climb down headfirst. It's strength and agility is also well suited to climbing any surface, including a sheer rock face! It's Lynx ear tips, ear tufts, snowshoes (tufts of fur on the underside of the paws) and large size have been know to lead the NFO to be mistaken for a Lynx (although, in reality, it is MUCH smaller).
The NFO can authoritatively be traced back to the 1500s, but it's history is much longer than this. There are many references to large cats in Norse mythology, with descriptions that can only describe the NFO.
By the 20th century this magnificent cat was becoming a rarity and at risk of becoming extinct. During the mid 1930s, the Norwegians began to make plans to ensure the future of their national cat, and a few NFOs even appeared at cat shows during this time. Unfortunately, the outbreak of hostilities in Europe, in the form of WWII, put a stop to these activities, and the Norwegian Forest Cat once again became largely forgotten.
It was not until the 1970s that the Norwegians once again recognised the risk to one of their national treasures, and once again a move was made to protect the NFO and a special breeding program was instigated. After much hard work in Norway, the Norwegian Forest cat was finally recognised as a distinct pedigree cat in 1977. Since then the breed has gone from strength to strength and is now extremely popular in many countries, particularly Scandinavia, where as many as 200 Norwegian Forest Cats can be seen at a cat show, often making it the largest single breed represented.