Maryland’s Obsession with All Things Calico

in life •  last year

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Credit: Public Domain.

Maryland’s Obsession with All Things Calico

You can live your whole life in a place and not know the name of its official insect, gem, song, or dessert. Nevertheless, most American states have a long list of symbols that are associated with the place. Some are cultural emblems, as with a state song or motto, while others are natural features, as with animals that commonly make their home in a region.

The State of Maryland has a long history with the Calvert family, who were the first Lords (later Barons) of Baltimore and governed the colonial territory that eventually became a state. Maryland’s state flag is based upon the coat of arms of George Calvert, the first Baron Baltimore, which is a combination of the heraldic symbols of his father’s and his mother’s families. Since one of these was red and white, while the other was black and gold, Maryland’s state flag has a mottled ‘calico’ appearance.


Maryland’s Coat of Arms. Its slogan is “Manly deeds, womanly words.” Public Domain.

Even today, the name Calvert is all over Maryland (counties, cities, roads, etc.). And in tribute to its first governors, most of Maryland’s state symbols have a mottled appearance.

And when you get right down to it, the state’s choice of official symbols shows an obsession with mottled calico.

The word “calico” started with fabric, but it makes most people think of cats. And Maryland’s state cat is, of course, the calico cat.


Credit: Creative Commons by Howcheng, Wikimedia

Since only a cat with two X chromosomes can be calico (having both black and orange fur), the feature is almost completely limited to female cats. The only male calico cats are those born with three sex chromosomes after an incomplete division of the X chromosomes at the time of fertilization.

Translation: 99.96% of all calico cats are female. Only 1 out of every 3000 calico cats is male. 2999 out of every 3000 calico cats is female. By conferring a benefit on calico cats, the State of Maryland is discriminating against male cats.

But no one can accuse Maryland of discriminating based on fur color. Most calico cats have black, orange, and even white fur. It is hard to get more diverse than that.

Maryland’s calico obsession does not end with cats. Look at these pictures of other state symbols.

State Bird of Maryland: Baltimore Oriole

Credit: Public Domain.

State Flower of Maryland: Black-Eyed Susan

Credit: Creative Commons by Lorax, Wikimedia

State Dessert of Maryland: Smith Island Cake

Credit: Creative Commons by Jane Thomas, Flickr

State Rock of Maryland: Patuxent River Stone (a kind of agate)

Credit: Public Domain.

State Insect of Maryland: Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly

Credit: Creative Commons by Alison Hunter, Wikimedia

State Reptile of Maryland: Diamondback Terrapin (Turtle)

Credit: Public Domain.

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This is chock full of interesting facts. Great read! Especially the Calico cat!