Country of Origin: The Maltese (also known as the ‘Bichon Maltiase’) is the most ancient toy breed of Europe, hailing from the Mediterranean island Malta, an ancient trading port. The first written evidence of the Maltese comes from the third century B.C. Over the centuries this breed has been known by many names, including the ‘Shock Dog’, ‘Maltese Lion Dog’, ‘Spaniel Gentle’, ‘Comforter Dog’, ‘Roman Ladies’ Dog’, and my personal favorite, ‘Ye Ancient Dogge of Malta’. The name ‘Maltese’ was only assigned in the 20th century. The breed’s origins are unknown; it may descend from Spitz or an Asian breed such as the Tibetan Terrier. Maltese may have been used to hunt rodents before their royal appearance became paramount. In any case, the small, white Maltese remained isolated on the island of Malta for centuries and hence stayed true to breed. Eventually, they were exported throughout Europe and became popular with the upper class, purportedly including Mary, Queen of Scotts, Josephine Bonaparte, and Marie Antoinette. The Maltese was first imported to America in the 1870’s and recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1888.
Size: The Maltese has a shoulder height of 20-25 cm (8-10 in). Maltese have a domed skull, round dark eyes surrounded by a dark ‘halo’, wide, black, nose, and low ears covered by long hair. Some have a ‘winter nose’ which fades to pink in the winter; the color change can be permanent in older dogs. The Maltese carries its tail over the back and to one side and has small, round feet.
Activity: The Maltese does not require a great amount of exercise. It can have its needs met by indoor play and activities, and enjoys playing chase. Maltese are well suited to apartment life.