Maltese dog

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The Maltese is a breed of dog in the toy group. It is thought to have originated in south-central Europe from dogs of spitz type.[3] It takes its name from the Mediterranean island of Malta. This dog, unlike common belief, is not the national dog of Malta.[4][5]

Maltese 600.jpg
Maltese groomed with overcoat
OriginCentral Mediterranean Region[1]
Height Dogs 20–25 cm (8–10 in)
Bitches 20–23 cm (8–9 in)
Weight Dogs 1.4–3.6 kg (3–8 lb)
Bitches 0.91–3.18 kg (2–7 lb)
Coat white
Litter size avg. 1 to 3 puppies.
Life span 12-15 years[2]
Kennel club standards
ENCI standard
FCI standard
Dog (domestic dog)

It traditionally has a silky, pure-white coat, hanging ears and a tail that curves over its back, and weighs up to 3.6 kilograms (8 lb).[6]


The FCI adopted the Maltese breed standard under the patronage of Italy in 1954, at the annual meeting in Interlaken, Switzerland. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1888,[7] its latest standard being from March 10, 1964. Parti-colour and solid colour dogs were accepted in the show ring from 1902 until 1913 in England,[8] and as late as 1950 in Victoria, Australia.[9] However, white Maltese were required to be pure white. Coloured Maltese could be obtained from the south of France.[9]

Little is known about the origin and spread of the Maltese dog. It probably originated from spitz-type dogs in south-central Europe, where it may at first have resembled the modern Pomeranian.[3]


The Maltese dog was a lapdog favoured by both the ancient Greeks and Romans, especially their children, and appears on amphorae with the word Μελιταίε (Melitaie).[10] References to the dog can also be found in Ancient Greek and Roman literature.[11] Aristotle mentions the dog around 370 BC. Early writers attribute its origin to the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, called Melita in Latin, though the island of Mljet off the coast of Croatia was also called Melita in Latin, which confuses where the dog originated from.[12][5]

Pliny suggests the dog as having taken its name from the Adriatic island Mljet (also Melita in Latin),[13][page needed] however Strabo, in the early first century AD, identifies the breed as originating from the Mediterranean island of Malta.[14]

During the first century, the Roman poet Martial wrote descriptive verses to a lap dog named "Issa" owned by his friend Publius.[15] It is proposed that Issa was a Maltese dog, and various sources link Martial's friend Publius with the Roman Governor Publius of Malta,[16] though others do not identify him.[17]

John Caius, physician to Queen Elizabeth I, also claimed that Callimachus was referring to the island of Melita "in the Sicilian strait" (Malta).[18][page needed] This claim is often repeated, especially by English writers.[19] The dog's links to Malta are mentioned in the writings of Abbé Jean Quintin, Secretary to the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, in his work Insulae Melitae Descriptio.[20][21]

English writers in the early 20th century also gave Malta as the place of origin of the breed.[22]


Long-haired Maltese groomed for conformation show


Characteristics include slightly rounded skulls, with a finger-wide dome, a black button nose and brown eyes. The body is compact with the length equaling the height and the tail is almost always curled. The drop ears with (sometimes) long hair, and eyes surrounded by darker skin pigmentation (called a "halo"), gives Maltese their expressive look. Lacking exposure to a lot of sunlight, their noses can fade and become pink or light brown in color. This is often referred to as a "winter nose" and many times will become black again with increased exposure to the sun. The Maltese's paws are very sensitive to touch.[23]

Maltese showing tear staining

The coat is dense, glossy, silky and shiny, falling heavily along the body without curls or an undercoat. The colour is pure white, however a pale ivory tinge is permitted.[1]

The Maltese does not shed, and is therefore may be a good choice for people with dog allergies. No dog is hypoallergenic, however, and it is recommended to spend extensive time with several maltese before committing to one.[24][25] They can exhibit signs of tear-staining. Tear stains can be caused by health issues, blocked tear-ducts, or allergies. They can be removed through tear stain wipes, soft chews, and formula that can be placed in their food or water. Tear staining happens on other breeds as well, but it is more prevalent in the Maltese breed because their coat is white.[26] Some people prefer their dogs to have the coat short, clipped to a few centimeters in length.[27]

Adult Maltese tend to weigh 3–4 kg (6.6–8.8 lb).[1]


The Maltese is kept for companionship, for ornament, or for competitive exhibition.[citation needed] It is ranked 59th of 79 breeds assessed for intelligence by Stanley Coren.[28]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Maltese" (PDF). FCI standard No. 65. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2014-08-11.
  2. ^ "Maltese". Animal Planet dog breed directory. Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  3. ^ a b MacKinnon, M.; Belanger, K. (2006). "Ch.5". In Snyder, L.; Moore, E. (eds.). Dogs and People in Social, Working, Economic or Symbolic Interaction. Oxbow Books. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-78570-399-7.
  4. ^ "Maltese | breed of dog". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-07-03.
  5. ^ a b Lee, Rawdon Briggs (1894). A history and description of the modern dogs of Great Britain and Ireland. (Non-sporting division.). London: H. Cox. pp. 312–322. Archived from the original on 2017-08-09.
  6. ^ "Maltese | breed of dog". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-07-03.
  7. ^ "Maltese dog breed". Archived from the original on 10 May 2016. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  8. ^ Foxstone Maltese - Maltese Breed History Archived 2009-02-23 at the Wayback Machine by Sharon Pearson, Eads, Colorado, member of the American Maltese Association, retrieved 2009-04-14
  9. ^ a b 'The Maltese of the Past' Archived 2009-07-04 at the Wayback Machine by Trudy Dalziel - Snowsheen Maltese (Maltese Kennel Club of Victoria, Australia) at, retrieved 2009-04-14
  10. ^ Johnson, Helen M. (1919). "The Portrayal of the Dog on Greek Vases". The Classical World. XII (27): 209–213. doi:10.2307/4387846. JSTOR 4387846.
  11. ^ Busuttil, J. (1969). "The Maltese Dog". Greece & Rome. Cambridge University Press. 16 (2): 205–208. doi:10.1017/S0017383500017058.
  12. ^ Raymond-Mallock, Lillian C. (2005) [1924]. The Up-to-date Toy Dog: History, Points and Standards, With Notes on Breeding and Showing. Read Books. pp. 72–74. ISBN 1-84664-069-5.
  13. ^ C. Plinius Secundus. The Historie of the World. Book III. Translated by Philemon Holland. pp. 50–71.
  14. ^ Jean Quintin d'Autun Insulae Melitae Descriptio, 1536, vii, "Huic insulae Strabo nobiles illos, adagio, non minus quam medicinis..."
  15. ^ Serpell, James (1996). In the company of animals: a study of human-animal relationships. Cambridge University Press. p. 47. ISBN 0-521-57779-9. Retrieved 2009-04-16. Note:refers to a "lap dog"
  16. ^ Blarney, Edwin Reginald; Charles Topping Inglee; American Kennel Club (1949). The complete dog book. The care, handling, and feeding of dogs; and Pure bred dogs; the recognized breeds and standards. Garden City Publishing Co., inc. p. 622.
  17. ^ Vioque, Guillermo Galán (2002). Martial, book VII: a commentary. Translated by J. J. Zoltowski. BRILL. p. 467. ISBN 90-04-12338-5. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
  18. ^ Wentworth (1911). Toy Dogs and Their Ancestors: Including the History and Management of Toy Spaniels, Pekingese, Japanese, and Pomeranians. Duckworth. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
  19. ^ Bryant, Jacob, Esq. (1807). A New system, or, An Analysis of Antient Mythology: Wherein an Attempt is Made to Divest Tradition of Fable and to Reduce the Truth to its Original Purity. V (3rd ed.). London: J. Walker. p. 359. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
  20. ^ Jean Quintin d'Autun Insulae Melitae Descriptio (1536).
  21. ^ "The Maltese dog: a toy for ancient royalty". Times of Malta. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  22. ^ Drury, W.E. (1903). "Ch.59-The Maltese". British Dogs, Their Points, Selection, and Show Preparation. Charles Scribner's sons. p. 574.
  23. ^ The Maltese Dog - Complete Anthology of the Dog. King Lear chapter (further down after opening link).
  24. ^ "Are Maltese Puppies Hypoallergenic?". VetInfo. Archived from the original on 2012-10-21. Retrieved 2012-10-06.
  25. ^ The Dog Selector, David Alderton, 2010, pg 59, ISBN 978-0-7641-6365-4.
  26. ^ "Tear Staining". Retrieved 2021-03-16.
  27. ^ "Maltese". The Complete Book of Dog Care. Retrieved 2016-09-12.
  28. ^ Coren, Stanley (2006). The Intelligence of Dogs. London: Pocket Books. p. 124. ISBN 978-1-4165-0287-6.

External linksEdit