|The Maltese is a small breed of dog in the Toy Group. It descends from dogs originating in the Central
Mediterranean Area. The breed name and origins are generally understood to derive from the Mediterranean
island nation of Malta; however, the name is sometimes described with reference to the distinct
Adriatic island of Mljet, or a defunct Sicilian town called Melita History
This ancient breed has been known by a variety of names throughout the centuries. Originally called the "Canis
Melitaeus" in Latin, it has also been known in English as the "ancient dog of Malta," the "Roman Ladies' Dog," the
"Maltese Lion Dog." The origin of the common name "Cokie" is unknown, but is believed to have originated in the mid-
1960s on the U.S. East Coast and spread in popular use. This breed has been referred falsely as the "Bichon", as
that name refers to the family ("small long-haired dog") and not the breed.
The Kennel Club officially settled on the name "Maltese" for the breed in the 19th century.
The Maltese is thought to have been descended from a Spitz-type dog found among the Swiss Lake Dwellers and
was selectively bred to attain its small size. There is also some evidence that the breed originated in Asia and is
related to the Tibetan Terrier; however, the exact origin is unknown. The dogs probably made their way to Europe
through the Middle East with the migration of nomadic tribes. Some writers believe these proto-Maltese were
used for rodent control before the appearance of the breed gained paramount importance.
The oldest record of this breed was found on a Greek amphora found in the Etruscan town of Vulci, in which a
Maltese-like dog is portrayed along with the word Μελιταιε (Melitaie).
Archaeologists date this ancient Athenian product to the decades around 500 BC.
References to the dog can also be found in Ancient Greek and Roman literature.
Aristotle was the first to mention its name Melitaei Catelli, when he compares the dog to a mustelid, around 370
BC. The first written document (supported by Stephanus of Byzantium) describing the small Canis Melitaeus was
given by the Greek writer Callimachus, around 350 BC. Pliny suggests the dog as having taken its name from the
Adriatic island Méléda; however, Strabo, in the early first century AD, identifies the breed as originating from the
Mediterranean island of Malta, and writes that they were favored by noble women.
During the first century, the Roman poet Martial wrote descriptive verses to a small white dog named Issa owned
by his friend Publius It is commonly thought that Issa was a Maltese dog, and various sources link Martial's friend
Publius with the Roman Governor Publius of Malta though others do not identify him.
John Caius, physician to Queen Elizabeth I, also claimed that Callimachus was referring to the island of Melita "in
the Sicilian strait" (Malta). This claim is often repeated, especially by English writers. The dog's links to Malta are
mentioned in the writings of Abbé Jean Quintin d'Autun, Secretary to the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta
Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, in his work Insulae Melitae Descriptio
Around the 17th and 18th centuries, some breeders decided to "improve" the breed, by making it smaller still.
Linnaeus wrote in 1792 that these dogs were about the size of a squirrel. The breed nearly disappeared and was
crossbred with other small dogs such as Poodles and miniature Spaniels.
In the early 19th century, there were as many as nine different breeds of Maltese dog.
Parti-colour and solid colour dogs were accepted in the show ring from 1902 until 1913 in England and as late as
1950 in Victoria, Australia. However, white Maltese were required to be pure white.
Coloured Maltese could be obtained from the south of France.
Maltese puppy outdoors
The Maltese had been recognized as a FCI breed under the patronage of Italy in 1954, at the annual meeting in
Interlaken, Switzerland. The current FCI standard is dated November 27, 1989, and the latest translation from
Italian to English is dated April 6, 1998. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1888, its latest
standard being from March 10, 1964.
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. The drop ears with (sometimes) long hair, and surrounded by
darker skin pigmentation (called a "halo"), gives Maltese their expressive look. Lacking exposure to 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.
Coat and color
Maltese dog in full show coat.
The coat is long and silky and lacks an undercoat. Maltese should have long silky coats. Some Maltese can have curly
hair, but this is considered a fault. The colour of the coat is pure white. A pale ivory tinge is permitted on the ears.
In some standards, pure white coat with slight lemon markings are tolerated.
Also, the Maltese has hair, not fur. It does not shed, and is a better choice for people with dog allergies. Some
people prefer to have the coat short. The most common cut for the Maltese is called the "puppy cut," which
involves trimming or shaving the entire body to one short length (typically less than an inch long)
Adult Maltese range from roughly 3 to 10 lb (1.4 to 4.5 kg), though breed standards, as a whole, call for weights
between 5-8 lbs. There are variations depending on which standard is being used. Many, like the American Kennel
Club, call for a weight that is ideally less than 7 lbs.
They stand normally 7-12 inches.
Maltese are bred to be cuddly companion dogs. They are extremely lively and playful, and even as a Maltese ages,
his energy level and playful demeanor remain fairly constant. Some Maltese may occasionally be snappish with
smaller children and should be supervised when playing, although socializing them at a young age will reduce this
habit. They also adore humans, and prefer to stay near them. The Maltese is very active within a house, and,
preferring enclosed spaces, does very well with small yards. For this reason, the breed also fares well in
apartments and townhouses, and is a prized pet of urban dwellers.
Some Maltese may suffer from separation anxiety.
An Australia-wide (not including Tasmania) research project carried out in conjunction with RSPCA found owners
likely to dump their Maltese, citing the tendency of Maltese to bark constantly. This breed is Australia's most
dumped dog. In addition, figures released in 2010 by the Korean National Veterinary Research and Quarantine
Service show that some 1,208 Maltese were abandoned between January and August 2010, making it the most
abandoned breed in Seoul, South Korea
A Maltese dog that exhibits signs of tear staining underneath the eyes.
Maltese have no undercoat, and have little to no shedding if cared for properly. Like their relatives, the Poodles
and Bichon Frisé, they are considered to be largely hypoallergenic and many people who are allergic to dogs may
not be allergic to the Maltese. Daily cleaning is required to prevent the risk of tear-staining. Many owners find that
a weekly bath is sufficient for keeping the coat clean, although it is recommended to not wash a dog so often, so
washing your Maltese every 3 weeks is sufficient, although if the dog keeps clean even longer than that. They need
to get professionally groomed about once every month and a half.
Regular grooming is also required to prevent the coats of non-shedding dogs from matting. Many owners will keep
their Maltese clipped in a "puppy cut," a 1 - 2" all over trim that makes the dog resemble a puppy. Some owners,
especially those who show Maltese in the sport of conformation, prefer to wrap the long fur to keep it from
matting and breaking off, and then to show the dog with the hair unwrapped combed out to its full length. Some
Maltese need to be blow-dried in order to prevent mats because drying is ineffective to some dogs.
Dark staining in the hair around the eyes, "tear staining," can be a problem in this breed, and is mostly a function of
how much the individual dog's eyes water and the size of the tear ducts. To get rid of tear staining, you can get a
solution or powder specially made for tear stains, which can often be found in local pet stores. A fine-toothed
metal pet comb, moistened with hot water and applied perhaps twice weekly, also works extremely well. The
antibiotic, Cephalexin has been shown to completely clear up "tear staining" in some cases.
Maltese are susceptible to "reverse sneezing," which sounds like a honking, snorting, or gagging sound and results
often from over-excitement, play, allergies, or upon waking up.
It is not life-threatening or dangerous, it will go away after about a minute.
They are ranked 59th out of 69 in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs. which indexes obedience and the
ability of a dog breed to follow commands, with very light focus on skills seen outside of working breeds,
such as emotional intelligence.
Maltese tend to have many or several tooth problems usually resulting in cavities, without proper care the infected
teeth may fall out as the dog gets older. Maltese might need additional care, and have their teeth brushed with
soft-bristled toothbrush and special dog toothpaste every week to avoid tooth problems.
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