These fluffy white balls of fire are sometimes mistaken for Bichon Frises, and other miniature white-coated breeds. But make no mistake about it, the Maltese has a personality, history and a temperament all her own. Find out some surprising facts about these adoring little dogs, and why humans have become so fond of them over the years.
- Maltese dogs are believed to come from Malta, though the history of this dog breed is rather speculative. However, we do know that they existed during the Roman Empire, and are one of the oldest breeds, having been around for over 2,800 years. They have been pictured in artwork from ancient Egypt, and Greece where the dogs were once given decadent tombs as resting places in some cases.
- The breed is believed to have intentionally bred to have bright white fur, because the Romans considered this color to be sacred.
- Some documents that referred to Maltese dogs historically were actually found to be in reference to Pomeranians (who share a similar genetic heritage with the Maltese pups.) Maltese dogs as we know them now also once went by a variety of names including: Maltese lion dogs, Maltese terriers, Spaniel gentle dogs, and Roman ladies’ dogs.
- Though dainty and adored as a lap-dog companion, these canines originally bred for the purpose of hunting rats. Sadly, they nearly went extinct, according to the King of Malta in 1804, who stated that this breed was in high demand during the Roman times but they had nearly become obsolete by the time of his reign.
- Maltese dogs have been beloved of royalty for centuries. From ancient Rome to the United Kingdom (Mary Queen of Scots was known to have a Maltese dog), this breed has been celebrated in royal courts.
- This mini canine is fortunate enough to have hypoallergenic fur, meaning they produce fewer allergens tan other dogs, and they are less likely to shed. This is one of the many reasons they are favorite pets for the elderly or for allergen-sensitive children.
- These dogs are energetic companions, and are actually known to be athletic little jumpers. They can bounce quite high on their study hind legs, and when leaping from one surface to another can clear an impressive distance.
- Maltese pups are loyal to their families, bonding strongly with them, meaning they sometimes will bark defensively at strangers. The deep connection Maltese dogs feel toward their owners is often powerfully reciprocated. One lucky Maltese was bequeathed $2 million from her owner when she passed away in 2007. Though the dog was originally left a whopping $12 million, the fortune was severely depleted, leaving only a fraction of that price for Take Trouble, the pup who enjoy a leisurely life until her death in 2011.