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Ye Ancient Dogge of Malta

My Pet Magazine 2008
By Michele Kraft

Tracing their existence back to the beginnings of recorded history, the Maltese today is as diminutive yet fearless as it was during the rise of Western civilization. Unlike other toy breeds, the Maltese has always been a toy, not a reduced version of a larger breed, like toy poodles or even the Chihuahua. Images of the Maltese are easily recognizable, gracing pottery and paintings from the 5th century. Tombs were created to enshrine the remains of these beloved pets.

The breed’s exact origins are unknown, but it may have originated on the island of Malta, about 60 miles off the coast of Sicily. The Maltese has been the choice pet of the rich and famous since antiquity. The most famous contemporary Maltese is quite possibly Leona Helmsley’s dog Trouble. Helmsley left the dog a 12 million dollar trust fund when she died in 2007. Other rich and famous Maltese owners include Halle Berry and Elizabeth Taylor, but you don’t have to be a celebrity to recognize the beauty of the breed.  Their distinctive white coats are their hallmark, their flowing silky hair shimmering around them when they move.

In 1877, the first Maltese appeared in a U. S. dog show, but it would take another eleven years for the breed to be recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1888. With a weight limit of 7 pounds, the preference is for dogs between 4 and 6 pounds. The AKC describes the breed’s temperament: “For all his diminutive size, the Maltese seems to be without fear. His trust and affectionate responsiveness are very appealing. He is among the gentlest mannered of all little dogs, yet he is lively and playful as well as vigorous.”

Intelligent and graceful little dogs, Maltese make excellent family pets. Lacking an undercoat, the Maltese does not shed or produce as many allergens as double-coated dogs, placing them in the category “hypo allergenic”. Their beautiful coats should be brushed daily to avoid painful matting of the hair, which also provides an excellent opportunity for quality bonding time with this distinctive companion dog.  


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Text and images unless otherwise noted are
Copyright Michele Kraft, 2017

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