The Maltese is one of the oldest known pet dogs, having been in existence for at least 3,000 years. It is not certain whether they came originally from the island of Malta, or as Strabo said, from a town in Sicily named Melita. As he was born in the year 63 b.c. he is more likely to be right than more modern writers.
There is evidence that as far back as the Phoenicians about 1500 b.c. this small white Maltese dog had a place in their culture. Certainly it is a fact that the Maltese existed as a breed as early as about 100 a.b. because history recorded that Publius, than Rome's Governor of Malta, had a Maltese named "Issa," who meant more to him than any other living thing. The story of Issa is recorded by a poet of the times named Marcus Martialis, who says:
"Issa is more frolicsome that Catulia's canary.
It is said that the picture of the dog is so life like, one cannot tell the dog from the picture.
There are stories that the ancient Egyptians and Eastern Potentates kept Maltese for the ladies in the Harems, and at one time were regarded as being possessed of curative powers: one placed his dog on his pillow to be restored to health.
In later times, during the Renaissance, ladies carried their Maltese dogs in their sleeve.
Maltese were eagerly accepted by the British aristocracy, so well known for their love of dogs, and from the time of Queen Elizabeth, Maltese dogs appear in British literature and they have been immortalised by famous artists there as in their earlier days. Queen Elizabeth's personal physician Dr. Johannus Caius, is on of the most respected and frequently quoted canine historian of all times. The following are his comments of ;the Maltese.
"There is among us another kind of high bred dog, but outside the common run of these dogs, Callimachus called (them) Melitei from the island of Malta. That kind is very small indeed, and chiefly sought after for the pleasure and amusement of women. The smaller the kind, the more pleasing it is, so that they carry them in their bosoms, in their beds, and in their arms while in their carriages."
The Kennel control of Victoria's first edition of the standards of the Breed - "July 1950", mentions under "COLOUR" - quote -
"Any self colour is permissible, but it is desirable that they should be pure white, slight lemons markings should not be penalised". - unquote.
In 1902 for the first time, classes were provided for Maltese "OTHER THAN WHITE" and there were many entries of coloured Maltese in the show ring. Some light brown, or fawn, others all black, or white with coloured markings. Some beautiful specimens were exhibited.
Different standards were established for the coloured Maltese and while general characteristics were the same, a distinction was made as to the weight - the White Maltese not to exceed 12 pounds - the coloured Maltese not to exceed 6 1/2 pounds.
As to the coloured varieties, any self colour or parti colour, or white with considerable patches of colour and the more colour, the better, was permissible.
The White Maltese were required to be white all over, without shade or tint.
The Coloured Maltese were obtained from the south of France and being unable to obtain these dogs to mate to the existing dogs, breeding discontinued.
Information obtained from the following reference books and Mrs. T. Dalziel of the Maltese Kennel Club of Victoria.