'The Maltese of the Past'
The history of the Maltese has been written many times, yet we still have no authentic data on the land of origin. Many countries in the Mediterranean have claimed the origin. Broad modern speculation suggests they come from the Orient, and related distantly to the Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso. As a breeder of Maltese for many years, one sometimes ponders of that possibility relating to Maltese.
Mrs de Pellette first imported them into Western Australia from England. Mr H Wilson also imported two dogs to Victoria in the early 1950?s.
Many people today refer to the Maltese dog as a Maltese-Poodle or Maltese Terrier. The former may have arisen because many Maltese have the standout, kinky type of hair of the Poodle, indicating a mixture of Poodle blood in the ancestry. Many consider that the Maltese dog has all the attributes of the Terrier and should be called a Maltese Terrier. Others think that the dog is more of a Spaniel type. Whatever one?s individual opinion in the matter is the question had been set at rest by the decision, not only of the American Kennel Club, the English Kennel club and perhaps others, that the Maltese Dog is neither a Terrier nor a Spaniel, and the correct designation of the dog is the ?Maltese Dog?
In 1902 for the first time, classes were provided for Maltese other than white and there many entries of coloured Maltese in the show ring, some being light brown, or fawn, others all black, or white with coloured markings. Some very beautiful specimens were exhibited.
Different standards were established for the coloured Maltese and, while the general characteristics were the same, a distinction was made as to the weight. The white was not to exceed 12 pounds, the coloured varieties, any self-colour was, or parti-coloured, 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 existing dogs, breeding discontinued.
It is interesting to note that the Kennel Control council of Victoria?s first edition of the Standards for the Breed in July 1950 mentions under ?colour? that any ?self-colour? is permissible, that is desirable that they be pure white, slight lemon markings should not be penalized. It would be more acceptable if the present day standard used the work ?biscuit? instead of ?lemon? which is seldom seen, while most Maltese puppies are born with biscuit coloured ears, and often body coat which fades as the puppy develops up to an adult age. It is acceptable as an indication of pigment, which is so important to the breed. No doubt a genetic history repetition from the coloured Maltese, where biscuit markings are also being found in white Poodles.
The description of the head in the 1950 Book of Standards also reads: ?Head and Skull - Head should not be too narrow, but should be a Terrier shape, not to long, but not apple headed. Nose should be pure black? The mind boggles at the words ?of Terrier shape? Which Terrier? There are many Terriers, with many different shapes of the head. Thankfully the present Standard does not continue with such a description, but confusion over type still remains and is very varied.
There is no doubt that there is some Terrier influence in the breed, equally Spaniel, as these two types of head continue through the breeding of today, both dominant in their own right as an informant of our ancestry.
In 1946 a male Tennerife Terrier was imported from South Africa to England, but no female was to be found to continue the breeding at that time. Some time later, the breeder noticed at a show that two young Maltese entered had curly coats and resembled Tennerife. Years later, when talking to with that breeder, she enquired about the curly coats and commented that those Maltese pups were just like her Tennerife. She then told her that she brought a bitch back from Africa and asked the English Kennel Club to register it. She had a pedigree but with no Breed name on it. The Kennel Club recommended her to take the bitch to one of the old Maltese breeders who would certify if the bitch was a Maltese. This she did, and so a Tennerife was registered as Maltese. This breeder asked if she could see my Tennerife and as soon as she saw him, she was sure him, she was sure that hers was a Tennerife. She was just as disappointed as I was that she had not known about him and we could have started the breed in England. I am sure that is where our curly and wavy coats come from.
I have yet to see a picture of a Tennerife. I have made many efforts to find one. But I understand that a Tennerife is what we now know as the Bichon Frise. It is no wonder that the Maltese breed over the years has struggled against these odds to retain and produce good straight coats and texture.
In 1952, earliest records I have of Maltese entered in the RAS Show in Melbourne were as follows:
Open Dog: Ch Whiteinch Warbler (WA) whelped 12th December 1949 Sire: Invicta Accius; Dam: Invicta Puffin Breeder Mrs M de Pellete
Willaura Tip (N) whelped 31 November 1950 Sire: Leckhampton Neptune (Imp); Dam: Victoria Lily (Imp) Owner H V Wilson.
Open Bitch: Willaura Honey Suckle, whelped 31st December, 1950 Owner H V Wilson. This was a litter sister to the above.
From this era onwards, the interest in the breed developed in all states of Australia. There have been, and still are, many local and dedicated breeders who have paved the way for the breed importing new bloodlines to improve and retain the work they have already done. There are a few more books on the breed, which have been released recently but as yet, non-to assist newcomers, who are dependent on Club newsletter, and the generosity of some who are willing to share their knowledge relating to grooming and diet.
The Maltese is a very demanding breed of time love and labour, none of which can be learned in a short space of time. The Maltese have the arduous task of being bathed and groomed it seems for ever more, and they tolerate it, and in return, over and over again with the love they have to give, for being made to look so magnificent and adorable by those they own who are unselfish enough to keep them that way.
by Mrs Robyn Hurford- Gameford Maltese (New South Wales, Australia)