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Maltese longhair

Discovering the Maltese: Italy’s premier show dog

While a veterinary medicine student in Italy, I’ve had the fortune to interact with various dog breeds. Today, I want to tell you the story of the Maltese, a dog that symbolizes elegance and refinement. Although not appreciated by everyone, it is highly followed in dog shows.
And how many dogs can boast of having verses of poetry dedicated to them by Giuseppe Verdi?

Before delving into its history, if you’re curious, you can discover the all-Italian stories of other dog breeds such as the Lagotto Romagnolo, the Neapolitan Mastiff, the Maremma Sheepdog, and the Bracco, by clicking on the links!

Elegance from the times of Aristotle (perhaps)

Although we cannot be certain, it is believed that the history of the Maltese begins with the writings of Aristotle (384-322 BC). The philosopher mentioned a small dog, which he referred to as canes melitensis. This dog was often found in the homes of Roman noblewomen, as a symbol of wealth, elegance, and social superiority.

During the Renaissance, the Maltese appears in representations of the time as the eternal companion of the ladies. Today, the symbolic value of the Maltese has evolved, but it remains a refined breed that captures the hearts of the most elegant.

Maltese dog shorthair
Maltese shorthair

A particular name… that doesn’t come from Malta

Although the term Maltese might initially seem to refer to the small archipelago state, its origin is different. It derives from the word màlat, which means port or refuge. The breed spread through the coastal cities of the Mediterranean, where it was a valuable resource as a rodent hunter.

The noble dog at the court of Louis XIV

The Maltese was very popular among noblewomen at the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King of France (1638-1715). Given its small size, it seems that noblewomen had the habit of hiding the little Malteses in their long, wide sleeves.

The Maltese began participating in dog shows in 1862 in Great Britain, attracting great interest from enthusiasts. So, thanks to the involvement of nobles from various eras, the Maltese became a symbol of elegance.

The composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901), very attached to his dear and inseparable Loulou, even dedicated poetic verses to him:

Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi

Small stature, long and shining white coat, a symbol of purity.
The Maltese is not just a show dog, but a symbol of elegance and refinement that has fascinated noblewomen of every era.

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