Maltese adult standing in black and white


Lively, affectionate and highly intelligent, Malteses make excellent companion dogs.

About the Maltese

Maltese dogs are gentle and friendly, and will greet new people with confidence. Over the centuries they have been bred as companions and are never happier than when sat in the lap of their owner.

Despite the name, Malteses are not from Malta at all. The word is derived from a word in one of the Mediterranean languages for haven or harbour, which just happens to be at the root of the word Malta too.

Source: key facts and characteristics sourced from Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI)

Breed specifics

FCI Group 9, AKC Toy Group
Size category
Very small
Avg life expectancy
12–15 years

Lively / Loving / Calm / Intelligent

Key facts

  • Garden not essential
  • Requires a lot of grooming
  • Needs little exercise
Breed origins illustration

Origins of the breed

There is little debate that these dogs are some of the oldest breeds in the world. Their ancestors are known to have lived in the ports and maritime cities of the central Mediterranean, where they hunted mice and rats that were found in the harbours’ warehouses and in the hold of ships.

In a list of dogs that existed at the time of Aristotle, a breed of little dogs is mentioned with the Latin name, Canes Melitenses. In Ancient Rome this dog was a favoured companion of the matrons. Representations of the Maltese by numerous Renaissance painters show this little dog in the salons of the period at the side of beautiful ladies of the time.