With dark, soulful eyes and snowy fur, the Maltese consistently ranks as one of the US's most popular dogs. Illustration by Candice Tran.


Secrets of the Maltese: from royal lapdogs to fantastic friends

The Maltese traces its origins back centuries, but today makes the perfect addition to many families.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/hpark23/" target="_self">Hannah P.</a>

Hannah P.

June 16, 2023

Have you ever wondered where these little dogs came from? At friends’ and relatives’ houses, they drown you in waves of white fur. These puppies’ dark eyes beseech you for just one piece of meat, corrupting your morals one whine at a time.

Let’s look at the Maltese: a small dog that’s taken a big place in our hearts.

Ranked at number 38 out of 199 in the American Kennel Club’s list of the most popular dog breeds, these lively pups barely tip the scales at under seven pounds. They’re known for being good guard dogs (meaning: they bark a lot!) and are blessed with silky, hypoallergenic fur. A Maltese is happy to curl up on your lap and give you all the love you need.

It’s difficult to picture these sweet-hearted pups outside of a cozy family home. Yet they originated almost three thousand years ago in Malta, an island in the Mediterranean sea.

No modern dog breeds, with closed lines and pure pedigrees, existed before the 1800s. However, there are still myths that surround the pup’s ancient ancestors. In antiquity, Malta was the epicenter of trade: it was conquered by the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans — to name a few. As Maltan goods spread, the dainty little dog began to make waves.

Greeks immortalized Melitaie dogs in their art, and Aristotle celebrated their perfect proportions. Roman noblewomen toted white lapdogs around, and Malta even gifted Saint Paul a puppy in return for performing miracles.

These short-legged canines sailed through the centuries. During Europe’s Dark Ages, Maltese dogs were safeguarded and bred in China. They leaped back into the scene in the Middle Ages, where they were laid on stomachs to cure bellyaches. Even Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots, were painted with Maltese dogs in the 1500s. Celebrities, including Lindsey Lohan, Frank Sinatra and Halle Berry, carried this pampered pooch into the modern era.

With such a storied legacy, it’s no wonder that the Maltese is so popular. But do they truly deserve the hype, or are people simply hopping on a bedazzled bandwagon? Maltese owners weigh in.

“Out of every dog breed… [Maltese dogs are] the perfect mix between cute, playful and affectionate,” junior Katelyn Nguyen said. “I wanted a friend who could lift [my spirits] and never fail to make me smile after a long day.”

If you’d like to add an elegant Maltese to your family, expect your companion to stick around for a while as the average lifespan of these snowballs is 12-15 years. A puppy can cost $600 to a hefty $2,000 depending on its pedigree.

“What sets a Maltese apart…[is that] they’re generally low-maintenance dogs that are easy to train,” Nguyen said. “Just remember that they’re small but feisty!”

These spunky sweethearts have traveled wide and far. And now, they’re the companions of families across the country, as affectionate and regal as any emperor’s dog. Maybe, the next time you see a Maltese, you should give them that treat they’ve been slobbering after. Who knows what blue blood flows in their veins?

Opinion: An Assault on Education

Opinion: An Assault on Education

Earlier last month, the Supreme Court struck down race-conscious admissions in cases against Harvard and the University of North California. Just one day later, they ruled that the Biden Administration overstepped with their plan to wipe out $400 billion in student...