Maltese are generally believed to have been a domestic pet longer than any other breed And are known to be one of the most ancient dog breeds.
Their history dates back 8000 years to a child’s toy, carved in the likeness of a Maltese, found in an excavation from that time.
Long before the Greek and Romans attributed them to Melita, later named Malta, they were known to have been favorites in Egypt.
Although the ancient Greeks and Romans believed the dog originated on the Island of Malta--they called the breed the Melitaie Dog, Melitaie being the ancient name for Malta--there is really no evidence that proves the dog was indigenous to the Island, but rather that the Maltese is descended from a Spitz-type dog, a member of the Bichon family, bred by the peoples of the area which is now south central Europe.
A well traveled breed, they were eventually distributed as an exotic article of trade, tied to the silk trade in China. Used as barter for silks, they were introduced to China in the first century. They became known as gifts to royalty throughout Egypt, China, Greece and Imperial Italy. The breed was from the ancient island trading center of Malta, hence the name, and from there migrated by caravans to the farthest reaches of the civilized world, including: the Middle East, Tibet, China, the Philippines, and Japan.
Re-introduced to England in the 1800's from the Phillipines, they were seriously bred in the later part of the century.
They first appeared in the United States in 1877.With the formation of the English and American Kennel Clubs, and in the early 1900's with Maltese clubs, the refined Maltese of modern times was developed.Maltese are a most wonderful companion, smart, sturdy and beautiful. One of man's longest known companions is still one of the best.