From their looks to their loving personalities, Maltese dogs pack a lot of perks into their toy-sized frames. They bring energy and positivity to the home, and tending their uniquely luxurious coat is as much a treat for the owner as it is for the dog.
Although the Maltese have enjoyed popularity for centuries, they still have a way of surprising us. Discover a new side to this charismatic canine as we explore 10 incredible Maltese facts.
The 10 Maltese Facts
1. A Maltese Holds the Record for Most Celebrity Photographs
With their undeniable lovability and charm, Maltese dogs have a knack for instantly winning the hearts of anyone they meet, including the rich and famous. Getting an autograph or, better still, a photo is a challenge for any fan. But one Maltese pup didn’t even have to ask as it set the world record for being the animal with the most celebrity photographs.1
Philanthropist and publisher Wendy Diamond adopted Lucky Diamond, a female Maltese, in 1999. Diamond, an animal rescue activist, took Lucky from the pound to puppy paradise, making her new furry best friend a favorite globe-trotting travel companion. While Wendy worked, Lucky rubbed elbows with the world’s elite, earning favor in any circle she entered and grabbing a quick snapshot as she went.
When Lucky passed away in 2012 at 15 years old, she had 363 unique celebrity photos under her belt! Notable figures that had the pleasure of taking pics with the famous pooch include Bill Clinton, Hugh Hefner, and Betty White. Lucky’s record still stands, and there’s no telling when we might see such a popular pup again.
2. Teacup Maltese Stand Only 5 Inches Tall
Maltese make exceptional lap dogs with their light bodies and short frames. Travel is effortless, and their slight stature can turn the smallest apartments into grand palaces with all the room they could ever need.
At only 8 inches tall, it doesn’t seem like this toy breed could get any more compact. But here again, the Maltese surprises with a teacup variety that barely registers on the scale.
Teacup Maltese stand only 4–6 inches tall and weigh 4–5 pounds. Though lacking in mass, these miniature pups bring all the character and physical features we expect from the breed. The primary difference is their delicacy and potential for health issues, creating an ethical debate around their breeding.
3. Maltese Can Run Roughly 15 MPH
Many see Maltese as a prototypical pampered pup, a reputation that seems fitting when we see an elegant topknot complimenting the cascading, floor-length coat. It’s hard to imagine much athleticism from a dog carrying a self-grown tripping hazard. On the agility course, these spritely furballs may surprise you.
A Maltese can run about 14–15 mph on average, with the fastest AKC Fast CAT result for the breed being Sawyer Brown’s 24.41 mph mark in 2017.2 The fast speed beat many records of other Bichon-type dogs, including some of the larger breeds. It’s no competition for a Greyhound, but the Maltese boasts quick reflexes and a spry gait, making it a frequent feature around obstacle courses and competitive arenas.
4. Maltese Make Surprisingly Competent Watchdogs
Undersized dogs often boast the most oversized personalities. With the Maltese, that can work out in your favor as you gain an adorable yet dutiful companion that will stand up for their loved ones without hesitation.
Since they’re bold and brave, they’ll bark at anything they perceive as a threat. It adds an extra layer to their training and socialization needs, but many appreciate the alert, ever-vigilant presence.
5. Maltese Have Been Cherished for Over 2,500 Years
The Maltese dates back over 2,500 years and came from the island of Malta, from which it gets its name. Trade eventually spread the breed to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Egyptian hieroglyphics indicate that Maltese were commonplace companions, offering a supposed healing ability for their people.
Ancient Greek and Roman texts highlighted a cultural adoration for Maltese dogs. Historical figures, including the poet Callimachus, Aristotle, and the Roman statesman Cicero, noted the near-perfection of the dog’s beauty, size, and personality. The Romans can even take credit for the Maltese’s snow-white coat, a trait they specifically looked for while breeding.
The breed retained its reputation for sophistication through the ages. When it arrived in Britain in the 1500s, royals viewed the Maltese as symbols of nobility, barring commoners from owning them. Their popularity expanded again as they appeared in America in the 1800s. The AKC officially recognized the breed in 1888.
6. Maltese Are Hypoallergenic
The smooth, silky drapes of flowing hair we associate with show-level Maltese bring practical benefits along with the looks. Owners with allergies or a low tolerance for household messes appreciate the minimal shedding.
Having a single coat of hair instead of fur, Maltese don’t release as much fluff or dander during the year as most dogs, though they require daily brushing and regular cutting.
7. At Least One Maltese Was a Millionaire
Billionaire hotelier Leona Helmsley had little room for affection in her infamously icy heart. But she left just enough space for Trouble, her pet Maltese and faithful companion in her final years. When Helmsley died in 2007, most of her wealth went to animal charities. Family inheritances were minimal or non-existent, but Helmsley felt Trouble was well worth the $12 million she left to her favorite pet.
A judge toned Trouble’s trust amount to $2 million, still a sizable chunk of change. It’s the perfect case study of the power of the Maltese personality. If even the “Queen of Mean” can find love from one of these affectionate pups, it’s safe to say they can win anyone over.
8. Maltese Are Famously Finicky Eaters
As the prized pet of royalty and elites through the generations, Maltese have lived fairly privileged lives. And it shows in their fussiness over food!
Maybe Maltese dogs aren’t difficult because of their pampered pedigree. But there’s no doubt they have a reputation for being extremely picky over what they will and won’t eat. Like many toy breeds, finding your Maltese eating selective parts of their dish is common. In many cases, landing a healthy brand they’ll consistently enjoy takes lots of experimentation and ingenuity.
9. The Puppy Cut Is the Most Popular Maltese Hairstyle
It seems strange to envision a Maltese without the leg-concealing waterfall of fluff and facial fur we see in show dogs. But a short cut is actually how most Maltese wear their hair.
The puppy cut is a simple yet practical style for Maltese, explaining why it’s still the most popular option for a breed known best for its flowing coat. It’s easy to pull off even for amateurs and demands minimal daily maintenance.
10. Maltese Have a Below Average IQ
Stanley Coren released The Intelligence of Dogs in 1994, investigating the relative smarts among various breeds. As a dog psychologist and behaviorist, Coren enlisted hundreds of obedience trial judges and animal experts to help him run trials for his research, arguably the most exhaustive study on the matter to date.
The results were great for some dogs, especially the top-ranked Border Collie. But the Maltese? Call it an off day, but the toy breed ranked 111 out of 138 breeds for IQ.
In fairness, Coren made his ranking based on “working” intelligence and the ability to follow commands. By that measure, it makes perfect sense that breeds like Border Collies and German Shepherds did well, given their breeding background as obedient workers.
As little more than a lap dog for over two millennia, the Maltese never had to develop that trait. It doesn’t imply they’re not intelligent in any way. On the contrary, many consider Maltese to be extremely intelligent. With their background as close companions, the toy breed is often intuitive and in sync with their owner’s emotional needs, providing the perfect support at just the right time.
There’s magic in the Maltese breed. Since they’re effortlessly affable and gorgeous to behold, Maltese pups can soften the stoniest among us with little more than a look. Humankind recognized their qualities long ago, holding them in the highest regard for centuries. Yet even now, they never fail to amaze us in new ways every day!
- Related read: How Big Does a Maltese Get (With Growth & Weight Chart)