This section is from the book "British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, And Exhibition", by Hugh Dalziel. Also available from Amazon: British Dogs.
All English writers, new and old, that I have consulted, agree in one thing, and that is, that in centuries long past Malta furnished toy dogs for the "dainty dames and mincing mistresses" of both Greece and Borne.
It also appears to be a general agreement among these writers that the island of Malta is identical with the Melita ascribed by ancient writers as the home of these pet dogs, and, further, that we originally obtained the breed from that place, although some of them recognise the fact that no proof of that exists.
Dr. Johannes Caius says (writing, be it remarked, of the toy spaniel of his time): "They are called Meliti, of the Island of Malta, from whence they were brought hither."
In the part of this work dealing with toy spaniels I have expressed myself respecting the looseness and inaccuracy of Caius, and the habit he evidences of taking things at secondhand, and his tendency to moralise rather than describe, and I ventured to offer the opinion that he really was describing the true, though diminutive, spaniel of his time, and had got his historical recollections mixed up with his facts of the day. I think it is not at all unlikely that there existed in England toy dogs from the Mediterranean of the type we now recognise as the Maltese, and that the learned doctor was not sufficient of "a fancier" to discriminate the minute differences between one toy and another.
Strabo, who, so far as I am aware, was the earliest writer to refer specially to these toys, does not give Malta as the native place of these dogs, but, on the contrary, writes as follows: "There is a town in Sicily called Melita, whence are exported many beautiful dogs, called Canes Melitei. They were the peculiar favourites of the women; but now (a.d. 25) there is less account made of these animals, which are not bigger than common ferrets or weasels, yet they are not small in their understanding nor unstable in their love."
Strabo must have been wanting in the organ of comparativeness, or the weasels of his time were of Brobdignagian proportions compared with ours; but the point is if Melita, in Sicily, was the birthplace of the Maltese so-called dog, why ascribe its origin to the island of Malta?
As I have said, every English writer I have consulted seems to have taken it for granted that the dog we call Maltese originally came from Malta, but not one offers the slightest proof in support of the assumption. It would be needless to go through the works of these writers seriatim. From "Idstone" I should have expected something more accurate and scholarly than the slovenly article he has given in his book, and coming to "Stonehenge" I am aghast with wonder and amazement. He seems to have lost his compass, and at the mercy of wind and tide goes see-sawing between Malta and Manilla - those wide extremes - a hopeless wreck out of whose hull we cannot get any cargo worth landing.
In his earliest work on the dog he describes the breed as nearly extinct, but, although "scarce, still to be obtained in Malta." He, however, in the same work gave an engraving of a dog, as a Maltese, imported from Manilla. In "The Dogs of the British Islands," still hankering after Malta as their birthplace, he confesses his inability "to trace any records of the dog, after many inquiries made amongst residents in Malta." Well, if Strabo is right this is not to be wondered at any more than that these and other inquiries should have created in Malta a supply of a factitious article to meet an unintelligible demand.
Whether the dog we now call a Maltese terrier be a descendant more or less pure from the breed Strabo wrote of, it is now impossible to say; but there is one thing of more practical value, and that is that those who affect the breed nowadays, at least know the sort of dog they refer to by that name, and in the minds of breeders, judges, critics, and fanciers, there should be a clearness of meaning as to the points which, aggregated, make up the dog, from which there should be no getting away.
Prom this point of view it is lamentable to think that "Stonehenge," who has been accepted as an oracle on such subjects, should have given the weight of his name to the contradictions and absurdities which mark his several articles on this breed.
In the 1872 edition of his "Dogs of the British Islands " he discards the Manilla dog, and gives his readers an engraving of Mandeville's Fido, then at the zenith of his fame, and states the dog's height to be llin. at shoulder to a weight of 6½lb., whilst from tip to tip of ears the dog is said to have measured 21in. These figures condemn themselves. In this edition we are told that the coat "should be long, and fall in ringlets, the longer the better." In the 1878 edition it is said "there is a slight wave but no absolute curl." In the six years, I suppose, the tyre women who dress these toys had succeeded in ironing the ringlets out.
"The eyes," he says, "should not show the weeping corner incidental to the King Charles and Blenheim." Enquiry among exhibitors would have shown him that " Weeping " is one of the most tiresome things exhibitors of Maltese have to contend against. The watery discharge stains the white hair a dirty red.
"The ears," we are told, "are long," which is not the case; the skin, or flap of the ear is short, but the hair upon it is long. Further, "the roof of the mouth is black." I seldom look into a dog's mouth, except to examine his teeth, and consider that, as a proof of quality or purity of breed, we might as well consider the colour of his liver. Finally, "Stonehenge" objects to this dog being called a terrier,because "it has none of the properties of the terrier tribe," and that "it approaches very closely to the spaniel."
Rather strange, this, from the same pen that wrote, " This beautiful little dog is a Skye terrier in miniature," and I should think most admirers of the breed will agree with me that comparison to a bulldog would have been quite as near the mark as comparison to a spaniel.
LADY GIFFARD'S MALTESE TERRIER "HUGH " (K.C.S.B. 6736). Sire Mr. Jacob's Prince - Dam Lady Giffard's Madge.
By what system of selection these dogs have been brought to their present form I cannot say, although it is not difficult to imagine several ways of arriving at the end which has been gained. I, however, accept the dog as he is, and call him a Maltese terrier, quite certain that at least he has as good a right to be called terrier as Maltese.
Among the earliest and most successful of exhibitors of this variety stands Mr. B. Mandeville, who for a considerable time held undisputed sway. I believe Mr. Mandeville still breeds a few, but rarely exhibits. The last time his Fido competed was at the Crystal Palace Show, 1878, when I, acting as judge, placed him second to Lady Giffard's Hugh, and before Lord Clyde, a decision which Mr. Mandeville expressly endorsed.
Hugh and Lord Clyde are brothers, being out of Madge by Mandeville's Fido, and their sire, Prince, is by his Old Fido; and, indeed, all the Maltese terriers of any note that are shown are more or less purely of Mandeville's strain.
Breeders of this variety are few in number. At the present time, Mr. J. Jacobs, Maltese Cottage, Headington Quarry, Oxon, is, I think, the principal one; whilst on the show bench Lady Giffard's exquisite little pets Hugh, Lord Clyde, Rob Roy, Pixie, Mopsey III., etc, are each more charming than the other, and prove invincible wherever they are shown.
The general appearance of these dogs depends much on how their toilet has been attended to. In show form they are little animated, heaps of pure white glistening silk. The long straight hair falls evenly all over the body, on the head it is so long that it quite covers the whole face, but it is kept parted down the centre and brushed aside, to show the long Dundreary whiskers and moustache, with the bright black peery eyes shining like diamonds, and almost outdoing the jet-like nose in depth of colour. The head, face, and muzzle, if carefully examined, will be seen to show more terrier than spaniel character, and the ears, though small, should fall, and are well covered with long, soft, straight hair, which falls almost to the ground.
Although the coat hides the shape of body, enough is seen to show the dog is short backed, and the carriage of tail adds to this appearance.
It is carried over the back or hips, but not so tightly as should be the case with the pug and Pomeranian. The tail should be abundantly fringed with long flowing hair.
The subject of our woodcut is Hugh, the property of Lady Giffard, Brightley Oakley, Redhill. Hugh, when drawn, was between 4 and 5 years old, so just at his best, Maltese not maturing early. He has taken prizes wherever shown; and, indeed, there is now no Maltese to come near him except his younger brothers, Lord Clyde and Rob Roy.
The following are measurements of dogs owned by Lady Giffard:
Hugh: Age, 4 years; weight, 4½lb.; height at shoulder, 8in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 16in.
Lord Clyde: Weight, 51b.; height at shoulder, 8in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 16½in.
Mopsey III.: Age, 4 years; weight, 4ilb.; height at shoulder, 7½in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 15½in.
Pixie: Age 5 years 4 months; weight, 51b.; height at shoulder, 8in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 16in.
Rob Boy (K.C.S.B., 8732): Age, 2 years 3 months; weight, 3¾lb.; height at shoulder, 7¼in.; length from nose to set on of tail, 14½in.