This section is from the book "A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland. (Non-Sporting Division)", by Rawdon Briggs Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland, Non-Sporting Division.
Here is another choice little bit for our modern dog fanciers, for old writers say that when the Maltese puppies were born it was the custom to twist the "rostrum" (the upper nose) with the fingers "in order that they may seem more elegant in the sight of men." Surely after this operation - which, for anything we know to the contrary, may have been performed before the Christian era - who can say there is anything new under the sun; and the bulldog men who manipulate the noses and muzzles of their "beauties " are only following on the lines of their brother fanciers who preceded them in more barbarous times.
I think I have written enough to prove that the Maltese dog was a valued canine commodity and companion long before England was a great nation. Since she has become so, this dog, with others, has doubtless improved somewhat, though at the present time I should scarcely know where to place my hand on a perfect specimen. We must have them immaculately white, a fawn mark being a great blemish, and a black one, I fancy, has not been observed for a long time. Thirty years ago there were more of the variety to be found than is the case to-day; but if they were difficult to breed three hundred years since, unless special trouble had been taken to improve them in that respect - certainly not by confining them in boxes and feeding them on dried liver - which does not appear to have been the case, the wonder is the breed survives at all.
The late Mr. Robert Mandeville, of London, about 1860 and later, had a very excellent strain of the variety, and so had Mr. W. Macdonald, also of London; then came the Hon. Mrs. Bligh Monk, of Reading; Lady Gifford, of Redhill; and Mr. J. Jacobs, of Oxford, all of whom at one time or another owned the most perfect specimens that have been produced during the present generation. Mr. Mandeville's Fido and Lady Gifford's Hugh were particularly choice in their way, "white as driven snow, coat like floss silk, less than 51b. weight each, and with not a dark hair on their bodies." At the early shows the classes given to this variety were far better rilled than is the case now when competition usually appears to be restricted to two or three animals. At the Hol-born Show in London in 1862 there were twenty Maltese entered, there were forty-one in the same year at Islington, and two years later eighteen of the little dogs were present at Ashburnham Hall. Most of these entries were made by the London fancy, but W. Mandeville was usually at the top, as he continued to be for many years, even so recently as 1870 at the Crystal Palace, when the competition had dwindled to seven competitors, and it appears to have continued to slacken and become less ever since.
Mr. J. W. Watts, of Birmingham, owns perhaps the best dogs of this race I at present know, in Prince Lily White and Flossie; but these dogs do not reach the perfection of such specimens as Hugh and Fido, already mentioned, their coats being neither so good in texture nor so perfectly white as the past champions of their race. Mr. Jacobs, of Headington Quarry, near Oxford, at times shows two or three very good specimens, some of which are of Mrs. Bligh Monk's strain.
The unpopularity of the Maltese dog must be ascribed to the difficulty in breeding him to perfection, and the trouble which follows to keep the coat in order. The latter requires brush and comb two or three times a day, washing not too often but just often enough, and their jackets are of such a length that it actually ruins them and spoils the dog if exercise is given in dirty weather, or if when out they get caught in a shower. They are just such dainty creatures as the indolent women of the Roman period would cherish and fondle, but are scarcely likely to be popularised in our more matter-of-fact days. They had the reputation of being ferocious and bad tempered. Now such cannot be said of them, though they are somewhat more inclined to be snappish with strangers than are other pet dogs.
The general form, shape, and character of the Maltese dog may be obtained from the illustration preceding this chapter. In weight he should be not more than from, say, 71b., and about 51b. is preferable; colour, all white, with long silky hair, quite unlike that on any other dog, more of the consistency and appearance of "spun glass" than of anything else; it must be straight, quite free from curl, and the length of hair on a perfectly coated specimen will certainly not be less than seven inches. The nose and eyes must be black. There is usually a redness of the hair under the eyes made so from the eyes watering; the less of this the better, but I am afraid it cannot wholly be avoided. The tail ought to be carried turned or doubled into the coat of the back, and not gaily erect like the rags at the end of a mopstick. The ears should be small and dropping, well clad with hair, and scarcely discernible on a good coated specimen. In disposition the dog should be sprightly; the mouth must be level and the teeth white. It is very seldom we now see a dog of this variety with a nose perfectly black, but if obtained it is most desirable; ears with pale fawn marks covering the whole or part, are likewise much too common, and should form a severe handicap to the dog bearing such a defect.
I would place the numerical points of the Maltese dog as follows: -
Colour of eyes ............
Colour of nose ............
Legs and body
Grand Total, 100.