11 Spunky Facts About the Maltese

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Everyone loves to pamper these little white dogs—one look at their expressive eyes and button noses and it's easy to see why. Learn more about one of the world's oldest lap dogs. 

1. ITS NAME (PROBABLY) REFLECTS ITS PROVENANCE. 


Vicki Terry

Unlike some breeds (looking at you, Labradors), the Maltese probably does come from its namesake, Malta. They were bred down from a spitz-like dog that was native to the area and was used for hunting rodents. Some suggest the little dogs actually have a pawhold in Asia, but evidence is murky. The history of the Maltese has been difficult to tease out, as the term was often used as a catchall for several breeds of toy dogs; many historical references to "Maltese" dogs, it turns out, were actually descriptions of Pomeranians.

The most compelling theory so far is that the dogs were bred in Malta, but were quickly snatched up by the Romans. In 1804, a knight of Malta wrote that, "There was formerly a breed of dogs in Malta with long silky hair, which were in great request in the time of the Romans; but have for some years past greatly dwindled, and indeed are become almost extinct." 

2. MALTESE ISN’T THE ONLY NAME THEY’VE HAD. 


Over the course of its existence, the breed has had a number of different monikers. Some include comforter dog, Maltese lion dog, Maltese terrier, Melitaie dog, Roman ladies' dog, shock dog, and the Spaniel gentle. 

3. THEY’VE BEEN AROUND A WHILE.   


The Maltese is one of the oldest-known breeds of dogs, and is said to be over 2800 years old. The small dogs happily sat on the laps of the Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. 

4. ROYALTY LOVED THEM.


These lap dogs were a hit among royalty; queens especially would cherish these pooches, feeding them out of gold dishes. The dog's likeness has been found on ceramics and other pieces of artwork in Egypt and in Greece, where owners would construct elaborate tombs for their deceased canines. Publius, the governor of Rome in the first century, had a little Maltese named Issa that was endlessly spoiled. Her likeness was captured in a painting and the poet Martial wrote a poem praising her beauty. Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots both had and adored their little Maltese pups. 

More recently, the dogs have become a favorite with Hollywood royalty (famous fans include Halle Berry and Elizabeth Taylor).

5. THE WHITE FUR IS NO ACCIDENT.


Vicki Terry

The dogs were specially bred by Roman emperors to have that white coat we know today. The color white was sacred to the Romans, who wanted their pets to exhibit an air of divinity. 

6. THEY DON’T SHED …


Sporting a thick coat of hair instead of fur, these little dogs don’t shed. Instead, they need occasional haircuts to keep their mops in check. Their white tufts are hypoallergenic, making them great for families with allergies. 

7. … BUT THERE IS SOME MAINTENANCE REQUIRED. 


Maltese have profuse coats, meaning they need a lot of attention. To keep their fur silky and white, they need to be brushed daily. Most non-show owners prefer to keep their dogs in a puppy cut to avoid having to constantly groom them. 

8. IT'S BEST TO KEEP YOUR FAVORITE THINGS UP HIGH. 


Though they be but little, they can jump. They also seem to have no fear of gravity and have no problem leaping out of your arms or off high ledges. 

9. THEY MAKE GREAT THERAPY DOGS. 


At Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center in Florida, Riley the Maltese is helping people every day. He has been working as a therapy dog since 2009, participating in more than 400 therapy sessions. Dogs like Riley are a wonderful help at nursing homes, hospitals, disaster areas, and underprivileged schools. Petting an animal can reduce stress, encourage empathy, and decrease bullying (just to name a few of the many ways dogs can make our days brighter). Maltese make great therapy dogs because they’re loving and small, which means they can cuddle right up to whomever they're trying to help. 

10. THEY’VE GOT YOUR BACK. 


The Maltese standards describe these dogs as loving and gentle, but also fearless and loyal. You can count on yours to come to your aid no matter what. 

11. ONE WAS A MILLIONAIRE. 


Meet Take Trouble, the Maltese worth $2 million. When real estate developer Leona Helmsley died in 2007, she left $12 million to her pooch in her will. The government eventually trimmed the inheritance down to a measly two million, but that didn’t stop the dog from living it up until her death in 2011.


Need to Cure of Case of Cabin Fever? Try Backyard Birding

Baltimore orioles are colorful spring migrants.
Baltimore orioles are colorful spring migrants.
Brittany Tande/iStock via Getty Images

No matter how many virtual tours and online classes you take, it's hard not to go a little stir-crazy after weeks of social distancing. If you're already sick of activities that require you to stare at a screen, consider seeking out real-life entertainment in your backyard. As Auburn Pub reports, the New York State Department of Environment Conservation is recommending that residents take up birdwatching during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they stress that it's important to continue to practice social distancing.

Zoos, beaches, and even some national parks are currently closed to the public, but you don't have to travel far to get your daily dose of nature. Spring is in full bloom, and many bird species are currently in the midst of migrating from their winter homes down south to northern states. That means that even urban areas like New York City are becoming places for birds to nest and raise their young.

Local parks are great spots to observe birds while keeping your distance from others, but a trip off your property isn't necessary. If you have a backyard, or even just a tree on the street outside your home, you can watch birds from a patio, balcony, or through a window.

Birding is more than just a way to pass the time when activities are limited. A 2017 study from the University of Exeter found that being able to see birds around your home may reduce levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. If you use birding as an excuse to get out of the house, those benefits may be even greater as being outdoors in general has been shown to boost several facets of mental health.

If you're interested in using your time in isolation to get into birding, there are many resources online you can use. Watch this beginner's guide to birding and read these facts about the birds in your backyard before you get started.

[h/t Auburn Pub]

Beyond Tiger King: 10 Fascinating Animal Documentaries You Can Stream Right Now

A scene from Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit (2018).
A scene from Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit (2018).
Markham Street Films

By now, you've probably already binged Netflix's bewilderingly bonkers docuseries Tiger King (2020). If you're ready to dive deeper into the animal kingdom, there are plenty more documentaries out there. From wildcats to whales, these 10 films will take you on a cinematic adventure around the world, introducing you to captivating creatures and the people who love them.

1. The Tigers of Scotland (2017)

The Tigers of Scotland (2017) brings viewers as up close and personal as possible with a small but mighty feline: the Scottish wildcat. The film delves into the efforts to conserve the disappearing Highland tiger, as well as the history and mythology surrounding the UK’s only “big cat.”

Watch it: Netflix, Amazon, iTunes

2. Ghost of The Mountains (2017)

This 2017 Disneynature documentary will transport you to the world’s highest plateau in search of a family of snow leopards. These cats are famously tough to find, so Ghost of the Mountains offers viewers behind-the-scenes footage of what it’s like to track the elusive beasts.

Watch it: Netflix, Google Play, Youtube

3. Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit (2018)

This delightful documentary takes you deep into the competitive cat show circuit. Both charming and at times cutthroat, the film brings viewers on a journey to see which of the many cool cats and kittens will be crowned Canada's top cat.

Watch it: Netflix

4. Kingdom of the White Wolf (2019)

Follow along as a National Geographic explorer and photographer embeds with a white wolf pack in the high Arctic. These wild wolves aren't used to seeing people, giving the filmmakers—and audience—an intimate window into the pack's daily lives and familial bonds. In addition to showcasing captivating footage of the animals, the three-part docuseries also features sweeping views of the starkly beautiful Ellesmere Island.

Watch it: Disney+, YouTube TV

5. Dogs (2018)

This docuseries, which highlights various dogs and their humans from around the world, celebrates the bond between people and their pups. But it’s more than just a montage of feel-good moments about humankind’s best friend: Each episode tells a broader tale about the human condition, crafting an emotional narrative that pulls at the heartstrings like a puppy tugging on a toy.

Watch it: Netflix

6. Dancing with the Birds (2019)

These birds will put your dad moves to shame. Watch the male avian performers shimmy, shake, and flash their feathers while attempting to woo their female mates. The documentary, narrated by Stephen Fry, offers a colorful look at the wonderfully wacky world of bird mating rituals.

Watch it: Netflix

7. Honeyland (2019)

This documentary follows Hatidze Muratova, one of the last wild beekeepers in a remote village in North Macedonia. She lives with her ailing mother, nurturing a traditional way of beekeeping passed down through the generations and striking a balance between making a living and maintaining ecological balance. But everything changes when a nomadic family settles nearby, threatening Muratova’s way of life. The resulting story is both sweet and stinging.

Watch it: Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play

8. Virunga (2014)

This 2014 documentary highlights the park rangers fighting to protect the Congo’s Virunga National Park, home to the critically endangered mountain gorilla. As poaching and oil exploration threaten the park, the rangers and conservationists risk their lives to guard the rare creatures that inhabit it.

Watch it: Netflix

9. Harry & Snowman (2016)

In the 1950s, Harry deLayer bought Snowman, a run-down plow horse destined for slaughter, for just $80 at an auction. Within months, the two were taking the show jumping circuit by storm, launching both horse and rider to new heights. This documentary tells the story of the friendship the two developed, and chronicles their lives both in and out of the competitive spotlight.

Watch it: Amazon Prime

10. The Whale and the Raven (2019)

The waters around Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest are a haven for whales, who feed and find refuge in the quiet channels. With stunning visuals, this documentary highlights the tension of a community’s push to protect its wild places against the pressures of the ever-encroaching natural gas industry.

Watch it: Amazon Prime

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