The Maltese is a small breed of dog in the Toy Group. It descends from dogs originating in the Central Mediterranean Area. The breed name and origins are generally understood to derive from the Mediterranean island nation of Malta; however, the name is sometimes described with reference to the distinct Adriatic island of Mljet, or a defunct Sicilian town called Melita.
The Maltese had been recognized as a FCI breed under the patronage of Italy in 1954, at the annual meeting in Interlaken, Switzerland. The current FCI standard is dated November 27, 1989, and the latest translation from Italian to English is dated April 6, 1998. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1888, its latest standard being from March 10, 1964.
Characteristics include slightly rounded skulls, with a finger-wide dome, a black button nose and brown eyes. The body is compact with the length equaling the height. The drop ears with (sometimes) long hair, and surrounded by darker skin pigmentation (called a halo), gives Maltese their expressive look. Lacking exposure to sunlight, their noses can fade and become pink or light brown in color. This is often referred to as a winter nose and many times will become black again with increased exposure to the sun.