While many people are familiar with the classic white Maltese, there exists a variety of other stunning Maltese colors that are lesser known. If you would like to learn more about the topic of Maltese colors, keep reading.
Aside from the infamous white, there are a few other Maltese coat variants. Which of them are recognized by major kennel clubs? Which ones are rare?
This guide aims to answer these questions and more, providing comprehensive insights into the distinct markings of the Maltese breed, variations in eye and nose colors, and much more. Let’s get started!
History of Maltese Coloring
The Maltese breed has a rich history that dates back to 8,000 years ago. Given its lengthy existence, the breed has undergone many transformations. One of its biggest changes is in terms of coat color.
Before we had the white Maltese, the breed came in all sorts of colors. In fact, for a time, from 1902 to 1913, the Kennel Club of the United Kingdom recognized all Maltese colors on the show stage.
The earliest presence of the white Maltese on the show ring was in 1877 when a pure white Maltese appeared at the Westminster Dog Show. This white dog was coined the Maltese Lion Dog.
Since then, breeders aimed to perfect the breed by replicating the Maltese Lion Dog’s pure white coat. This was done between the years 1900 and 1910 by crossing the Maltese with white Toy Poodles.
Starting from the 1950s, the breed has evolved into a solid white breed. However, many white Maltese dogs may still sport hints of color that pay homage to the breed’s rich history.
6 Maltese Colors and Markings
The modern-day Maltese comes in a relatively limited range of recognized coat colors and markings. These shades are set by major kennel clubs to streamline the qualities and maintain uniformity among Maltese dogs.
The information presented in this section is adapted from the most recent breed standards of the Maltese as specified by five renowned and reputable global kennel clubs.
1. White Maltese
The white Maltese is arguably the most widely recognized color variant of the breed. As a result, it is widely accepted across the globe by leading kennel clubs.
Appearance-wise, the white Maltese is a compact dog that sports a pristine white coat. This dog sports a single-layered coat that hangs long and sits flat on top of the body.
In fact, being very common, I have been breeding different Maltese lines for the past six years and have only produced this color so far. There are times when they can be a bit off-white, especially on the front of their faces and on their feet, but these are mostly due to stains from food and from their surroundings.
A best practice I got from my veterinarian, who is also a breeder herself, is that a haircut is given to Maltese pups as they reach four months, so the stains will be gone, and they will grow a fresh set of whiter and softer hair.
The white Maltese is also known for its silky coat texture, which requires regular grooming.
In fact, the silkiness of a Maltese’s coat is prized heavily on the show ring. A white Maltese must not show any signs of wooly texture on its coat; otherwise, it may be considered a fault.
The white Maltese is not to be confused with the albino Maltese or leucistic Maltese. While both of these dogs also have a pure-white coat, their color results from genetic defects affecting the pigmentation of an animal’s coat.
2. White & Lemon Maltese
The white & lemon Maltese is another recognized coat variant of the breed. In this particular variant, the dog exhibits a light tan hue, primarily near the ears.
This hue can range from a very pale, lemon-like tint to a slightly orangish cast. Regardless, this unique shade may appear more evident under certain light conditions.
Despite the unique appeal of the white & lemon Maltese, many kennel clubs do not favor it as much as the pure white Maltese. For instance, the AKC deems this coloration as “permissible, but not desirable.”
3. White & Tan Maltese
The white & tan is yet another coat variation that appears in the Maltese breed standards of many kennel clubs.
Some may argue that this variant is identical to the white & lemon Maltese; however, it still earns its spot in this list of Maltese colors due thanks to it being widely talked about.
In a white & tan Maltese, light tan-colored markings grace the coat near the ears. These colors lean towards a brownish shade rather than the orangish hue seen in the white & lemon variation.
4. White & Ivory Maltese
Ivory is a color that is mentioned recurrently in many Maltese breed standards, particularly the FCI and the UKC. This color is combined with a predominantly white Maltese, paving the way for the so-called white & ivory Maltese.
This color variant isn’t significantly different from the white & lemon and white & tan variations. In fact, one could argue that these are all essentially the same variation, simply under different designations.
While that may be true, the white & ivory still earns its spot in this list as it is quite popular in the Maltese world.
In theory, a white & ivory Maltese has very light ivory-colored fur near the ears. This suggests an extremely subtle shade of off-white — a color closely resembling white but not quite purely.
5. White & Cream Maltese
The White and Cream Maltese shares similarities with previously discussed coat variations, the white & lemon, white & tan, and white & ivory.
In fact, the word ‘cream’ is only used by the Continental Kennel Club in their breed standards to refer to the permissible colors found near the Maltese’s ears. The CKC also refers to this cream color as ‘biscuit.’
In theory, the white & cream Maltese could be a dog that has hints of biscuit-colored fur near its ears.
6. Black Points Maltese
Another color variant of the Maltese that is widely talked about is the white Maltese with black Points.
In most breed standards, this variant is not listed as an official color but is instead considered an official marking of the breed.
“Black points” in Maltese dogs refer to certain physical features that are black or very dark in color. These often describe the dog’s nose, feet pads, and eye rims.
For the Maltese breed, these features being black is nearly a requirement. In fact, breed standards from the AKC, FCI, UKC, CKC, and the Kennel Club strongly require that a Maltese must have a black nose, eye rims, and foot pads.
Some of these standards even go as far as saying that a Maltese displaying any of these features in colors other than “absolutely black” is considered a fault.
Other Colors of the Maltese Breed
Aside from the Maltese’s coat, there are other aspects that contribute to its color. Some of the most notable ones are the colors of its eyes, nose, belly, and nails.
These are often overlooked when judging a dog’s coat color on the surface level. However, when it comes to the show ring, these features are scrutinized just as equally as the Maltese’s coat.
Eye and Nose Color
The Maltese breed is characterized by dark brown, round eyes. These eyes are set not too far apart and are enhanced by close-fitting black eye rims.
Any lack of pigmentation in the eye rims is considered a serious fault according to many breed standards. Recall that in the earlier section, we touched on the black points of the Maltese.
The nose of the Maltese is small and round, with a distinct black coloration. A Dudley nose or a nose of any color other than “pure black” is viewed as a serious fault under most breed standards.
The belly of the Maltese, much like the rest of its body, is typically covered in its characteristic long, white hair. There may be some variation in shading, but generally, the Maltese’s belly will reflect the same color as the rest of its coat.
The Maltese breed generally has black or dark-colored nails, matching the black coloration seen in their toe pads. However, nail color can vary and is not a significant concern when it comes to breed standards.
In conclusion, while the Maltese breed is famed for its beautiful, pure white coat, variations do occur, and these do not impact the breed’s characteristic intelligence, liveliness, and affectionate nature.
Maltese Color Changes
As a Maltese progresses from puppyhood to adulthood, subtle changes in coat color might be observed. This transition may come in the form of staining or light shading of the otherwise white coat of the Maltese.
Likewise, small patches of lemon or tan might become more pronounced as a Maltese ages.
There are many reasons why this could happen. For instance, external factors such as soil, dust, and stains from urine, food, or water may lead to the coat’s discoloration. On the other hand, it could simply be genetic.
Similarly, tear staining, a fairly common issue among Maltese dogs, can also affect their coat color of the Maltese. This may result in the development of reddish or brownish rust coloring around the eyes.
In addition, the color of a Maltese’s nose can also change over time due to genetic or environmental factors. Genetically, the presence of the parti gene can lead to some discoloration of the nose, which may manifest as the dog ages.
Meanwhile, environmentally, exposure to sunlight, cold winds, or dry conditions can cause the nose color to fade. Stains acquired from the dog’s feeding bowls may also play a role in this color change.
Fortunately, there are many ways to manage discoloration in your Maltese. For starters, you can begin by ensuring that your dog is properly and regularly groomed.
All in all, while some changes in coat color might occur in the Maltese, these changes should only be minor. If you notice any major color changes in your dog, it may be an indication of an underlying health condition.
Watch this video to learn more about grooming a Maltese as well as some skin issues common to the breed:
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Maltese Colors Affect Behavior and Health?
The color of a Maltese dog does not significantly impact its behavior or health. Although coat color is a prominent characteristic of the breed, it doesn’t influence the Maltese’s temperament, intelligence, or overall health.
Rather, behavior and health are affected by factors such as genetics, socialization, and environment. That said, it is recommended to choose a Maltese puppy based on its individual personality and not its coat color.
Do Maltese Puppies Change Colors as They Grow?
Yes, the coat color of Maltese puppies may undergo changes as they mature. Some may darken, while others might lighten over time.
For instance, a Maltese puppy with a light cream-colored coat on some parts of the body may develop into an adult with a darker shade on the said areas.
What Color Will My Maltese Puppy Be?
The final coat color of your Maltese puppy will be determined by its genetics as well as its environment.
Predicting the exact shade can be challenging, but a general idea of the coat color can be acquired by studying the puppy’s parents and their ancestry.
Alternatively, genetic testing can also provide insights into the final color of your Maltese.
All in all, the Maltese’s white coat is a defining aspect of the breed. Its limited color selection is what makes the breed special and highly distinctive.
However, we must not forget that before the white Maltese took center stage, other Maltese colors existed. It is with careful breeding that experts were able to streamline the signature look of the white Maltese.
Hopefully, this article gave you more clarity on the topic of Maltese colors. After reading this article, you should have a clear understanding of the different Maltese color variants.
So, are you getting a Maltese soon? Let us know in the comments below which among the few Maltese colors is your pick!