Maltese Dogs: Differences Between the American, Korean, and European Lines

Marta SarasĂșa
By Marta SarasĂșa, Psychologist. May 19, 2022
Maltese Dogs: Differences Between the American, Korean, and European Lines

Animal file: Maltese

The Maltese is a breed of dog from the toy dog group. Due to its amiable temperament and small size, the Maltese is popular as a pet throughout the world because of its calm, alert, affectionate and intelligent nature. The International Canine Federation (FCI) recognizes the Maltese Bichon as a distinct breed without variants. So, despite their differences, the European, American, and Korean Maltese all belong to exactly the same breed.

In the following AnimalWised article, discusses the physical and behavioral differences between the European, American, and Korean Maltese dogs.

You may also be interested in: Differences Between the Westie and the Maltese


  1. Characteristics of the European Maltese
  2. Characteristics of the American Maltese
  3. Characteristics of the Korean Maltese

Characteristics of the European Maltese

The European Maltese is the oldest of the European toy breeds, and one of the oldest breeds in general. The island of Malta was an early trading port, visited by Phoenician sailors as early as 1500 BC. Maltese dogs are mentioned in writings as early as 300 BC. In Greek art, Maltese dogs are found from the fifth century.

Although the dogs were often exported and subsequently spread throughout Europe and Asia, the core population in Malta remained relatively isolated from other dogs, resulting in this distinctive dog that has been bred for centuries.

Over time, this small dog became more popular and began to be crossed with other breeds to produce smaller and smaller specimens. These crosses resulted in many different varieties of Maltese with different sizes, coats, and colors. It was only in 1954 that the International Canine Federation (FCI) recognized the Maltese Bichon as a single breed, and its last standard, published in 1989, stated that only the white coat was desirable and accepted, so the other varieties gradually disappeared.

Physical characteristics

Its average weight ranges from 6.6 pounds (3 kg) to 13.2 pounds (6 kg), but can vary depending on the individual. Its height at the withers is about 11 inches (ca. 28 cm). Their tail is broad at the base and thin at the end, forming a curve that is covered with long, soft hair. A black nose and large, dark, round eyes distinguish its friendly white face, giving it a sweet and alert expression. Their ears have a triangular shape and fall gently to either side of their skull.

The most distinctive feature of the European Maltese is undoubtedly its very long, pure white or pale ivory coat. Its silky and perfectly smooth hair falls on both sides of the trunk, covering their limbs and reaching the ground. Long whiskers form on the face, joining the hair that comes out of the skull and falls over the ears.

This coat requires a lot of grooming, including daily brushing to remove dirt and prevent knots from forming. Many owners choose to trim the Maltese's hair, so they do not have to spend as much time grooming.

Behavioral characteristics

The gentle Maltese has long been a popular lapdog and fulfills this role with flying colors. However, they also have a wild side and love to run and play. Despite their innocent appearance, they are bold and feisty and can challenge larger dogs. Towards strangers, they are reserved. Some bark a lot. As with all dog breeds, it is important to pay special attention to education and socialization during the puppy stage. If you accustom the Maltese puppy to the presence of other animals, children, vehicles, noises, etc. and make sure that they have positive experiences with all these things, we can avoid possible behavior issues in the future.

The European Maltese Bichon is a playful and very intelligent dog that likes to learn new commands and skills through play and positive reinforcement. Therefore, it is advisable to conduct small, frequent training sessions with them and provide them with quality environmental stimuli so that they do not get bored or stressed, especially when they are alone at home.

If you want to know more about the different games you can play with your dog to boost his intelligence and creativity, read this other article about intelligence games for dogs at home.

Maltese Dogs: Differences Between the American, Korean, and European Lines - Characteristics of the European Maltese

Characteristics of the American Maltese

The American Maltese is a special breeding line created out of a desire to create a "toy" or "mini" version of the traditional or European Maltese. Thus, the main difference between the European and American Maltese is size.

The American Kennel Club (AKC), the institution responsible for establishing breed standards and registering pedigrees in the United States, has been collecting the most important characteristics of the American Maltese puppy since its recognition at the end of the 19th century.

Physical characteristics

Although the American Maltese is difficult to distinguish from the European Maltese as a puppy, the differences in size and weight are obvious when they have completed their physical development. The American Maltese is a miniature version of the already small European Maltese, for while specimens of the traditional line can reach a weight of 13.2 pounds (ca. 6 kg), the American Maltese rarely reaches 6.6 pounds (3 kg) as an adult.

Their legs are shorter, and their bodies are more compact, being virtually as tall as they are long, unlike the European Maltese. One of its main distinguishing features is its face, as the American Maltese has a much shorter muzzle and larger eyes, giving it a childlike appearance.

The coat of the American Maltese is also pure white, long and smooth, but much denser, as it can even have twice as many hairs as that of the European Maltese.

Behavioral characteristics

American and European Maltese have very similar temperaments, because the goal of breeding this breed was to produce animals with different appearances, not different behaviors.

Despite its small size, the American Maltese is a very courageous dog that protects its family and usually barks to report the presence of stimuli that it considers intruders. Unfortunately, many caregivers tend to overprotect these dogs, considering them fragile and vulnerable due to their small size.

As a result of this lack of autonomy and socialization, the Maltese can develop behavioral problems related to fear and insecurity. For this reason, it is important to train them from puppyhood and give them the opportunity to interact and freely explore their environment. This way they can satisfy their physical and emotional needs to develop and show their natural friendly, trusting and playful temperament.

Socialization is a crucial part of puppy training. It is where the dog learns how to interact with other dogs, animals and people. If you want to learn more about this process, do not hesitate to read our other article about puppy and adult dog socialization.

Maltese Dogs: Differences Between the American, Korean, and European Lines - Characteristics of the American Maltese

Characteristics of the Korean Maltese

The Korean Maltese was the last line of this breed to appear. It is the most popular dog breed in South Korea. In fact, almost 1 in 4 pet owners own a Korean Maltese. A Korean Maltese is a purebred toy dog that shares the same pedigree as Maltese dogs classified by the International Canine Federation (FCI) and the American Kennel Club (AKC). Thus, a Korean Maltese is a Maltese toy dog bred and kept in South Korea.

Physical characteristics

Almost identical to the American Maltese, the Korean Maltese also differs from the traditional or European Maltese Bichon. Trying to emphasize even more of the characteristics of the American Maltese, the Asian line creates an even smaller, cuddlier dog.

The adult Korean Maltese dog weighs about 5.5 pounds (2.5 kilograms), its head is slightly rounder than that of specimens of other lines, and its eyes are larger in proportion to the rest of its body. Also, like their nose, they are intensely black in color, making them very conspicuous on their small face. Their limbs, ears, and tail are short, and their fur, which is as white and soft as that of their European and American varieties, is even more profuse and dense, if possible.

Another difference between the European, American, and Korean Maltese Bichon is in the size of their litters. Due to their small size, Korean Maltese can only give birth to one or two puppies at a time. European Maltese females, on the other hand, can give birth to up to eight puppies.

Lastly, Maltese dogs in South Korea are usually styled differently from other Maltese varieties, giving them a distinctive look.

Behavioral characteristics

In terms of behavior, the Korean Maltese dog is quite similar to the other Maltese variants. The Korean Maltese also runs the risk of being overprotected by its caretakers. However, if the puppies remain with their mother for at least eight weeks and are properly socialized and trained, Korean Maltese are extremely sociable, lively, playful, and affectionate. They tend to become very attached to their caregivers. Therefore, it is advisable to teach them from an early age to tolerate loneliness and encourage their autonomy through interactive and intelligent toys.

Young Maltese are very active and tend to get bored easily. Therefore, they need daily mental stimulation and plenty of time with their caregivers, either through positive training or relaxing and cuddling together. Since they are so small, they do not need a lot of physical exercise, but they do need to go for walks at least three times a day to explore the environment, socialize and relieve themselves.

If you want to learn more about how to properly raise and socialize a puppy to avoid behavior problems, do not miss this other article on common puppy raising mistakes.

Maltese Dogs: Differences Between the American, Korean, and European Lines - Characteristics of the Korean Maltese

If you want to read similar articles to Maltese Dogs: Differences Between the American, Korean, and European Lines, we recommend you visit our Comparisons category.

  • International Cinological Federation. (2018). Maltese . Available at:
  • American Kennel Club. Maltese . Available at:
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Maltese Dogs: Differences Between the American, Korean, and European Lines