Kelb tal-Kaċċa ta' Malta
The Identity of Malta
A breed that all Maltese dog lovers not only hunters should be proud of, is the ‘Kelb tal-Kaċċa ta’ Malta’, which means Maltese Hunting Dog.
The breed is similar to the 'Bracco Italiano' or even more likely the French ‘Braque of Saint Germain’, has few literature to be accounted for, and so it’s origin is still a mystery.
When one evaluates Malta’s different conquests throughout the decades, we can certainly look from the 11th Century when Normans conquered the Maltese islands in 1091, then in 1530 the King of Spain gave the islands to the Knights of St.John, one must realize that hunting was considered as an exclusive privilege to the knights at that time and so during the 16th century hunting in Malta was already regulated.
The oldest document called ‘Bandu’ which had the same power as that of a present legal notice that could possibly be referring to the said breed is that of 1773 issued by Grand Master Ximenes which allowed the use of the Braque dog for hunting. The breed has a very friendly character, intelligent, affectionate and intensely loyal. A breed which is considered to be an all rounder within the hunting world, as its main purposes are to hunt, flush and retrieve game. Through time the breed evolved and adapted very well to the Maltese geology and climate. Having short smooth coat to cope with mild winters and harsh summers, and of a medium size body which are considered superb for the local small sized migratory game (Quail, Turtle Dove, Song Thrush, etc).
Having some appearance characteristics of Bracco’s, with large dangling ears and ‘Braque’ type face, and often a pink colored nose and flews. Colour shades can vary from light lemon to dark orange patches over a white coat. The lemon patched dogs are sometimes even refered to by locals as the ‘Kelb tal-Kaċċa ta’ Għawdex’. Għawdex is the Maltese word referring to the island of Gozo located North West of the Maltese islands. The lemon patched dogs are somewhat smaller in size and height, which some argue to be the proper 'Kelb tal-Kaċċa'. The 'Kelb tal-Kaċċa ta’ Malta', works calmly but covers all areas easily without any doubt, especially when one considers the concentrated amount of hunters (83 hunters to every square mile) and the small countryside huntable areas found on the islands (152 square miles total area of the Maltese islands), the kelb tal-kaċċa is the ideal hunting dog for our islands.
Throughout the years the Maltese, especially hunters, who are proud of our cultural heritage and its related socio-cultural aspects, including hunting and gun-dog breeding, have always aspired that one day the Kelb tal-Kaċċa is officially recognized as a 'pure-breed'. At present the dogs are found in good numbers on the Maltese islands, while some are also to be found in Australia having been there exported by Maltese immigrants. Back in 2001 a local postage stamp was issued which depicted the Kelb tal-Kaċċa ta’ Malta.
The 'pure-breed' population has been decreasing due interbreeding with foreign gun-dog breeds' imports. In 2012 the Federation for Hunting and Conservation - Malta (FKNK) established the Maltese Hunting Dog Owners' Club commissioned a study under the responsibility of Dr. James Galea a dental surgeon by profession with a passionate interest in gun-dogs and veterinarian Dr. Martin Debattista, who teamed-up to carry out genetic research. A year later in July 2015 the study was evaluated by Italian Universities specializing in DNA research, after taking samples from 20 dogs. The study clearly concluded that the breed is unique and indigenous to the Maltese islands, and so, one can no longer consider the Kelb tal-Kaċċa ta’ Malta to be a mongrel or crossbreed. Due to very close related genetic pool of the breed on the island, and also possible recent cross breeds with German Pointers, the project has now reached its final goals and a ‘Stud Book’ is in process of being compiled, which for stud dogs with the least minimum genetic defects.