Do you find it hard to tell the difference between a Westie and a Maltese? Although one breed has silky soft curls and the other is shaggier, the two look alike and it is easy to confuse them. Although they look very similar on the outside, they differ in character and other key aspects of their physiognomy.

In the following article you will learn how to tell the difference between a Westie and a Maltese, so take a closer look!

The origins of the West Highland White Terrier and the Maltese

The history of your future dog’s breed can tell you a lot about what it will be like and why it is the way it is. As already mentioned, these two dogs come from very different backgrounds, so let’s take a closer look at their origins.

Origins of the West Highland White Terrier, “westie”

The West Highland White Terrier, also known to all as the westie, is descended from the Cairn Terrier and originated, as the name suggests, in the West Highlands of Scotland. The exact date of origin remains a mystery, but it is known that James I of England requested some “white terriers” from Argyleshire, Scotland, in 1620, which may have been one of the earliest mentions of westies.

Legend has it that the Westies originated in a hunting accident. During a hunt, Colonel Edward Malcom of Poltalloch accidentally killed a Scottish terrier, the breed’s ancestor, because he mistook it for a fox. As a result, he chose a dog with white fur to avoid the same mistake.

It was bred to hunt otters, foxes and vermin. The Westie was noted for his skill and usefulness in hunting rodents and other vermin that roamed farms and towns.

Origins of the Maltese

The Maltese, on the other hand, is a much older breed of dog. In fact, it is considered one of the oldest known breeds: Charles Darwin traced the origins of the Maltese back to 6000 BC. The Maltese belongs to the Bichon family, which originated in the Mediterranean region. It is likely that the Maltese were brought to Malta by the Phoenicians, who ruled the Mediterranean before the rise of Greece.

In the tomb of Pharaoh Ramses II (1301-1225 BC), stone statuettes resembling the Maltese of today were found. On vases from the period between 500 BC, there are images very similar to the Maltese.

The Greeks of the 4th and 5th centuries BC were fascinated by the geometric beauty of the Maltese, and it is commonly depicted on pottery from the Golden Age. The aristocrats of the Roman Empire, on the other hand, perfected the role of the Maltese as a status symbol and fashion statement.

After the fall of Rome, it was Chinese breeders who saved the Maltese from extinction during the Middle Ages in Europe. The Chinese wisely crossed their native toy breeds and exported a refined Maltese breed to Europe.

The breed has been prized by kings and aristocrats throughout history, and can even be seen in portraits of Queen Elizabeth I of England and other royalty.

Main physical differences between the Westie and the Maltese

The Westie and Maltese are physically similar breeds, but there are many key elements that can help us distinguish between them. Here are some of them:


Westies typically weigh between 6.8 and 9 kg and the average height at the withers is 25 to 28 cm.
Maltese are smaller in comparison, usually weighing between 3 and 4 kg and the average height at the withers is between 20-23 cm.


Westies have a soft, dense, thick undercoat and a thick outer coat, which can grow up to 5.1 inches in length. Most Westies are pure white, although there are some light beige varieties.
Maltese have a denser, glossier, silkier coat, falling more heavily over their body, with no curls or layers of hair. The colour is pure white, but allows a pale ivory tint. Adult dogs may grow their coat, which may reach to the ground.


The body of the Westie is shorter than its height.
The length of the Maltese is usually equal to its height, so the body is well proportioned and compact.


Westies have short, stiff tails.
The Maltese has a naturally long tail which is held in an elegant curve over the back.


The ears of the Westies are pointed and erect.
The ears of the Maltese are droopy, meaning that they are close to the face. If a Maltese has moderately long hair, the ears may even blend into the coat.

Character differences between the Westie and the Maltese

The Westie and Maltese also share common personality traits, as they are both very active dogs. Here are some differences in the character of these two dogs:

Westie Personality

There are several traits that westies possess that define them as intelligent, confident, adaptable and great fun to play with. Like all terriers, Westies were bred to work alone, so their independence can make training a challenge.

Despite their size, Westies are dogs that require little cuddling. They can also be very noisy, very intelligent and generally tend to be more energetic than Maltese.

Maltese character

Because Maltese dogs have lived with people for generations, they have mastered the art of getting what they want. Therefore, it is important that they are constantly trained so that they do not become capricious. Maltese are athletic and talented, excellent at dog sports such as obedience or agility. Although they are stubborn, positive training methods work well with them. Maltese are generally not as noisy as Westies.