Because of their rarity, it is hard to fathom the importance of the Bolognese in history. Art historians from the world of the Bolognese insist that the Mona Lisa was originally painted in 1803 while holding her Bolognese.
This antique breed finds its origin in Bologna, Italy. But it is not sure how exactly it all started. What we do know is that in ancient times, 400 years B.C., the Bichon was already known. Some Greek and Roman writers wrote about this small dog. Plinius called it: "Catulus Melitaeus". Tombstones and vases with a small white dog and description "Melitae" were found. Among the earliest allusions to the Bolognese are those attributed to Aristotle (384 B.C. to 322 B.C.) who, in his Latin writings, named some small dogs "canes meletinses" (or Melitensi). We do not know to which dog species Aristotle was referring; it is possible that his notation merely referred to dogs associated with a geographical location that we assume is Malta (long time ago Melitae was the name for the island Malta).
There was an ancient breed called: "Barbet", which means "with a beard". The diminutive is Barbichon, which will actually lead to the breed Bichon. It was in 1860 that the Bolognese was recognized as a different breed within the Bichon group. Until then it existed as a variety of the Maltese, the only difference being the curled fur instead of the silky straight hair the Maltese have.
An other piece of history we know is that the Bolognese were used as rat killers on ships. This probably enabled them to spread around the world. Something must have changed their position because in the renaissance they became very valuable. They were given as presents to many rich people. We know that Cosimo de Medici (1349-1464) brought eight Bolognese to Brussels as a gift to Belgian noblemen. The Duke d'Este gave Philipe II (1527-1598), King of Spain, two Bolognese as a present. Philipe II thanked him by saying: "These two little dogs are the most royal gifts one can make to an emperor".
One thing is however certain; the roots of the Bolognese are shrouded in the mists of time...
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