Italy: Bologneses are closely related to the Maltese and the Bichon Frise originally bred from Bologna, a region in northern Italy. They are believed to have existed since the 1200s in Malta and southern Italy. For centuries the Bolognese have been used as mousers and were said to have been kept on ships to hunt the rats and other rodents. During the Renaissance, they were exchanged as presents among the nobles. Catherine de Medicis, Catherine I, Maria Theresa Empress of Austria, and La Pompadour, Catherine of Russia, were all owners of Bolognese. After having received two Bolognese as a gift from the Duke d’Este, King Phillip II of Spain thanked the donor by writing “These two little dogs are the most royal gifts one can make to an emperor.” Although rare, this breed is making its way into the world and becoming more popular outside of Italy. These dogs served as rodent hunters and watchdogs in the past. But they have achieved status as a companion dogs more recently.