Maltese were first seen in the United States in the late 1800's, and were participants in the earliest versions of the Westminster Kennel Club shows in the 1870's. There were periods when a tan or mottled-color Maltese was highly regarded. In fact, the first Maltese registered in America was born in 1873 and was white with black ears. However, as a sign of things to come, the first Maltese exhibited in America was "solid white" (as are all of the members of the breed today). Registrations with the American Kennel Club studbook in that time frame were made on the basis of show winnings. The first registrations of Maltese show winners appeared in 1888. Where the Maltese in the U.S. were imported from is not known; however, what is known is that the Maltese lines in the U.S. today have resulted from the importation of Maltese from Great Britain, canada, Germany, France, and Italy. From their first appearance through the 1950's, the numbers of Maltese registered with the AKC grew very slowly. However, since then, the breed's popularity has increased dramatically among breeders, fanciers, and pet owners. In the 1990's, the breed ranked in the top 15 of all breeds, with more than 12,000 Maltese registered annually! Maltese are one of the most popular breeds among spectators at dog shows, and are frequent winners of the Toy Group and have an excellent record in the "Best in Show" competition.