Bolognese belong to the Bichon family group, which includes the Bichon Frise, Maltese, Lowchen, Havanese and Coton de Tulear. Although there are some similarities the Bolognese are a distinctive breed in their own right. The Bolognese is an ancient breed of noble origins, and has its roots with Italian Aristocracy.
The precise ancestry of the Bolognese is a mystery. Its closest relative within the Bichon group is the Maltese but it is unclear as to whether the Maltese is its direct ancestor or descendant. The Bolognese are named after Bologna a city in northern Italy, thought to be the place of their conception. The existence of the Bolognese has been recorded since the year 1200.
Bolognese dogs can be seen in tapestry work produced by Flemish craftsmen dating as far back as the 17th century. The Venetian painter Titian painted the Duke Frederico Gonzaga with his Bolognese. The breed is also seen in paintings by Goya, Gosse and Watteau. Other famous owners of the breed include Catherine the Great of Russia (1729-1796), Madame De Pompadour (1721-1764) and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria.
The breed was brought into England in 1990 by Liz Stannard and is first shown during that year in the breed registry. In 2001 the breed was able to be shown at all shows with their own classes. They were at Crufts for the first time in 2002.