Coton de Tulear
Other names: Coton, Cotie
A dog made of cotton : that’s what you appear to get when you open the box on your brand new Coton de Tuléar puppy. These silky, fluffy dogs are happy little critters : intelligent, playful, adaptable, they love the company of children and other animals.
The Coton is of Madagascar heritage, hence the French name, since Madagascar was a colony of France from the 1880s up until 1960. The Coton was inducted as the "Royal Dog of Madagascar" in the 17th century, at which time nobody outside of the royal family was permitted to keep one. It still retains that title today, although non-royals are now welcome to keep one, and the breed has been ‘international’ since French tourists began exporting them in the 1960s.
Key facts about the Coton de Tulear
Origins and history
Tulear (now mostly known as Toliara) is a port town on the island of Madagascar, 200 miles from the coast of Africa. The island was colonised for nearly a century by the French, and their language is still common there today, especially among the so-called elites. Hence the name of this ‘cotton dog of Tulear.’
The deep pre-history of the Coton de Tuléar is somewhat blurry. In some places it is asserted that the hound evolved as a feral creature after a crate of Euro-pups from a shipwrecked merchant boat washed up on the island and mated with local strays, as Euro-brats are wont to do. Others suggest the dog’s ancestors arrived on the island under more formal conditions, as the Bichon-type dogs of international traders, who then interbred and evolved into this fluffy little superstar.
Anyway, at some point during the 17th century, the ruling "Merina" tribe adopted the breed for themselves, forbidding regular islanders from keeping Cotons, so that the creature soon became known as the "Royal Dog of Madagascar," a title by which she is still informally known today. And indeed she was exclusive also to the island, having evolved there, and did not find her way abroad until the 1960s, when she became popular in France. She wasn’t recognised by the UK Kennel Club until 1990.
Today, her fine hair and keen price tag have caused her to be associated with elements of high glamour. The likes of Barbra Streisand, Debra Messing, Glenn Close, Jane Fonda, and Catherine Zeta-Jones have taken Cotons as companions, while she has graced her own postage stamp in her native Madagascar.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 9 - Companion and Toy Dogs
Section 1 : Bichons and related breeds
Physical characteristics of the Coton de Tulear
Female : Between 9 and 11 in
Male : Between 10 and 12 in
Female : Between 7 and 11 lb
Male : Between 9 and 13 lb
White, potentially with grey or red-roan accents on the ears and elsewhere – although she still needs to appear to be white in general to meet the breed’s standard.
Type of coat
The Coton de Tulear's hair is long, dense and single coated.
Black or brown to match the nose.
Looking somewhat luxurious for her long soft hair, the Coton de Tuléar is most known for the white-cotton appearance by which she gets her name. Her dark round eyes and nose and petite silhouette give the impression that her fur is just a disguise over the top of a living, breathing teddy bear. Her tail tends towards perky.
Good to know
You can tell the Coton apart from similar breeds by the distinctive arch in her back.
The Coton de Tuléar is a quiet creature but she will let you know if she loves you, as she probably will.
She is a particularly playful one ; you may have spotted one of these softies pattering about on their hind legs before, since that is their number one party trick.
The Cotie is generally calm and relaxed but by no means antisocial ; indeed, she can become boisterous when she senses she has an audience.
Witty and engaged, the Coton de Tuléar keeps her eye on what’s going on around her and learns quickly.
Despite her exotic origins, this dog has no genetic memory of the hunting life; neither lemurs nor geckos, aye-ayes nor crocodiles should fear the chase of the Coton, particularly if they should encounter her on her hind legs.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Although close to her family, the Coton is a people-person in general and will greet strangers with licks and tricks.
This breed thrives on human company and hardly heeds any appeal to conduct its own explorations or research. However, you will usually find the Coton de Tuléar to be a free-thinker ; and the female more independent than the male.
Behaviour of the Coton de Tulear
This dog loses her sense of purpose when her people are absent. She is built like a teddy-bear for a reason : she desires to be taken everywhere with you and subjected to regular hugging and boops.
Easy to train / obedience
She’s intelligent and enjoys company and treats, but can also be stubborn and grow bored of the pedagogic progress. Use compliments rather than punishments when training the Coton de Tuléar, always be patient, and this dog has great potential for continued education – the realm of tricks and agility.
A couple of warning barks when she requires your attention for one reason or another will usually satisfy this dog’s need to vocalise.