HomeNewsOct 6, Coton de Tulear: The Ultimate Fluffy Dog, Breed Profile

    Oct 6, Coton de Tulear: The Ultimate Fluffy Dog, Breed Profile

    Coton de Tulear   by Janice Jones     |Updated 10-06-2022

    The Coton de Tulear (pronounced coTAWN
    day two-LEE are) is a rare and
    ancient breed, originating in Madagascar.  

    Anyone looking for a small, white fluffy dog,
    this has to be the breed for you.  They
    get their name from their fluffy cotton like hair and the city from which they
    were thought to originate–Tulear, a port city in SW Madagascar. 

    Coton de Tulear

    Explanations for At a Glance Ratings 

    • Playfulness:  Most=5   Less=1
    • Affection:  Most=5   Least=1
    • Friendliness Towards Strangers:  Most=5  Least=1
    • Good with Children:  Good=5   Not Good=1
    • Good with Other Dogs:   Good=5   Not Good=1
    • Good for First Time Owners:  Good=5  Not Good=1
    • Amount of Exercise Required:  Much=5  Minimal=1
    • Ease of Training:   Easy=5   Difficult=1
    • Watch Dog Ability:   Excellent=5   Poor=1
    • Grooming Needs:   Extensive=5  Minimal=1
    • Shedding:   Heavy Shedding=5   Minimal Shedding=1
    • Cold Tolerance:   Cold Well Tolerated=5    Poorly Tolerated=1
    • Heat Tolerance:   Heat Well Tolerated=5   Poorly Tolerated=1
    Coton de Tulear

    Today Tulear is known as the port city of  “Toliara”,  Some describe them as a miniature Old English
    Sheepdog and others think of them as cute stuffed animals. 

    Neither description depicts the true nature
    of these puppy-like companion dogs.  They
    are intelligent, eager to please, easily trained and highly devoted to their

    They do well with children and get along fine with other dogs and cats.  In fact, they can adjust to just about any type of life style and maybe the ultimate “anti-stress dog.”

    Most people think of the Coton as purely white, but they can come in three different color variations:  White, White and Black, and Tri-color.  The tri-color is mostly white with some champangne patches and a faint dusting of black hair.  Many puppies are born with darker hair that eventually lightens. 

    The most prominent features of this
    breed are their cottony coat, dark nose, expressive eyes, short legs and a tail
    that curls over the back of the body.

    Still rare in the USA, the standard for
    this breed was first established in 1969 and recognized by the FCI, Fédération
    Cynologique Internationale in 1971.

    The First Cotons were brought to North America
    in 1974.  Since the early 1990s, they
    have been gaining popularity in both the US and Canada.

    In the US, there is some controversy and several
    breed clubs have been formed each with a different standard.  In 1996 the American Kennel Club recognized
    the breed and placed it in their Foundation Stock Services in the Miscellaneous

    This means that the Coton de Tulear can compete in AKC Companion Events
    (Obedience, Rally, Tracking, and Agility). United States
    of America Coton de Tulear Club is considered the official AKC parent club.

    Quick Facts about the Coton de Tulear

    Other Names Used“Royal
    dog of Madagascar”

    Affiliation:  UK: 
    Toy Group, AKC:  Miscellaneous


           Height:  9 to 12 inches

           Weight:  8 to 13 pounds

    Coat Type:  long, soft , dense, dry with the texture
    of cotton

    Colors:  white (sometimes with tan markings; all
    white preferred by show breeders), black and white, and tricolor.

    Country of Origin: Madagascar

    Activity Level:  Moderate

    Life Expectancy:  16—19 years

    Good with Children:  Yes

    Good with other pets:


    Coton, the Royal Dog of Madagascar

    The Coton de Tulear originated on the
    island of Madagascar approximately 300 years ago.  They were favorites of the Malagsy Kings and
    noblemen for centuries and nobility were the only people permitted to own

    The Coton was a favorite of the
    Malagasy Kings and noblemen and for many years only royalty could own them.

    Legend has it that the Coton’s arrival
    in Madagascar coincided with a ship wreck in the proximity of Madagascar. The
    name or nationality of the ship is not known, but it has been assumed that the ancestors
    of the Coton breed were aboard that ship. 

    This infamous ship might well have been a pirate ship as Madagascar
    was a haven for pirates, and pirate graveyards can still be seen there.  The modern day Maltese, Bichon Frise, Havanese
    as well as the Coton de Tulear is thought to have descended from these ancient
    seafaring dogs. 

    Since this breed has
    very little prey drive, and is not a hunting dog, it is mostly likely been a
    companion dog since its origins.

    If you like fable, here is another
    version of the origins of the
    Coton de Tulear

    Here is story from Madagascar about
    Cotons who wanted to cross a river infested with crocodiles: There were a
    number of large reptiles with wide open mouths waiting patiently for a feast
    near a river.

    Since swimming across was sheer suicide, our dogs needed a
    diversion to reach the opposite bank, and that is exactly what they
    did. The dogs looked first for the narrowest passage and left some of the
    pack there.

    Then some ran to the widest part of the river and started barking
    ferociously on the bank. The racket lured all the crocodiles to that spot where
    they got out of the water and slowly made their way to where they heard the
    barking dogs.

    Our sly dogs sprinted back to the narrowest passage, jumped in
    the water and swam across! 


    Coton de Tulear Adults

    Bred only for companionship throughout the
    centuries, these dogs are alert, happy, lively and slow to anger. 

    Cotons are not big into barking, but they can
    act as a watchdog alerting you when someone is at your door.  Their sweet temperament, cute appearance and clownish
    antics charm anyone who has the opportunity to own one of these dogs. 

    Even with their soft endearing
    appearance, they are still very hardy dogs, equally happy in the snow, rain or
    mud and everything in between.

    They love to play, romp around the yard
    and snuggle close to you whether it is on your lap or keeping your feet warm as
    you sit. 

    They are very devoted to their
    and enjoy other pets as well as children.  They tend to get very attached to their
    person or family. 

    They are comical and
    will keep you entertained whether it is standing on their back legs, dancing or
    walking around like this or cocking their head when spoken to.  It is even said that they have a large
    vocabulary of sighs, whimpers, rumbles and other canine words to help their
    owners know just what they want.   

    They are intelligent and easy to
    train.  They do well in obedience, agility,
    tracking and even musical freestyle. 

    Housebreaking is not as easy with this breed.  Firm, consistent, gentle training works well
    with these dogs.  Early training is best
    because they are likely to think they are the boss and will be harder to train
    as they age. 

    Grooming the Coton de Tulear

    Coton de Tulear

    The Coton’s coat is long, soft, and
    dense and feels like cotton.  They need a
    good brushing once or twice a week to keep their coat from matting. Daily
    brushing is preferable.

    They do not shed, but loose hair especially when
    brushed just like with human hair.  They
    are a low dander breed making them especially good for those with

    Many puppies are born with black
    or brown markings on their faces and bodies. In most cases, these markings fade
    to a grey or light-brown color by about the age of two years. Occasionally,
    black or brown patches remain quite dark.

    For the show ring, the coat is left long
    with the exception of a little trimming around the paws and the pads of the
    feet. Adult dogs require a deep brushing once or twice weekly to maintain a
    long coat.  Some people prefer to brush
    daily.  These coats should be misted with
    conditioner before brushing. 

    Combing or
    brushing a dry coat will cause breakage. 
    This is especially important during the time when the puppy’s coat transforms
    into the adult coat approximately 8 to 12 months of age.  At this stage, the puppy will lose their
    undercoat and matting happens quickly.

    Many pet owners prefer to have
    their companions trimmed in a puppy cut that tends to accentuate their already
    cute appearance.  Coton de Tulears should be bathed
    about every couple of weeks
    and then dried with a blow dryer while brushing.  Mats can be pulled apart with your fingers or
    by using the end tooth of a metal comb.    The coat should not be allowed to dry
    naturally as this will cause matting.

    The nails will need to be
    , teeth brushed, foot pads trimmed and anal glands expressed

    Health Concerns

    The Coton du Tulear breed is healthy,
    vigorous, and long-lived
    with an average life expectancy of about 16 years. Compared
    to some breeds, they are exceptionally healthy. 
    According to the Coton de Tulear Club of America, the North American population
    of Cotons has no known genetic defects.

    There have been some recent diseases
    that have occurred in individual dogs, but whether they have a genetic
    component is yet to be determined in this breed. 

    identified disorders include

    Neo-Natal Ataxia

    A condition that affects young puppies neurologically, leaving
    them unable to walk due to a lack of coordination of movements.

    Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

    A cause of blindness which results from the progressive
    loss of tissue of the retina.  It is
    caused by a de-generation and loss of retinal tissue.

    Read about Progressive Retinal Atrophy


    A dislocation of the kneecap or stifle,
    causing the knee to slip in and out of the socket as the dog walks or runs.

    Read about Patellar Luxation

    Dysplasia  both Hip and Elbow dysplasia

    Hip dysplasia is a painful malformation of the hip joint. It
    is caused by poor position of the hip or insufficient muscle mass.  Hip dysplasia is seen in the hind legs and
    elbow dysplasia would cause problems in the elbow socket of the forelegs.

    Read more about Hip Dysplasia


    • Sweet, happy temperament
    • Gets along well with children and other pets
    • Very low dander, non shedding—good for allergy sufferers
    • Easy to train
    • Adapts well to all life styles and living arrangements
    • Healthy


    • Rare breeds mean expensive pups
    • Hard to housebreak
    • Extensive grooming required
    The Coton de Tulear Dog Breed ProfileThe Coton de Tulear Dog Breed Profile

    Further Reading & Gifts for the Coton Lover

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