Coton de Tulear 101: A Comprehensive Guide to Madagascar’s Royal Canine Companion

Coton de Tulear

We pronounce the Coton de Tulear (co-TAWN day-too-LEE-are), and it means Cotton of Tulear in French. Cotton is referring to its white coat and Tulear coming from the seaport at the tip of Madagascar’s island.

The Coton de Tulear shares lineage with the Bichon Frise, Maltese, and Bolognese. They were initially bred to be ratters and companions on sea trading ships. Unfortunately, one of these trading ships sunk off Tulear’s coast; thankfully, some dogs survived and made it to shore, where they became feral and mixed with native dogs.

Coton de Tulear looking amazing

During the 17th century, the native Merina people accepted the dogs and offered them to the Merina nobility. When the French laid claim to Madagascar in the late 17th century, French nobility adopted the dogs and issued an edict that no commoners could own them. As a result, they became known as the royal dogs of Madagascar.

Later, when Madagascar gained its freedom during the mid-1900s, tourism increased, and visitors took Cotons back to their homelands. In fact, the Coton made its way to America in 1974, which increased demand, therefore, exhausting native stocks. As a result, Madagascar began to limit the number of Coton de Tulear exported.

There is a difference of opinion about the proper breed between the prominent breed clubs (and even claims of tainted breeding), further fueled by disagreements over pursuing AKC recognition. Against the wishes of many breeders, the AKC acknowledged the Coton de Tulear as a Non-Sporting Group member as recent as 2014.

Coton de Tulear Breed Facts

Adorable Coton de Tulear looking up at the camera

Temperament: The Coton de Tulear is a playful, merry, energetic companion, eager to amuse and please. It is a very affectionate breed that loves to give and receive love. They’re awesome with children, other dogs, strangers, and other pets. They’re also easy to train. The Coton makes for an awesome apartment dog thanks to how calm it is inside; they’re not big barkers. They can produce a variety of different vocalizations. Do not expect this dog to be a guard dog, and they’re utterly hopeless as protection dogs.

Coton de Tulear dog relaxing on the grass

Upkeep: The Coton de Tulear loves to romp indoors and they can achieve most of their exercise requirements with lively games inside or in the yard. However, moderate walks are good for mental stimulation. Though this breed is not a big shedder, taking care of the coat is one of the biggest challenges because it tangles and mats easily. To prevent tangles and mats, we recommend you brush your dog with a pin brush daily. Whenever they’re on one of their outside romps, check for twigs or leaves in their coats and remove immediately before they cause tangles. We also suggest a weekly bath.

  • Popularity: Uncommon
  • Family: Barbichon
  • Origin: Madagascar
  • Date Developed: 1500s
  • Past Function: Companion
  • Current Function: Companion
  • Other Names: None
  • Life Expectancy: 13–15 years
  • Weight: Male: 9–15 pounds; Female: 8–13 pounds
  • Height: Male: 10–11 inches; Female: 9–10 inches

Color: White; some slight shadings of gray or tan are permitted on ears; light tan shadings are permitted on 5 percent of the body of an adult

Group: Non-Sporting Group

Health Problems: Patellar luxation, CHD


Energy levelWatchdog ability
Exercise requirementsProtection ability
PlayfulnessGrooming requirements
Affection levelCold tolerance
Friendliness toward dogsHeat tolerance
Friendliness toward other petsFriendliness toward strangers
Ease of training

The Coton de Tulear is a strong, hardy, but small dog. Though they’re mainly bred for companionship, there was a time when they had to fend for themselves. Its trademarks are its cheerful personality and copious, white, cottony coat. The roughly four-inch coat has the consistency of soft cotton. It is thick and profuse and stands off the body. It’s believed that the coat’s texture allows air to circulate within it, which insulates the dog from heat and cold. The Coton de Tulear’s white coloration is another breed trademark. But, puppies may be born with spots, generally around the head and ears, which diminishes with age.

The Coton de Tulear’s significance in history

happy dog in the field

Madagascar’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean made it a crucial stop for maritime trade routes. Sailors and traders visiting the island often liked the Coton de Tulear due to their friendly nature and adaptability. These dogs became popular shipboard companions, offering entertainment and companionship during long sea voyages.

Survival of the Fittest: The dog’s survival and development as a distinct breed can be attributed to the isolation of Madagascar. Over the centuries, the breed adapted to its environment, developing characteristics that helped it thrive in the island’s unique climate and conditions. For instance, their white, cottony coats provided protection against the intense sunlight.

Modern Recognition: While the Coton de Tulear has a rich historical background, it wasn’t until the late 20th century that the breed gained international recognition. In 1974, the first Cotons were imported to Europe, and the breed’s standard was officially recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 1970.

Charming Companions: Today, the Coton de Tulear is primarily known for its delightful personality, lovely appearance, and strong bond with its human companions. These dogs are often considered excellent family pets due to their friendly, affectionate nature. Their adaptability makes them suitable for various living situations, from apartments to larger homes.

The dog’s significance in history lies in its role as a royal companion in Madagascar and its adaptability and charm that endeared it to sailors and families worldwide. The breed’s journey from the palaces of Madagascar to becoming a beloved household pet showcases its enduring appeal and historical importance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Coton de Tulear shed?

Coton de Tulear dogs have a low-shedding coat. While they shed to some extent, their shedding is minimal compared to many other dog breeds. Regular grooming and brushing can help manage their coat and minimize loose hair.

What is the average cost of a Coton de Tulear?

The average asking price of a puppy can be determined by various factors, such as the breeder’s reputation, location, lineage, and the puppy’s quality. However, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 from a reputable breeder. Prices may go higher for show-quality or champion bloodline puppies. It’s essential to research and find a responsible breeder who spotlights the health and well-being of the dogs.

Are Coton de Tulear good with cats?

The breed generally has a friendly and sociable temperament, making them compatible with cats. However, it’s important to note that dogs’ behavior may vary. Proper socialization from an early age and gradual introductions can increase the chances of a positive relationship between a Coton de Tulear and a cat. To ensure a harmonious coexistence, monitoring their interactions initially and providing a safe and supervised environment is recommended.

How to groom a Coton de Tulear dog?

Grooming a Coton de Tulear typically involves several steps. Here’s an essential guide:
1. Brushing: Use a slicker brush or a comb with wide-spaced teeth to brush your Coton’s coat thoroughly. This breed has a long, dense, and soft coat that tends to tangle and mat easily, so regular brushing is essential to prevent mats and keep the coat clean.
2. Bathing: Use gentle dog shampoo and lukewarm water to bathe your Coton de Tulear. Be sure to rinse the coat completely to remove any residue. Avoid getting water or shampoo in their ears, and consider using cotton balls to protect them.
3. Drying: Gently towel dry your Coton’s coat after the bath. You can also use a blow dryer on a low, relaxed setting to finish drying. However, be cautious not to use excessive heat or get too close to their skin, as it can be sensitive.
4. Coat maintenance: Regularly check your Coton’s coat for mats and tangles. Use a detangling spray or conditioning mist to help loosen the knots if necessary. For areas prone to matting, such as behind the ears or under the belly, consider using a slicker brush or a comb to lightly remove tangles.
5. Eye and ear care: Clean your Coton’s eyes with a damp cloth or specialized dog eye wipes to remove any discharge. Be gentle and careful around the eye area. Additionally, regularly inspect and clean the ears with a veterinarian-approved ear cleaner to prevent wax build-up and potential infections.
6. Nail trimming: Trim your Coton’s nails regularly, being cautious not to cut too close to the quick (the sensitive area inside the nail). A professional groomer or vet can assist if you’re unsure or uncomfortable doing this yourself.
7. Dental hygiene: Brush your Coton’s teeth regularly using a dog-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste. This helps maintain good dental health and prevents tartar build-up.
Remember, it’s important to start grooming your Coton de Tulear from a young age to get them accustomed to the process. Consulting with a professional groomer or veterinarian is recommended if you’re unsure about specific grooming techniques or need personalized guidance.

Do Coton de Tulear dogs bark a lot?

These dogs are generally not known to be excessive barkers. They are typically calm and gentle, contributing to their quiet nature. However, every dog is unique, and barking tendencies can vary from one individual to another. Training, socialization, and environment also affect a dog’s barking behavior. Proper training and early socialization can help establish good behavior patterns and reduce unnecessary barking in any dog breed, including Coton de Tulears.

Are Coton de Tulear good family dogs?

Yes, the breed is known to be good family dogs. They are affectionate and friendly and enjoy being a part of the family. They typically get along well with children and are generally patient and gentle. They also tend to be sociable when properly introduced and socialized with other dogs and pets. Their adaptability makes them well-suited for various family environments, including households with children or multiple pets. However, as with any dog breed, supervision and appropriate training should be provided to ensure harmonious interactions between the dog and the family members.

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