The Coton de Tulear (pronounced cu-toe de too-lay-are) is a rare ancient purebred that originated on the island of Madagascar more than three centuries ago. This large island is located near the bottom of Africa. The Coton was a favorite of the Malagasy Kings and noblemen and for many years only royality could own them.
Romantic and fabulous, alot of tales abound about the Coton and alligators, about them tricking them to climb onto the banks of the river at a wide point and the cotons sprinting to a narrow part to cross the river, neverless Mr. Petit, former President of the “Societe Canine du Madagascar” offers a more plausible account. The first European merchants holding commercial and trading posts in Madagascar would have introduced various Bichon type dogs destined for companionship who in turn procreated with our four legged friends of the island.
In 1653, Etienne de Flacourt, geographer and governor of Fort Dauphin, Madagascar recorded the following in literature: “There are quantities of dogs that are small, have long muzzles and short legs similar to foxes. A few of them are white. They have been engendered by dogs originating from France and have remained. They have short ears.” Lovely puppies resulted from the semi-white fluffs, half European, half Malagasy who quickly became distinguished by their cottony coat, from which the Coton earned the first part of it’s name. As for the second part, he owes it all to “Tulear” better known today as “Toliara”, being the costal city where the breed was believed to be developed. Today the Coton is known as the “Royal dog of Madagascar” and has been honored on postage stamps.
Legend has it that the Coton’s arrival in Madagascar coincides with a ship wreck in the proximidity of Madagascar. No one knows the name of the ship nor the flag which it flew under, but it is assumed that the ancestors of the Coton were aboard this ship. These dogs are also the ancestors of the Maltese, Bichon Frise, and Havanese.
The standard of the Coton de Tulear was established in 1969 and submitted to the “Federation Cynologique Internationale” (FCI) in 1970 and it has been since February 1971 that the breed has been recognized by the FCI. Cotons arrived here in North America in 1974, and since the early 1990’s have had a surge in popularity in the USA and more recently here in Canada.
Cotons have a good life span, living for about 16 years, the oldest survived for almost 19 years. Probably the most outstanding characteristic of the Coton is the role of a companion. Bred to do your bidding, cotons are alert, lively companions and slow to anger. Most cotons seldom bark although some will act as a guard dog alerting you to someone at your door, or coming into the house.
Cotons like to snuggle in your lap or rest close by your feet in the evening after a good play and romp in the yard or the house, entertaining everyone with their comical antics. They enjoy the companionship of other pets including cats, and may cock their head attentively when spoken to, or smile and stand or walk on their hind legs to please it’s human family. Cotons are easily trained in obedience and agility. A Coton quickly becomes a family member and almost always retains a puppy like quality throughout their life.