Tuesday, February 24, 2015


If you watched the Westminster Kennel Club show this year, you probably saw a cute white dog called the Coton de Tuléar in the Toy Group.  And if you missed this dog, you might have been dozing off, which you should never do during the Toy Group, because chihuahuas are in the Toy Group, and chihuahuas are the cutest dogs of all!

Coton de Tuléar puppy

Anyway, if you saw the Coton de Tuléar, you maybe also heard the TV announcer say that this was the first year the breed had been in the Westminster show.  Cotons were only just recognized by the AKC in 2012, and it takes a year or two for any dogs in a new breed to get enough points and titles and stuff to be invited to Westminster.

In the show ring
Photo by Jurriaan Schulman

The name of the breed is French for "cotton from Tuléar."  Tuléar is a city on the southern Madagascar coast, and another name for it is Toliara.  The coat of this type of dog is very cottony, instead of being silky or furry.  The Coton de Tuléar does not shed, so it's a hypoallergenic breed, the same as poodles.  However, the hair mats easily, so the dogs have to be brushed pretty much every day.

There are three accepted colors for this breed:  white (sometimes with tan markings), black-and-white, and tri-color.  Cotons have a gene for "fading," so puppies who are born with a tan coat may fade out to white as an adult.  A tri-color may fade to mostly white with some champagne markings and a dusting of black on the ears or body.  For the show ring, pure white is the preferred color, but the AKC allows the other colors of Cotons to be shown.


The eyes of the Coton de Tuléar are round and dark.  They should make the dog look lively, intelligent, and happy.  The nose is prominent and black.  Coton legs are somewhat short, and the tail curls over the back.  The standard for the American breed club says that the weight of the dog should not be more than 18 pounds.  The average weight is between 11 and 15 pounds.  The standard height is between 9" and 13".


Members of this breed are intelligent, gentle, alert, and affectionate.  They are good with children and other animals, and they can live in an apartment.  They love to swim, run and play.  Generally, they are happy to meet new people, and they are curious in new situations.  It's easy to train them because they really like to please their people.  Many Cotons have the funny habit of walking and jumping on their hind legs.

No one knows for sure how the Coton got to Madagascar, but it's likely that some sort of bichon-type dogs were brought on pirate ships in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Once they arrived on the island, the dogs mated with native dogs, and the Coton type of dog was born.  These dogs were soon being used as companion dogs of the Merina, which was the ruling tribe in Madagascar.  In fact, only the royalty were allowed to keep Cotons.


In 1973, Dr. Robert Jay Russell discovered the breed in Madagascar and brought the first ones to America.  He called the breed The Royal Dog of Madagascar, and the name stuck.  Some French colonists occasionally brought Cotons back to France, but the dogs were not officially imported to Europe until the 1970s.

This breed, like some other breeds, has a very small gene pool.  And that means that in order to go on getting Cotons that look like the breed standard says they should look, you have to keep breeding close relatives to each other.  This is not a very good thing to do because it causes inherited health problems.  The Coton de Tuléar doesn't have as many issues as some breeds do, but they have a few.  Examples of these include liver shunts, and problems with the heart, spine, and eyes.  The average life span of a Coton is 14 to 19 years.


There are a lot of reasons why a Coton de Tuléar might be a good dog for your family to have, but the breed is still pretty rare.  That means you could have to pay as much as $1,800 to $3,500 for a puppy.  For that amount of money, you could adopt at least 9 retired greyhounds or other purebred rescues.  Or you could pay to have 1 or 2 luxating patellas fixed on a chihuahua.  And in my opinion, that would be a much better way to use your money!

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