Information on the Coton de Tulear

History of the Coton de Tulear

      The Royal Dog of Madagascar was first developed in a city called Tulear on the island of Madagascar. A dog which was beloved by the nobility of the time. Particularly the ruling tribe, the Merina. The breed itself was given the name, Coton de Tulear translated as Cotton of Tulear. This name, because to the touch it felt as though one were running their hands through soft cotton. As with many small breed dogs the Coton de Tulear was loved by Malagasy royalty from which its nickname, The Royal Dog of Madagascar came from. In fact in the 16th century it was a crime punishable by death for anyone but nobility to own the magnificent blue blooded canine.

     The Coton de Tulear's fur is thought to be more like hair, possibly caused by a single genetic mutation during its development on Madagascar during the late 16th and throughout the 17th centuries. It is believed that their ancestors were brought on ships by pirates to the island, mostly kept aboard for controlling the rat population.

   Though they may have instead been only companions for the long voyages. Voyages pirates may have taken between their base at St. Mary's Island, Madagascar and wherever they wished to plunder or deliver their pirated goods. The last of the reasons may be that the ancestors of the Coton were stolen from other ships during a raid and considered little more than booty. To this day no one really knows, but those who know the Coton know that they are indeed a treasure.

   There is speculation that a dog which already existed on Madagascar may have been added to this Bichon breed type dog during its early years. The dog was known as the Morondava, a hunting dog and if it did occur, it may account for the Coton de Tulear's extraordinary stamina and soundness. A Coton de Tulear could run around for hours and is difficult to catch, even if well trained.

 Discovery of the Coton de Tulear

    These beautiful dogs were not discovered outside of Madagascar however until 1973 by the biologist Dr. Robert Jay Russell whom brought the first ones to America. It was he who came up with the nickname of The Royal Dog of Madagascar, which still sticks to them today. However on official papers they are called Coton de Tulear. A friendly and expressive breed. Many of which love to water and running and therefore  should be kept on a lead at all times least one should lose their beloved canine companion.

    Coton de Tulear's, even before Dr. Robert Jay Russell had discovered them were every so often imported by people of France. This occurred when French colonists returned to their mother country from Madagascar whether or not they'd taken a Malagasy wife. They were however not officially imported to Europe until the 1970's, when the hypoallergenic dog began to gain more recognition.

The Royal Dog of Madagascar's Recognition outside of Madagascar

     The first to recognize the Royal Dog of Madagascar officially as a breed was the national French kennel club, Societe Centrale Canine in 1970. Since then there has been a number of kennel clubs who have come to recognize them as a breed. There are however kennel clubs such as that of the American Kennel Club among others which have not yet recognized them as a breed. Thus they may be rare, or even unheard of in America. As of 1996 however, the AKC has been offering Foundation Stock Service to the Coton de Tulear. This is a first step toward the breed becoming recognized by the AKC as an official breed. The Coton de Tulear Club of America is against the breed being recognized by the American Kennel Club. It is due to this that there has been a number of clubs dedicated to the Coton forming since 2001, all of which accept one or both standards of the breed.


The Coton de Tulear and its Designer Offspring

      There has also in recent years as what has been phrased as designer dogs the use of these lovely dogs in the creation of a designer dog. One of them is the Cotonese a mix between the Coton de Tulear and Malatese. Usually it involved a female Coton and a male Maltese. The results are varied, but the Cotonese is not a recognized breed and therefore cannot be registered. There are however people who enjoy the mixed breed dog and may believe them to be healthier than a purebred dog. There are many dog breeds which were developed by man and their ancestors themselves were not purebred and most likely were of a mixed breed of two or more.

     It is however unfortunate that some animals get over-bred, resulting in an overpopulation spilling forth into the shelters. Unless one intends to show or compete in purebred sporting events, it might be wiser to consider finding a Coton de Tulear, Cotonese or other dog at a shelter or rescue. Every dog and every cat for that matter deserves to have a happy home instead of being stuck behind a cage for most, if not all of their lives. Not every shelter is a no-kill facility, but it is a harsh reality. Purebred's are wonderful, but sometimes the best animals can be found at shelters and rescues. Remember some of them may later save their owners life. The original Benji, a well known dog from the movies was purchased from a shelter. 

   One may even find Coton de Tulear's in the aforementioned places, or a Coton mix. Adopting a Coton is a great way to learn more about them and their friendly personality. It's surprising they weren't called the Pirate Dog considering how their ancestors even arrived in Madagascar.

A Rare Breed

    The Coton de Tulear, aka The Royal Dog of Madagascar is truly a rare breed and again, is only recognized by a small number of kennel clubs. This includes not only the FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale), but also the NKC (National Kennel Club) and CKC (Continental Kennel Club).