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How Should a Coton Look and Act ?

What you need to know before you buy...


The Coton de Tulear breed was created in Madagascar during the past three centuries. It is a combination of many breeds, but most significantly the Coton de Reunion (now extinct) and the Morondava Hunting Dog (possibly extinct) contributed to its present appearance and temperament. Cotons are muscular, sturdy and weigh between 9 and 18 pounds. Most Cotons weigh about 12-15 pounds. Cotons stand about 11-12 inches tall at the withers (shoulder). Cotons are within the "Bichon Dog Group," a related grouping of pure breeds similar to dogs in the "Terrier Group" or "Spaniel Group" or "Sight Hound Group."


There are three basic Coton de Tulear color varieties. Most matings can produce litters with all three colors. Most Cotons are White. There are two basic genetic variants of White Cotons: the Arctic White Coton and the Blue Dilute, White Coton. The former is bright white, usually with dark black noses and eye rings. The Blue Dilute Coton--a classic Malagasy look--is often marked with tan or champagne areas, especially the ears and the saddle region of the back. As adults, all Arctic White Cotons are white, but Blue Dilute White Cotons may show champagne, tan or even reddish-brown color areas.

The Tri-color Coton de Tulear is born with dark brown areas dusted with black hairs on a primarily white background. As they mature, much or all of the brown coloration may disappear, leaving the dog primarily off-white in color with a dusting of black hairs. Some Tri-color Cotons will show season darkening of their coat, primarily in response to an increase in testosterone (males) or estrogen (females).

A Black & White Coton de Tulear retains its black and white color from birth through the end of its life. Older Black & White Cotons may show some graying (don't we all?), but some remain jet black and bright white throughout their lives. Black & White Cotons are the rarest of the three basic color varieties--fewer than 15% of all Cotons are this color variety.

Other colors are known. A former CTCA breeder on the West Coast of the US has bred Cotons that were virtually all black. Several breeders have Cotons that are all brown. These purebred Cotons de Tulear are accepted without prejudice in the CTCA's gene pool.


While it is possible to buy a small white Coton from a CTCA Breeder, if you heard that all Cotons de Tulear were toy-sized, all-white dogs (like a Maltese), then you were mislead. It is true that the French version of this African breed is supposed to be all-white and no more than 9-to-11 pounds. European show fanciers as well as dog show fanciers in the US and Canada prefer these French/Euro Cotons (the "FCI Standard"), but the original Malagasy version of this breed that the CTCA supports is not a toy white dog. Ironically, some of the largest Cotons we've seen have been produced by breeders who claim to adhere to the French/Euro standard. And breeders of FCI Cotons often produce colored Cotons in violation of their own standard. Go figure.

There is a Tall Variety of Coton de Tulear known to be produced in normal litters in Madagascar, North America and Europe. The CTCA has created an experimental breeding program to understand the genetics and morphology of these elegant, taller Cotons. To learn more about it and them, please see a CTCA web site devoted to this variety: Tall Cotons.


Cotons are very intelligent and can be conditioned well. They learn quickly and adapt well to families. They lack a well-developed prey drive and usually get along very well with other pets (cats, large dogs, even birds and rodents). Cotons are not especially barky (although some may bark in defense of their territory unless trained not to). Cotons should not be aggressive. Cotons if properly socialized are excellent companions to children. Once again, if someone told you that Cotons are "aggressive, difficult to train, very barky," then you are dealing with the wrong breeder.


Cotons are not short-legged achondroplastic dwarves. They have a large muzzle equipped with stout, well separated teeth. Cotons are in the Companion Dog class, not Toy Dog, class. Cotons are muscular and athletic. They do exceptionally well in Obedience Training and Agility Competition. Cotons are very fast runners. Cotons are generally healthy. While there are almost than four dozen genetic disorders known in the breed, all are in low frequency. Cotons generally have large, healthy, easily whelped litters (4 to 7 pups). Within the CTCA, puppy mortality rates are exceptionally low (largely a result of our breeding regulations which eschew overbreeding and inbreeding).


To view the CTCA's Coton de Tulear Standard, please click here. For an in depth, understandable explanation of this breed's behavior, coloration and structure, please refer to the "The Official Coton de Tulear Book, 2nd Edition" CD ROM, available from the CTCA; to learn more, please click here.

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