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A Brief History of the Breed

The Coton de Tulear is a member of theBichon [pronounced "BEE-shawn"] family of dogs. The Bichons (as wellas the Poodle and Briard) are descendents of an ancient Europeanbreed, the Barbet. A small, short-haired descendent of the Barbet,the "Bichon Tenerife," was introduced to the Canary Islands by theSpanish. The Tenerife gave rise to the modern, Mediterranean Maltese,the French Petit Lion Dog and Bichon Frise, the Italian Bolognese,the South American Havanais, and the Coton de Tulear.
The Tenerife, now extinct, was introduced to the Indian Ocean Islandsof Mauritius and Reunion by sailors in the 16th and 17th Centuries.The breed acquired a long, cotton-like coat (perhaps the result of asingle mutation) and was known as the "Coton de Reunion." The Cotonde Reunion, a valued possession, accompanied merchants, officials,and pirates on their voyages.

Map showing route of Coton breed to Madagascar (from


The Coton de Reunion is extinct, butits descendent, the Coton de Tulear, appeared at the pirate andslave-trading port of Tulear, Madagascar, during the 17th Century.Adopted by the ruling Merina ["MARE-in"] tribal monarchy, it quicklybecame known as "The Royal Dog of Madagascar." During its longdevelopment on Madagascar, a native hunting dog -- the MorondavaHunting Dog -- was added to the Coton's ancestry, giving thisBichon-family breed extraordinary soundness and stamina.

The ruling Merina controlled the breed closely.They forbid both coastal tribesmen (85% of the population) andnon-noblemen to own a Coton. At the turn of this century, conqueringFrench colonists adopted the Coton as well. Today, usually onlysocial-climbing Malagasy and Frenchmen own a Coton de Tulear.

The Coton is the "Official Dog of Madagascar," and has been honoredon a postage stamp. In 1970, the world-wide French Kennel Club [theFCI] recognized the Coton de Tulear as a rare, pure-breed.Unfortunately, political and economic crises on Madagascar nowthreaten the Coton with extinction in their native land.

The Coton is the "Official Dog of Madagascar," and a Tri-Color Coton was honored on a postage stamp in 1974. Since the '70s, the Coton de Tulear has been recognized as a rare, pure-breed dog. Unfortunately, political and economic crises on Madagascar now threaten the Coton with extinction in their native land.

Coton on Malagasy Stamp

Glenn with Gabi of Oakshade

In 1974, three years before Cotons appeared in Europe, Dr. Robert Jay Russell, a biologist studying Madagascar's lemurs, sent Coton breeding stock to America. Dr. Russell's father, J. Lewis Russell, founded Oakshade Kennel in New Jersey, and the breed was enthusiastically received. Articles about it have appeared in many publications including Dog World, Dogs USA, Gentleman's Quarterly, The Robb Report, and The American Express Company Newsletter. The Coton has been featured on ABC's Good Morning America program and has appeared on The David Letterman Show accompanied by actress Glenn Close, a devoted owner.

The Coton was imported into French-speaking Europe (primarily France and Belgium) in 1977. The breed there has taken a very different direction from the breed in Madagascar and North America.


The Founding Club and Registry is Formed

Following the creation of a standard for the breedin 1974, the Coton de Tulear Club of America [CTCA] was formed by Dr.Russell in 1976 to maintain the Breed Standard, Pedigrees, Stud Book,History, and Registrations for all Cotons in the Western Hemisphere.The Coton is one of the world's rarest and most desirable dogs. As ofAugust, 2005, nearly 2,000 Coton de Tulear produced by 80 breedersworldwide were registered by the CTCA (in contrast, more than 70,000Cotons have been produced in Europe since 1977).

In 1988, Laurie Spalding became the Secretary of the club. The CTCAbegan producing its widely acclaimed quarterly newsletter, the
Coton de Tulear News, in 1989. In 1996, the club hosted the first rare breedconvention ever: Coton Convention I '96, held April 26-28 in PortRepublic, New Jersey. Also in 1996, the club produced the mostcomprehensive book about a rare breed dog ever published:"The Official Coton de TulearBook." The CTCA accepts no advertisements,so the club's publications and its assessment of breeders -- theRecommended Breeders List -- remains as candid as possible (for areview of this list, please go to: How to Acquire aCoton). The CTCA has the only enforcedbreeder's Code of Ethics in the Coton de Tulear world.

Coton Club Confusion

1994-1995 proved to be a turbulent year for theCoton de Tulear breed. Four clubs formed in the United States andCanada to promote show exhibitors new to the Coton de Tulear breed.It has become extremely confusing. Please bear in mind that "USACTC,""ACTA," "CCTC," "CTCC," "NCTA," "UCTA," and the "ICTF" are not in anyway affiliated with the original Coton de Tulear Club of America, theCTCA (pleasesee:Coton Club AlphabetSoup).

There is incredible enmity expressed by some of these new clubstowards the original club, the CTCA. Perhaps this is because the CTCAhas long noted that the exhibition/breeding game can be ruinous tobreeds in North America and Europe (for more information,
go to:How narrowStandards and the Show Game harms breeds).

One of these new Coton clubs was unwilling tocoexist in any way with the CTCA. In 1996, the President andVice-President of "ACTA," one of these new Coton clubs, werediscovered authoring anonymous internet hate mail against the CTCA,its representatives, and its Cotons. Wars between dog clubs can beincredibly vicious. But many of these clubs have since disappeared:ACTA, NCTA and the UCTA long ago folded.

With the proliferation of clubs, literally dozens of inexperienced,non-CTCA breeders and importers have appeared overnight to cash-in onthe breed's popularity. Beware. Do not assume that a dog's"Championship" title has meaning (immature puppies can get aChampionship with little competition in just one long weekend). Inour experience and opinion, SHOW TITLES ARE MEANINGLESS and may bemisleading. Some currently titled dogs do not even meet the breed'sCTCA or FCI standards! Contact a CTCA breeder or the CTCA before youbuy.

Will the Coton "Go AKC" (become an American Kennel Club breed)?

The Coton is a highly desireable dog. The AKCwould like to add it to its highly profitable regsitry and showcircuit. However, it is estimated that 1-in-4 dogs registered withthe AKC show a severe, genetic health defect. Further, the AKC hasproven a boon to the puppymill pet trade racket. Members and officersof the CTCA feel that AKC membership at this time is NOT desireablefor the Coton de Tulear breed.

Should some people "take the Coton to the AKC" in the near future, rest assured that the CTCA will continue to register and support the Coton as a rare, pure bred dog. If you have questions about the show scene, the AKC, the FCI, or the Standards, please contact us. We will be happy to discuss these issues at length.

See the Headline News story about the current unsuccessful attempts by several new Coton clubs to take the Coton de Tulear to the AKC.


Title and contents of The Coton deTulear News & Information Network © 1996-2005, theCoton de Tulear Club of America, all rights reserved. Celebrating theCTCA's 30th Anniversary in 2006.

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