mCTCA BannerA Brief History of the Breed

The Coton de Tulear is a member of the Bichon [pronounced "BEE-shawn"] family of dogs.  The Bichons (as well as the Poodle and Briard) are descendents of an ancient European breed, the Barbet.  A small, short-haired descendent of the Barbet, the "Bichon Tenerife," was introduced to the Canary Islands by the Spanish.  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, were introduced to the Indian Ocean Islands of 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.



The Coton de Reunion is extinct, but its descendent, the Coton de Tulear, appeared at the pirate and slave-trading port of Tulear, Madagascar, during the 17th Century.  Adopted by the ruling Merina ["MARE-in"] tribal monarchy, it quickly became known as "The Royal Dog of Madagascar".  During its long development on Madagascar, a native hunting dog, the Morondava Hunting Dog, was added to the Coton's ancestry, giving this Bichon-family breed extraordinary soundness and stamina.

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

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

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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 Founding Club and Registry is Formed

Following the creation of a standard for the breed in 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 of August, 2005, nearly 2,000 Coton de Tulear produced by 80 breeders worldwide were registered by the CTCA, (in contrast, more than 70,000 Cotons have been produced in Europe since 1977).

In 1988, Laurie Spalding became the Secretary of the club.  The CTCA began producing its widely acclaimed quarterly newsletter, the Coton de Tulear News, in 1989.  In 1996, the club hosted the first rare breed convention ever: Coton Convention I '96, held April 26-28 in Port Republic, New Jersey.  Also in 1996, the club produced the most comprehensive 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 -- the Recommended Breeders List -- remains as candid as possible, (for a review of this list, please go to:CTCA Breeders List).  The CTCA has the only enforced breeder's Code of Ethics in the Coton de Tulear world.

Coton Club Confusion

1994-1995 proved to be a turbulent year for the Coton de Tulear breed.  Four clubs formed in the United States and Canada 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, the CTCA, (please see:Coton Club Alphabet Soup).

There is incredible enmity expressed by some of these new clubs towards the original club, the CTCA.  Perhaps this is because the CTCA has long noted that the exhibition/breeding game can be ruinous to breeds in North America and Europe, (for more information, click on: How Narrow Standards and the Show Game Harms Breeds).

One of these new Coton clubs was unwilling to coexist in any way with the CTCA.  In 1996, the President and Vice-President of "ACTA", one of these new Coton clubs, were discovered authoring anonymous internet hate mail against the CTCA, its representatives, and its Cotons.  Wars between dog clubs can be incredibly 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 on the breed's popularity.  Beware.  Do not assume that a dog's "Championship" title has meaning, (immature puppies can get a Championship with little competition in just one long weekend).  In our experience and opinion, SHOW TITLES ARE MEANINGLESS and may be misleading.  Some currently titled dogs do not even meet the breed's CTCA or FCI standards!  Contact a CTCA breeder or the CTCA before you buy.

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

The Coton is a highly desireable dog.  The AKC would like to add it to its highly profitable registry and show circuit.  However, it is estimated that 1-in-4 dogs registered with the AKC show a severe, genetic health defect.  Further, the AKC has proven a boon to the puppymill pet trade racket.  Members and officers of the CTCA feel that AKC membership at this time is NOT desireable for 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.akcbutton