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A Brief Introduction to the Coton de Tulear Breed


The Coton de Tulear, pronounced "coe-TAWN day TULE-ee-r," means "cotton of Tulear".  The Coton is a rare, ancient pure-breed that originated on Madagascar more than three centuries ago.

Cotons are very intelligent, easy to toilet train, and uncommonly gentle and laid back.  They get along well with children and most pets.  Please note that the behavior of any given dog is based upon the dog's heredity and its environment.  Poor early socialization can lead to problems for any dog of any breed.  Therefore, check with your breeder to determine your particular puppy's genetic and behavioral history.  As the breeder what steps are taken to help socialize your pup prior to its delivery to you.  And please recognize that you will be the next step in this puppy's socialization and training.  We at the mCTCA are here to help you; ask us how!

The Coton was exclusively the dog of Royal Malagasy nobles, but now this exceptional, elegant companion is available to a select few outside that legendary land.  For historical details, please click on:a Brief History of the Breed.

The Coton stands between about 9.5 and 13-inches (24 to 33 cm) tall at the withers (shoulders).  (Note: a taller variety of Coton is known, but has yet to be described with a standard, see The Coton de Tulear News, Vol.9, No. 3, Fall, 1997. To learn more about these magnificent Tall Cotons.).  A standard Coton is little more than two feet long (0.6m), and weighs between 9 and 18 pounds (8.2 kg).  A Standard Coton de Tulear averages about 14 pounds.  They have dark, engaging eyes, blacklips, and a medium-length muzzle tipped with a black nose.  Their heads are not rounded, but are elongate and somewhat flat.

The Coton de Tulear earned its name from its unique, cotton-like hair, and for a port city in Madagascar, Tulear.  Its dry, wind-tossed coat is probably the easiest to maintain of any long-haired breed, but it still requires regular grooming.  The hair is about four-to-six inches long, dries quickly when wet, and requires relatively little brushing.  It sheds very little, and rarely bothers people who suffer from chronic allergies.  The coat should NOT be shiny, nor should it touch the ground from the chest or abdominal region.

There are three handsome color varieties: White (often with champagne color patches); Black-and-white; and Tri-color.  A Tri-color adult is mostly white with champagne patches and a faint, irregular "dusting"of black hairs. Black & White Cotons, like the pups pictured above, retain their beautiful color throughout their lives.  For a detailed description of the colors of Cotons, see Breeding & Genetics and for a detailed description of the breed see: The Standard.

Cotons are hearty dogs and, with acclimation, frolic in desert heat and winter snow.  However, the Coton is strictly an indoor dog.  The breed is extremely healthy and long lived in the North American population of Cotons.  They live about 16 years (15.7 years onaverage); the oldest survived for almost 19 years.  This breed, like any dog breed, has known genetic defects.  The CTCA has studied, catalogued and published them for many years.  Through our program of genetic triage and information sharing as well as our restrictions on inbreeding -- the ONLY such restrictions in any Coton club -- we have maintained genetic defects in low frequency in our population.  This is a sound population with health management found nowhere else.

Probably the most outstanding characteristic of the Coton de Tulear is its behavior.  The Coton is a "companion dog," bred for the pure delight of its intelligent and loving attention to its human family. It is very intelligent and studies its human family with great care.  The Coton is an alert, lively companion, but it is slow to anger.  Most Cotons seldom bark although some will act as alarm clocks and guard dogs.  A Coton usually snuggles in the lap or rests close-by like a small, elegant, mohair rug.

Cotons are calm, sturdy dogs, most of whom enjoy the well-intentioned rough-housing of children.  Cotons enjoy most household pets including other dogs and cats.  A Coton may cock its head attentively when spoken to, smile, and stand or walk on its hind legs to please itshuman family. Cotons are easily trained.

A Coton quickly becomes a family member and retains a puppy-like joy throughout its long life.



The mCTCA does not warranty any breeder and cannot assure you that a puppy you purchase will be satisfactory.  Please ask breeders many questions about their dogs, guarantee, sales policies, experience, veterinary practices, and facilities.  Feel confident with the breeder and the pup you choose BEFORE you buy.  Please see the mCTCA Breeders List for a list of breeders.  Feel free to contact them all.


Kristen Moran and Coco of Alika Cotons at 12 weeks old.

Coton Temperment

Beginning with Cotons imported from Europe in 1995, a very few highly aggressive Cotons have been reported.  The mCTCA closed its registry to European imports shortly after this.  Also, some Cotons may not do well with small children, but will prove wonderful companions.  Please check with your breeder to determine the temperament history of their bloodlines.  If a breeder has little knowledge of the bloodlines of the parents of his/her puppies, you may want to make further inquiries into their heritage.  Note: ALL dogs of ANY breed can be territorial and protective, so ALL dogs should be socialized as a pup and trained as a juvenile.  In general, a Coton de Tulear may be slightly reserved and may bark at the approach of strangers, but they are characteristically unaggressive and laid-back.  They are characteristically wonderful companions for children

If you are seeing behavior in your Coton that troubles you in any way, please let your breeder know!  The mCTCA is conducting an investigation of Coton temperament.  If you'd like to help us, drop us a line.


Considerations If You Are Buying a Coton de Tulear

At present, there are more than about 100 breeders selling dogs they claim are "Coton de Tulear" in this hemisphere.  The breed is now being bred in puppy mills, on farms and sold in pet shops.  Most of these dogs are not genuine, purebred Cotons de Tulear.  Your only assurance of breed purity is purchasing a Malagasy Coton de Tulear through a mCTCA Code of Ethics Breeder.  Note that some breeders associated with the dog show fancy (and the AKC-FSS program) are selling European dogs that are bred to the French Coton de Tulear Standard.  This is a different breed than those sold by mCTCA Breeders and registered by the mCTCA.

The mCTCA, created in 1976, is the original founding club and registry for the breed in this hemisphere.  Dr. Robert Jay Russell, a biologist working on Madagascar and now President of the mCTCA originally sent Cotons from Madagascar to the U.S. in 1974 and 1975, thereby founding the breed outside of their native island home.  Since the 1970s, the mCTCA has maintained a sure control and guidance of the breed's standard, registrations, and stud book.  Lifetime membership in the mCTCA is conferred to your Coton when your Coton is registered by the breeder in your name. Please note: in the mCTCA, the Cotons are the membership!  The owner receives an official Pedigree Certificate, suitable for framing.

mCTCA Coton de Tulear puppies are sold as either "Not Breedable", (must be neutered), or "Potentially Breedable", (not neutered and potentially breedable if it passes the comprehensive mCTCA HealthTests at one year of age).  Puppies go to their new homes at about 10-12 weeks old, (see Not Breedable versus Potentially Breedable for detailed definitions)..  Note that Not Breedable Quality Cotons are wonderful companions but may not be used for breeding.  Prices range from about $2,000 for a Not Breedable Coton to about $3,000 for a Potentially Breedable quality depending upon subtle nuances of conformation, age, etc.  Breeders, not the mCTCA, establish kennel policy and prices, so please contact them for specifics.  The Coton de Tulear is one of the world's rarest pure-breeds.  Introduced into the Western Hemisphere in 1974, today there are fewer than 2,500 mCTCA registered Cotons in North America.  Expect to wait some time for a puppy.  Breeding quality dogs cannot be rushed.

The mCTCA's Code of Ethics Breeders List presents breeders who, to the best of our knowledge, adhere to the club's extensive code of ethics.  The mCTCA accepts no advertisements from breeders, helping to insure that the recommendations remain an honest assessment of the breeder's merit (see mCTCA Breeders List). It is the only enforced Code of Ethics in the Coton world.  Before you interview breeders, you will profit by reading all we have here to offer.