Coton de Tulear

The Coton de Tulear loves to accompany its family everywhere, even to the sea where it shows off its swimming ability. Small but equipped with great stamina, this dog can follow its master on horseback over a long distance.


The ancestors of this small, fluffy white dog arrived at the southern Malagasy port of Tulear in the 17th century on trading ships from the small Indian Ocean island of Reunion. Once there, it is recorded that they are supposed to have interbred with local dogs (although it is hard to imagine that there was anything suitable for them to mix with in such a place at that time) and developed into the attractive breed we know today. The noble families of Tulear adopted them as pets and enjoyed their company so much that they guarded them jealously, even passing a law prohibiting the common people from owning them. They were also extremely reluctant to allow any of their pets to leave the island, with the result that these dogs remained isolated from the rest of the world and were breeding true for centuries.

The Cotons were rediscovered by visiting Europeans in the middle of the 20th century, and a few were allowed to be taken away. These were soon being carefully bred to type and by 1970 the FCI had formally recognized them. A club for their protection was established in Tulear in the same year. Even so, they remain rare on the island.

In 1974 an American biologist, Robert Russell, visiting Tulear, was greatly impressed by these dogs, which he had not encountered before, and took several home with him to New Jersey, where his parents established a breeding kennels for them. By 1976 they had formed the Coton de Tulear Club of America. Within a few years this exciting breed, so old and yet so new to the West, was gaining rapidly in popularity.

In 1999, after months of negotiation, a young male Coton de Tulear was brought from Madagascar to New York to improve the breeding stock. This was the first member of the breed to arrive in America from the island for over a decade.


Its appeal lies not only in its appearance, but also in its personality. After centuries of living as a highly valued possession, this breed has developed a character that makes it the perfect companion animal. It is intelligent, calm, remarkably unaggressive, playful, and with a fondness for walking on its hind legs. It enjoys a good run, but is less demanding for exercise than most dog breeds. It will sit quietly indoors for long periods, providing it can remain close to its owners.


The Cotons soft, light, fluffy, odour-free, non-shedding coat has a dry, cottony texture. It is never silky.

The breed is about 10-11 inches/25-28 cm at its withers. Its body should be rectangular and the backline should be slightly convex. The croup should be short and falling, and the tail should not be carried too much over the back. The head is triangular and rather small. The coat should be about 3 inches/8 cm long, slightly wavy with a fine texture, intermingled with glossy hair. It should be kept natural and never scissored. The breed should be white, although small patches of very pale lemon or gray are permissible on the ears.

Care and Exercise

The soft coat tends to mat and needs to be combed two to three times a week. However, this dog needs less coat care than a Maltese. For exercise, it needs only a walk.


There are two to four puppies in a litter. The hair on the mother's chest must be cut short before delivery.

Gallery of Coton de Tulear