Dog Breed Review

Coton De Tulear




If affection was a canine sport, the Coton De Tulear would be MVP of the league. This cotton ball of love is the true definition of a real people’s dog.

Moreover, this is a breed that has always been a lapdog, from the nobles of Madagascar to Hollywood elite. 

There’s no limit to how far this breed will go to win over your compassion. In fact,  if you dangle a treat, the Coton De Tulear will get on its hinds and do a dance.

Aside from dancing, what makes this breed such a great addition to a family’s home?

Here is what you need to know about the Coton De Tulear.


Before Will and Grace’s Debra Messing and journalist, Dianne Sawyer began posing with their Cotons, long ago and far away, is where this breed’s story begins. The actual certainty is unclear. There is plenty of speculation. Much like most breeds, the Coton De Tulear and its historians don’t lack imagination.

Nor complication. First, the popular idea is that the Coton De Tulear descends from a breed known as the Coton De La Reunion. The Coton De La Reunion was a small dog breed living on the island of Reunion and Mauritius around the 15th and 16th century. Eventually, the breed from Reunion Island made its way into Madagascar. Nobody knows how, but one theory is that sailors brought them to the island because Madagascar was a popular trade stop.

The De La Reunion most likely descends from the Bichon Tenerife and native dogs from the islands of Mauritius and Reunion. The Bichon Tenerife is part of the Barbichon dog family. Many believe the Tenerife is responsible for the Coton De Tulear and the popular Bichon Frise.

The Coton would get their name from one theory pertaining to the breed. It is the belief of many, that a violent storm took out a ship, thus killing all the people onboard. The crash took place on the southwestern side of Madagascar, at the bay of Tulear. The theory is that these dogs swam ashore and began living off feral hog. 

Regardless, the life of a De Tulear at that time was remarkably different than that of the Bichon Frise. The Bichon Frise would enjoy pampering, while the Coton De Tulear would have to figure a way to survive the harsh weather conditions on the island.

In the 17th century, the breed’s discovery by the Merina tribe would lead to the development of the Coton De Tulear. It is said, that this noble tribe of Madagascar became fanatics of the breed giving them to other noble elites as gifts to impress. From the 17th century, it is clear, that the Coton De Tulear was always meant to be a companion dog. 

During the 17th century, however, the French would colonize and take over. This lead to their dominant rule over Madagascar. The people of France fell head over heels for the breed immediately. This would lead to their domestication. 

Some believe the French took the breed back to France. Others believe that the French in Madagascar began selective breeding of the Coton during the 17th and 18th century. Finally, there are those who believe that the breed’s standard comes from the World War 2 era.

Regardless, the French would make further efforts gaining recognition for the Coton De Tulear by applying to the Federation Cynologique Internationale. Until the 1970’s, this was France and Madagascar’s best little secret. Sharing the breed’s amazing ability, the FCI finally gave approval of a standard in 1999.

Meanwhile, in the United States, upon visiting Madagascar, Dr. Jay Russell also took interest in the breed. In 1974, Russell brought the first Coton De Tulear to the United States. A couple years later, Russell would produce his first liter of the Coton.

Popularity of the breed began to rise in the mid 1990’s, and as more breeders and kennels fell into form, so didn’t the Coton De Tulear’s development in breed standard. 

In 2014, the American Kennel Club gave recognition to the Coton De Tulear. Today, this Non Sporting Group breed is the 80th most popular, according to the AKC rankings.


The Coton De Tulear is a small dog breed. Males should stand between 10 and 11 inches, while females should range between 9 to 10 inches.

With regards to this breed’s weight, a male should weigh from 9 to 15 pounds and females 8 to 13 pounds.


If you like a good laugh, then the Coton De Tulear is the dog for you. Here is a breed that can stand on its hinds without a problem and shake his gait. When the dog isn’t dancing, the Coton is loving. Expect plenty of affection, kisses and close proximity. This is a breed that wants to be with their people. One of the more anxious breeds out there when it comes to being alone. Separation anxiety can be an issue for the Coton De Tulear when it doesn’t have companionship.

You can train the Coton simply, as they are willing to please and eager to make you proud. The Coton responds wonderful to training and has an eye for detail. This is a people pleaser breed.

Friendly and never shy, the Coton De Tulear likes just about anyone and anything. They may not make the best guard dogs, but don’t let that confuse you, they will bark when it is necessary. As far as other dogs, the Coton gets along just fine with other pets they are brought up with. Early socialization and training is a must .

A goof, a class clown, yet smart. The Coton De Tulear just wants to have the time of its life and preferably on your lap. They love to run around and get their exercise.

With children they know, the Coton is the ultimate family breed. Kids should learn how to respect this breed, mostly learning how to properly handle them. When that’s the case, this is a great dog to have join your family. Expect a swimming fan, a fan of the outdoors and a couch potato if you let them.


While many consider them a breed that is very healthy, the Coton De Tulear does have some complications to be wary about. That doesn’t mean your Coton will inherit or suffer from these conditions. If all is well, this is a breed that has a long lasting life expectancy of 15 to 19 years.

When you buy from a breeder, you should do your due diligence and research the breeder’s reputation. Some places are puppy mills, that have no shame in their game or emphasis on the dog’s health. You should obtain the proper documentation and health clearances.

Additionally, you can enhance your dog’s health and well being by scheduling regular visits with the veterinarian.

The Coton De Tulear has a low risk or low occurrence rate for Hip Dysplasia. Hip Dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that leads to lameness and pain. Only 8.9% of Cotons are dysplastic putting at 122 on the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals survey. The Havanese, a relative is 114, the Weimanarer is right behind the Coton.

Loose knee joints, which lead to unpleasant orthopedic pain, lameness and discomfort, also known as, Luxating Patella, is also prone with this breed. With a 4.7% dysplastic rate, this makes the Coton fall into the top 40 at 34.  Breeds like the Corgi and Pug fare worse than the Coton De Tulear.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy, which is a inheritable disease of the retina, where the rod cells inside the retina “systematically” die or falter, also affects this breed. This can lead to partial or complete blindness. Cataracts may also be another concern for this breed and is something worth looking out for.

Neonatal Ataxia, which is specifically a genetic mutation affecting this breed, causes a break down of their nervous system. The mutation damages the part of the brain controlling their coordination or mobility. When the cerebellum doesn’t function properly, it may lead to the dog moving or walking sideways in a swimming motion form.

Pyoderma, and heart conditions may be issues to look for.


If attachment and affection aren’t your thing, then this isn’t the breed for you. If you work long days and are gone for hours on end, consider getting this breed a friend or companion. They do suffer from separation anxiety and that can lead to destructive behavior. Moreover, this is a breed that needs to be a part of the family and doesn’t do well alone for long periods of time.

You can take them to the dog park or to the lake for swimming. When the Coton De Tulear wants to, it can be quite the active breed. Thriving in tricks, agility and obedience, the Coton is fully capable of riding along during family expeditions. They are friendly and intelligent as well. This will make them wonderful playmates.

There is some grooming you’ll have to busy yourself with. Check their ears routinely, their skin for any irritation and trim their nails when you see fit. Bathe as necessary.

Daily walks of about 30 minutes per day should suffice their energy requirements. They can adapt well anywhere, including apartments, for as long as the breed gets their daily stimulation.

A biggie for this indoor lapdog is early socialization and training. They should be around other dogs, so that they aren’t too territorial in the future.


The Coton De Tulear may want it, but that doesn’t mean they should get it. At least, not regularly. This is a breed that loves the snacks and will earn your affection through doing tricks with a decent pay off at the finish.

The Coton should be able to eat veggies, fruit, cottage cheese, and eggs sparingly. Most owners suggest keeping their protein levels below 28%, as certain older Cotons may suffer from kidney and liver diseases. Pups should get plenty of water to avoid hypoglycemia. 

Lean meat should be their first ingredient but they should be fed at a high quality dry food. You can feed them 3/4 to 1 cup of dry food per day. It’s always best to break their portions up into two meals a day to reduce the chances of Bloat.

As always, you should provide your Coton De Tulear with fresh drinking water, the most important nutrient.

If you are unsure, it’s always best to consult a veterinarian for your dog’s diet.


There should be a slight wave to their dense, smooth coat. You will need to brush daily if you want to avoid the matting mess. They do seem to shed most in Spring. Again, their coat is smooth like the texture of cotton, which is where they get their name from.

According to the American Kennel Club, the coat should white. You may find them with a black coat but this isn’t acceptable to the standard. Yellow and gray markings are fine with the Coton De Tulear.

Fun Coton De Tulear Facts

  • Famous celebs that love this breed: Dianne Sawyer, Debra Messing, Barbara Streisand, and Catherine Zeta Jones.
  • Coton in French means, Cotton.
  • As part of the Barbichon family, the Coton De Tulear shares the same lineage with the Havanese, Maltese, Bolognes, Lowchien and Bichon Frise.
  • In 1974, the breed would make their country of origin’s postal stamp, as a way of honoring the Coton De Tulear as the “royal dog of Madagascar.”

Closing Words

We may never know the real story and the real way this breed came into fruition. But that doesn’t matter anymore, because most dog lovers are just happy the breed exists.

That’s because the Coton De Tulear has so much to offer the right person and family. If you have a little love missing in your life, and need a bit of warmth in your heart, the Coton De Tulear is the dog to fill that void with love and affection.

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