The Coton De Tulear is a Bichon type breed, related to the French Bichon and the Italian Bolognese. The breed was established on the African island of Madagascar. It is believed to have descended from the French Bichons brought by French troops in the 16th and 17th centuries. There are also stories that the dog was brought to the island by French pirates. Virtually unknown outside the island, it was discovered by Dr. Robert Jay Russell in 1973 who brought it from Madagascar to America and coined the name ‘the royal dog of Madagascar’. They were also imported into France occasionally by returning colonists, but were not officially imported into Europe until the 1970s.
As the name suggests, the most obvious feature of the breed is its cotton like, fluffy coat. It is not a double coat, but grows long and is light textured. It has a small body with thin legs. The tail is low set and tapering. The nose is black or brown, (black is preferred by breeders) and the eyes are round, dark and wide set.
The Coton is playful and intelligent. It bonds closely to its master and may be prone to separation anxiety. It is easily trained with praise rather than punishment and is a true companion dog with very little prey drive. Coton De Tulear are easy to groom requiring regular combing of the delicate hair. A wet bath should be given no more than once a year. Since shedding is very minimal and the coat has no dander, the breed is considered hypoallergenic and therefore acceptable for those people with allergies.
The colouring of this breed can be white, black and white or tri-colour. Some Kennel Clubs state that only white is acceptable in the breed standard, but others will accept all varieties of colour. A Coton De Tulear will stand around 25 to 30 centimetres and weigh approximately 5.5 to 7 kilograms.
Cotons are fairly active dogs, they are suitable for apartment life but do need daily exercise and firm leadership, without this they can become quite stubborn and exhibit other behavioural problems. Be sure not to let this breed get away with behaviours that would be considered unacceptable in larger dogs because of their petite size and cute faces! Cotons will also need plenty of socialization as young puppies as they can be shy or cautious in new environments and weary of strangers too.
Coton De Tulears are generally a healthy breed and can have a lifespan as long as 17 years. As a breed they are prone to very few genetic health problems as there has been little inbreeding. However, it is possible for them to suffer from conditions and diseases that affect all other breeds.