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  • Temperament: Charming, Bright, Happy-Go-Lucky
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 80 of 194
  • Height: 10-11 inches (male), 9-10 inches (female)
  • Weight: 9-15 pounds (male), 8-13 pounds (female)
  • Life Expectancy: 15-19 years
  • Group: Non-Sporting Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Coton de Tulear standing on a white background.
Coton de Tulear head in three-quarter view
Coton de Tulear sitting in three-quarter view facing forward
Coton de Tulear coat detail
Coton de Tulear

Find a Puppy: Coton de Tulear

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GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Coton de Tulear, also known as the “Royal Dog of Madagascar”, is a hardy, sturdy small white companion dog. The Coton de Tulear is characterized by a natural long, white, dry, profuse, cotton-like coat, rounded lively dark eyes, black on white joie de vivre expressive smile and witty personality. The breed is somewhat longer than tall. The topline is very slightly arched over the loin with a happily carried tail curved over the back on the move. At rest, the tail is down with an upward hook at the tip revealing the distinguishing outline of the Coton de Tulear.

HEAD

The head is short and triangular in shape when seen from above. The length of the head (nose to occiput) in relationship to the length of the body (point of shoulder to point of buttock) is 2 to 5. Expression – The expression is lively, intelligent, inquisitive, alert and happy. The Cotons joy of life is displayed in their expression. Eyes – The eyes are rather rounded, dark brown or black in color, lively, set wide apart with the inner corners and the outer corners on the same level. The rims of the eyelids are completely pigmented in black. Severe Fault – An overly large or bulging eye is a severe fault as is an almond shaped, obliquely set eye. Disqualifications – Eye/s of any color other than brown or black. Total lack of pigment on the eye rim(s).

NECK, TOPLINE, BODY

The neck is slightly arched, of moderate length, blends smoothly into the shoulders and is in balance with the height and length of the dog. Topline – The withers are only slightly pronounced. The topline runs smoothly from the withers to the loin. Beginning over the loin, is a graceful natural arch, not too accentuated, that carries through over the croup. The arch is continuous without flatness, resulting in a low tail set. Fault – A dip behind shoulder blades or a steep or flat croup is to be penalized. Severe Fault – A wheel back or flat back are to be severely penalized. Body – The body is longer than high. The height measured at the withers is two-thirds the length as measured from point of shoulder to point of buttocks. This proportion creates a rectangular outline. Chest – The chest is long, well-developed and well-let down to elbow level.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulders – The shoulder is muscular. Shoulder Blades – The shoulder blades are laid back to somewhat near a 30 degree angle off the vertical. Upper Arm – The length of the upper arm corresponds approximately to that of the shoulder blade. The upper arm extends well back so that the elbow is placed directly below the top of the shoulder blade when viewed from the side and structurally the elbows are held close to the body. The scapula- humeral angle is about 120 degrees. Legs – The front legs are upright. The lower arms are vertical and parallel. They are well-muscled with good bone. The length of the lower arm corresponds approximately to that of the upper arm.

HINDQUARTERS

Angulation – The pelvis is sloped at approximately 30 degrees off the horizontal. The pelvis meets the femur at an angle of about 80 degrees. The angle of femur to lower thigh is about 120 degrees. Legs – The hind legs are muscular from hip to hock. Upper and Second Thigh – The upper thigh and lower thigh are approximately equal in length. Hock Joint – The hock joint is dry and well defined. The height of the hock joint when measured to the ground is slightly less than the length of the lower thigh.

COAT

This is one of the main characteristics of the breed from which its very name derives. The coat is very soft and supple, with the texture of cotton. It is never hard or rough. The coat is dense, profuse and can be very slightly wavy. A puppy coat is much softer in texture than an adult coat. Severe Fault -Atypical hair or hair that is tightly curled, wooly or silky. Skin – The skin is fine and stretched tight all over the body. Although of pink color, it can be pigmented.

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coton de tulear illustration

About the Coton de Tulear

The Coton de Tulear (KO-Tone Dih TOO-Lay-ARE) is a small, immensely charming dog standing between 9 and 11 inches high and weighing anywhere from 8 to 13 pounds. Cotons are known for a profuse white coat that is as soft as cotton (or, as the French say, “coton”). Their primary job is to provide amusement, comfort, and companionship.

The bond between Cotons and their people is so tight that owners discuss it in human terms. Coton fanciers describe them as “witty” companions “at times boisterous but never demanding” and “naturally clownish and lighthearted,” who possess a “remarkably gentle, sympathetic awareness.” Amusing traits of these long-lived jesters include unique vocalizations and a knack for walking on their hind legs.

National Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Coton de Tulear

Find a Puppy: Coton de Tulear

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find Coton de Tulear Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

A high-quality dog food appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior) will have all the nutrients the breed needs. Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Give table scraps sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with high fat content. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet.

GROOMING

Grooming the Coton puppy is a breeze. During that time you should groom him regularly and ensure that he learns to see grooming sessions as positive times of bonding with his person. Unless you are going to keep your Coton in a short “puppy clip,” your dog will require a great deal of brushing. You must be careful to get your comb and brush all the way to the skin (gently) during daily brushing, or the hair next to the skin will mat and if this is too extensive your dog may need to be shaved down. You should use a spray conditioner while brushing to avoid breakage. A couple of times a week, check the ears and remove any excess hair, wax, or debris to avoid ear infections.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Daily Brushing

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Occasional

EXERCISE

The Coton is a fairly active dog who requires a moderate amount of exercise. Daily walks with his human at a slow speed will keep him in good weight and condition. Chasing a tennis ball around his backyard can keep his mind active as well as his body. A bored and unhappy Coton can become destructive. He does best when provided with enough exercise, lots of attention from his owner, and plenty of interesting toys to keep him occupied.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Regular Exercise

TRAINING

The Coton is an alert dog and naturally territorial. Cotons should be well socialized from an early age so that they will enjoy going with you wherever you go. Obedience training is a good idea, for socialization as well as reinforcing lessons and manners. A bored Coton will be unable to learn anything. Keep your training sessions lively and entertaining for best results. Cotons respond poorly to negative training practices but will excel in most dog-sport activities when trained with positive methods. They do well in agility and obedience and make excellent therapy dogs.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Easy Training

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Outgoing

HEALTH

The Coton de Tulear has remained fairly free of genetic health issues. That is not to say that they do not exist, but that any incidences are of an extremely low percentage. In the Coton, known incidences are usually in the one- to five-percent range. Coton breeders are working diligently to keep the breed as problem free as possible by doing genetic screening of all breeding stock. Occasionally eye problems and hip dysplasia do occur in the breed. As with all small breeds, there is a chance of luxating patellas, and spinal disc disease has been known to occur.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Patella Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Hip Evaluation
  • Cardiac Exam

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Coton De Tulear Care
Coton de Tulear
Coton de Tulear
Coton de Tulear
Coton de Tulear
Coton de Tulear

History

Cotons de Tulear, named for the seaport town of Tulear, were once the preferred lapdog of the nobles of Madagascar. The island nation lies some 250 miles off the southeastern coast of Africa, but the population is primarily related not to African peoples but rather to those of Indonesia. Because of a bond with France that resulted from former colonial rule, Madagascar developed strong links with the French-speaking nations of western Africa. French is still widely spoken by Malagasy elites, hence their little white dog’s French accent.

The island’s aristocrats were jealous guardians of their fluffy little comedians, even passing laws that prohibited Coton ownership to commoners. “They were also extremely reluctant to allow any of their pets to leave the island,” a canine historian wrote, “with the result that these dogs remained isolated from the rest of the world and were breeding true for centuries.”

The Coton de Tulear’s AKC breed standard begins with a tantalizing assertion: “In Madagascar, the Coton de Tulear survived in packs in the wilderness, later to become a companion dog of the native Malagasy and Merina tribal nobles.”
The standard stops short of explaining how these delightful lapdogs wound up fending for themselves on an isolated island. There are fanciful tales of a shipwreck off Madagascar and how a cargo of little white dogs swam ashore to safety, formed a feral pack, and mated with local dogs to create the Coton. (It’s a wonderful story, and it might even be true. It is known that in the ancient world small white companion dogs, such as the Maltese, were luxury items avidly bartered by seafaring merchants around the Mediterranean and North Africa.)

The Coton lived in its splendid isolation until the 1960s, when French tourists discovered the breed. It was an immediate hit in Europe, where generations of selective breeding further refined the breed into the Coton we now know. The AKC registered its first Cotons de Tulear in 2014.

Did You Know?

The Coton de Tulear is originally from Madagascar. The Coton is the "Official Dog of Madagascar" and is also known as the "Royal Dog of Madagascar."
In its country of origin, the breed has been portrayed on a postage stamp.
The Coton de Tulear can compete in AKC Companion Events (Obedience, Rally, Tracking, and Agility).
The breed's name is from the French word Coton, meaning "cotton," and from the Madagascan port of Tulear.
The name is pronounced cotawn day two-lee are.
The Coton de Tulear is AKC's 179th breed.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Coton de Tulear, also known as the “Royal Dog of Madagascar”, is a hardy, sturdy small white companion dog. The Coton de Tulear is characterized by a natural long, white, dry, profuse, cotton-like coat, rounded lively dark eyes, black on white joie de vivre expressive smile and witty personality. The breed is somewhat longer than tall. The topline is very slightly arched over the loin with a happily carried tail curved over the back on the move. At rest, the tail is down with an upward hook at the tip revealing the distinguishing outline of the Coton de Tulear.

HEAD

The head is short and triangular in shape when seen from above. The length of the head (nose to occiput) in relationship to the length of the body (point of shoulder to point of buttock) is 2 to 5. Expression – The expression is lively, intelligent, inquisitive, alert and happy. The Cotons joy of life is displayed in their expression. Eyes – The eyes are rather rounded, dark brown or black in color, lively, set wide apart with the inner corners and the outer corners on the same level. The rims of the eyelids are completely pigmented in black. Severe Fault – An overly large or bulging eye is a severe fault as is an almond shaped, obliquely set eye. Disqualifications – Eye/s of any color other than brown or black. Total lack of pigment on the eye rim(s).

NECK, TOPLINE, BODY

The neck is slightly arched, of moderate length, blends smoothly into the shoulders and is in balance with the height and length of the dog. Topline – The withers are only slightly pronounced. The topline runs smoothly from the withers to the loin. Beginning over the loin, is a graceful natural arch, not too accentuated, that carries through over the croup. The arch is continuous without flatness, resulting in a low tail set. Fault – A dip behind shoulder blades or a steep or flat croup is to be penalized. Severe Fault – A wheel back or flat back are to be severely penalized. Body – The body is longer than high. The height measured at the withers is two-thirds the length as measured from point of shoulder to point of buttocks. This proportion creates a rectangular outline. Chest – The chest is long, well-developed and well-let down to elbow level.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulders – The shoulder is muscular. Shoulder Blades – The shoulder blades are laid back to somewhat near a 30 degree angle off the vertical. Upper Arm – The length of the upper arm corresponds approximately to that of the shoulder blade. The upper arm extends well back so that the elbow is placed directly below the top of the shoulder blade when viewed from the side and structurally the elbows are held close to the body. The scapula- humeral angle is about 120 degrees. Legs – The front legs are upright. The lower arms are vertical and parallel. They are well-muscled with good bone. The length of the lower arm corresponds approximately to that of the upper arm.

HINDQUARTERS

Angulation – The pelvis is sloped at approximately 30 degrees off the horizontal. The pelvis meets the femur at an angle of about 80 degrees. The angle of femur to lower thigh is about 120 degrees. Legs – The hind legs are muscular from hip to hock. Upper and Second Thigh – The upper thigh and lower thigh are approximately equal in length. Hock Joint – The hock joint is dry and well defined. The height of the hock joint when measured to the ground is slightly less than the length of the lower thigh.

COAT

This is one of the main characteristics of the breed from which its very name derives. The coat is very soft and supple, with the texture of cotton. It is never hard or rough. The coat is dense, profuse and can be very slightly wavy. A puppy coat is much softer in texture than an adult coat. Severe Fault -Atypical hair or hair that is tightly curled, wooly or silky. Skin – The skin is fine and stretched tight all over the body. Although of pink color, it can be pigmented.

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coton de tulear illustration

Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
White Check Mark For Standard Color 199
Black 007

Markings

Description Standard Markings Registration Code
Gray Markings Check Mark For Standard Mark 028
Yellow Markings Check Mark For Standard Mark 107
Tri Color Markings 024
White Markings 014

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