A Coton de Tulear dog sits on the dock by the water.

Coton de Tulear

10 - 12"
12 - 15 lbs
Life Expectancy
14 - 19 years
Area of Origin
The Coton de Tulear is a small, bright, and delightful breed whose top priority is being a loyal companion. They have only been in the United States for under 50 years, but have been reported as early as the 17th century in Tulear, a city on the island of Madagascar. They are also called the "Royal Dog of Madagascar" as they were owned by the island's royalty and possession of the breed by commoners was against the law. The word coton is French for "cotton," which describes this breed's soft hair coat perfectly. They have a charming, joyful personality and show their playful side by walking on their hind legs. Members of the breed are typically unaggressive, making them an excellent addition to any family, including those with children or other pets. They can also acclimate to any environment, but are best kept as house dogs. Since they are friendly, outgoing animals, they'll most likely welcome strangers instead of defending the household. The devoted Coton de Tulear prefers to be by their owner's side at all times and truly enjoys human companionship.
Energy Level
Friendliness to dogs
Friendliness to strangers
exercise requirements
affection level
friendliness to other pets
Grooming Requirements

Where Is the Coton de Tulear From?

The Coton de Tulear is thought to be a close descendant of the Bichon Tenerife, the Maltese, and an extinct breed known as the Coton de Reunion. Their ancestors were brought to Tulear (in Madagascar) from Reunion, another island in the Indian Ocean, via trading ships in the 17th century. It is believed that they bred with local dogs, eventually developing into the Coton de Tulear we know and love today.

The attractive breed caught the eye of Tulear nobles and quickly became their preferred animal companion. Nobility enjoyed their company so much that they outlawed possession of the breed by commoners to keep the blood lines pure. This method worked for centuries and the breed remained isolated in Tulear until the mid-20th century when a few dogs were legally exported to Europe.

The breed arrived on U.S. soil in 1974 by way of American biologist Robert Russell. In an effort to improve breeding stock, a male Coton de Tulear was imported from Madagascar as recently as 1999.

The Coton de Tulear remains one of the rarest dog breeds in the world.

Caring for a Coton de Tulear

What Kind of Diet Does a Coton de Tulear Need?

What Kind of Diet Does a Coton de Tulear Need?

As with most house dogs, the Coton de Tulear needs their calorie intake monitored to avoid obesity. They require a healthy and age-appropriate diet.

How Much Grooming Does a Coton de Tulear Need?

How Much Grooming Does a Coton de Tulear Need?

Cotons de Tulear do not shed, but require daily brushing and regular grooming to prevent their hair from matting. Their ears also contain hair and should be checked frequently for any evidence of infection or irritation. Regular nail trims are also recommended.

Are Cotons de Tulear Healthy Dogs?

Are Cotons de Tulear Healthy Dogs?

Cotons de Tulear are healthy dogs, predisposed to only a few diseases. They are known to suffer from hip dysplasia, which is a hereditary malformation of the hip joints. This can result in pain, lameness, and arthritis. Symptoms can be minimized by weight management and avoiding excess exercise.

They can also have luxating patellas, which is when the knee cap is displaced to the inside of the knee joint. In some cases, the displacement is permanent. Severe cases may require corrective surgery.

They have also been associated with progressive retinal atrophy, a genetic disease that causes retinal degeneration.

Their life span is 14 to 19 years.

The Coton de Tulear breed is predisposed to: hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, and progressive retinal atrophy.

How Much Training Does a Coton de Tulear Need?

How Much Training Does a Coton de Tulear Need?

Cotons can be a territorial breed, so early socialization is recommended. Getting them used to other people and animals early will ensure a positive outcome from frequent trips to the groomer later in life.

Keeping them interested in training exercises is key. They love bonding with their family and prefer positive reinforcement methods of training.

How Much Exercise Do Cotons de Tulear Need?

How Much Exercise Do Cotons de Tulear Need?

The Coton de Tulear breed requires a moderate amount of exercise. They’re passionate about playing fetch and running around the house or yard. Because they love family time so much, they require a lot of attention and can become destructive if bored or ignored.

What Are the Physical Characteristics of a Coton de Tulear?

What Do Cotons de Tulear Look Like?
The Coton de Tulear is a small, yet sturdy breed. They have a soft, white hair coat and joyful presence. Their gait is effortless and their tail is long and carried up over the back when excited. They stand 10 to 12 inches tall and weigh 12 to 15 pounds.
The Coton de Tulear Head
Their heads are small with dark, round eyes. Ears are set high on the skull and extend down to the corner of the mouth. The muzzle is medium in size and features a black nose and lips.
Are Cotons de Tulear Strong?
For their size, the Coton de Tulear is a relatively strong breed, boasting a well-developed chest and muscular back.
Do Cotons de Tulear Have Long Tails?
The Coton de Tulear tail is long, but heavily curved, pointing playfully upward during exercise and family activity.
Coton de Tulear Front Legs
The forelimbs are parallel and straight, with arched toes and small feet. The shoulders are muscular and laid back.
What Colors Are Common for Cotons de Tulear?
The Coton de Tulear breed hair coat is white, white with tan or champagne markings, or gray and white. Black markings on the body are cause for disqualification by the American Kennel Club.
Coton de Tulear Back Legs
The hindlimbs feature muscular thighs and well-defined hocks.

Coton de Tulear Facts

The Coton de Tulear is relatively new to the Western world and was not recognized by the American Kennel Club until 2014.
Barbra Streisand is a fan of the breed and even owns two clones of her first Coton de Tulear, Samantha, who passed away in 2017.
The Coton de Tulear's likeness has appeared on a postage stamp in their native Madagascar.

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