The Coton De Tulear
By Michael Russell
The Coton De Tulear is a Bichon type dog which is descended from the small white dogs of Madagascar which were believed to have been brought to the Mediterranean region by a shipwreck in 1665. These small white dogs existed in Europe as early as the 1500s according to written references of the time. Often these were the little dogs which were carried on ships as companions of the passengers and also as a ship’s dog to rid the ship of rats and vermin. These early Bichon type dogs, as they were dispersed around Europe by sailors and travelers, began to be named mostly after the region in which they flourished and each type, though basically from similar origins, developed along lines which were sufficiently different that most of these small white fluffy dogs are now compartmentalized as separate breeds and registered as such by the F.C.I. (the European counterpart of the A.K.C.)
The Coton De Tulear is distinguished by it’s silky long single coat which is quite fine and cotton like in texture. The coat is white although there may be slight biscuit or lemon markings on the ears or feet and rarely one can find specimens which are black and white. The coat length is about three inches and the standards require that it not be scissored but left in a natural state. It is a small dog standing no higher than 10-11 inches at the withers. The head has a well defined stop and the untrimmed hair should be left in a “fall” over the eyes, often covering the eyes completely. The tail is not curled too tightly but should be loosely curled over the back.
The Coton is a breed which is quite friendly and has enjoyed a popularity amongst the upper classes of Madagascar as a status symbol. The small white dogs ran wild in packs on the island. When they became “socialized” they became favorites of the nobility. For many years it was outlawed for a member of the lower classes to own a Coton.
This little dog has a sweet but also playful demeanor and is a gentle and affectionate little dog. He would be considered a “lap dog” even though early in his origins he was also quite useful as a ratter. The Coton does have a distinctive growly “talk” which is unique. He is a good watchdog for setting up an alarm even though he is a small dog. Also this is a highly intelligent dog that is easily trained.
The Coton de Tulear is becoming more popular in the show rings of Europe. It has recently joined the list of dogs registered in Foundation Stock Service of the American Kennel club, this is usually the first step towards eventual registration in the A.K.C.
Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Dogs
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