Coton Origin and Standards

The Coton de Tulear originates from Madagascar. It is the world’s fourth largest island, just southeast of Africa. Their name is derived from the texture of their coat (soft and cottony) and the location of their origin. Tulear is a port city on the southwestern coast of Madagascar.

Historically, the Coton’s arrival to Madagascar dates back approximately to the 15th Century. Legend tales that ships sailing in the waters off the coast of Madagascar encountered storms.

One such storm resulted in a shipwreck. There were no survivor’s other than the reported small white dogs that swam ashore. It is assumed that they are the ancestors of the Bichon Family and possibly other local terriers.
The Coton de Tulear resulted from this wonderful cross. The breed has only been recognized since 1971 in Europe.
According to the Federation Cynologique Internationale –FCI (this is the European version of AKC)-the breed standard for show dogs are as follows and what I strive to adhere to:


HEIGHT – at withers approximately
9.8 inches to 12.5 inches
WEIGHT – 8.8 lbs to 13. 2 lbs.
HEIGHT – at withers approximately
8.5 inches to 11 inches
7.7 lbs to 11 lbs.


These standards can vary if the dog is sold as a companion. The length is proportional to the height by being two thirds longer. The Coton has a slightly curved top line which in part differentiates him from other members of the Bichon family.
They accept three colors to be shown: white, champagne & white and tri-colored. Tri-coloreds have to be light enough where it does not stand out against the white. Although not accepted in the show ring, there is a more rare black & white. Cotons have a fading gene that allows them to get lighter in coloring as early as 6-7 months old. It has been pointed out that with age though, they do tend to regain some of their puppy coloring. A very dark tri-colored puppy can turn out very light when it reaches maturity, even looking all white. The more redder (ginger) the patches are in the coloring, the more likely they will keep some of the coloring-almost fading to a light apricot color. The Coton breed is hypoallergenic and non-shedding.
The coat is soft, cottony & never coarse or oily. Gently brushing 2-3 times a week will help alleviate the mats. During the period of 7-18 months the adult coat is coming in-this will require more attention. It will have the tendency to mat. The Coton has dark brown eyes which should be rimmed in black pigment. The ears dropped, thin, triangular and covered with long hair.

The standards have been changed in this country since our loving breed as gone AKC. Show standards are only allowing 5% of color to be accepted. They also have raised the weights of both male and females. If you intend on showing, then plan on purchasing a white Coton since there is never a guarantee that they will fade enough to be accepted in the show ring. I am not fond of this change, since I believe the Coton is wonderful as it is and color has always been very much part of the breed-one person’s opinion.