Origin of the Coton
The Coton de Tulear is a rare and ancient pure-bred dog that originated on the Island of Madagascar more than three centuries ago. In 1653 Etienne de Flacourt, geographer and governor of Fort Dauphin, Madagascar, wrote: “There are quantities of dogs that are small, have long muzzles and short legs – similar to foxes. A few of them are white. They have been engendered by dogs originating from France and have remained. They have short ears.”
Lovely puppies resulted from the semi-white fluffs: half European / half Malagasy – that quickly became distinguished by their cottony type of coat, from which the Coton earned the first part of its name. The second part of the name comes from ‘Tulear’, better known today as ‘Toliara’, a coastal city where the breed was believed to have developed. Today, the Coton is kown as the ‘Royal Dog of Madagascar’ and has been honoured on several postage stamps. The Coton was a favorite of the Malagasy kings and other royalty. For many years, only royalty were permitted to own a Coton.
From stories of ship-wrecks and dog swimming to shore, to tales of Cotons outsmarting crocodiles, the history of the Coton is rich and varied. One legend has it that the Coton’s arrival in Madagascar coincides with a ship-wreck in the proximity of Madagascar. No one knows the name of the ship or the flag it flew under, but it is assumed that the ancestors of the Coton were aboard this ship. These dogs were the ancestors of the Maltese, Bichon Frise, and Havanese. Mr. Petit, former President of the ‘Societe Canine du Madagascar’ offers a different account. He states that the first European merchants holding commercial and trading posts in Madagascar likely introduced the various Bichon-type dogs (Bichon Frise, Maltese, Havanese and Bolognese to be companions). These dogs in turn procreated with the four legged friends of the island, thus creating the Coton. However, it matters little how this fabulous little dog was created, they remain little ‘four legged wonders’!
The standard of the Coton de Tulear was established in 1969 and submitted to the FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale) in 1970 and since February 1971 the breed has been recognized by the FCI. (See: ‘Our Cotons’ and ‘Ethics & Practices’ for more information.)
The Coton de Tulear breed arrived in North America in 1974 and since the early 1990’s have had a surge in popularity in the USA and more recently here in Canada. The breed registry in Canada is the CFC (Canine Federation of Canada). Through the CFC a Coton can be registered internationally: FCI, France.