Meet the Coton de Tulear: A Cheerful Canine Addition

Updated January 13, 2022
Coton de Tulear on Kitchen Rug

Have you heard of the Coton de Tulear? This happy-go-lucky little dog is slowly but steadily gaining recognition and popularity as a great family pet.

Origin and History of the Breed

The breed was once the favored house pet of the elite in Tulear, Madagascar. It's said that before domestication, these dogs survived in the Madagascan wilderness after being shipwrecked on the island sometime in the 16th century. The French government annexed Madagascar in the 1890s, and there's speculation that the original Coton was bred with French breeds, such as the Bichon Frise.

The Coton de Tulear then made their way to Europe in the 1960s, where their popularity immediately took off. A decade later, the breed was introduced to the United States. The breed was finally recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 2014.

Characteristics of the Coton de Tulear

The hypoallergenic and lively Coton de Tulear is equally adored for their striking looks and sweet personality. Discover the traits and requirements unique to this breed.

Coton de Tulear characteristics


Overall, the Coton de Tulear is a fairly compact little dog; this breed is slightly longer than it is tall. The Coton's coat is one of this dog's most distinguishing features. White is the preferred coat color, although there is often some cream or silver shading on the ears and muzzle. Some dogs of this breed are actually black and white or tricolor. The coat is fairly long and fluffy, and the wavy texture makes it stand out a bit from the body.

The body type is similar to the Bichon Frise. Although it's difficult to tell beneath the hair, the head is somewhat triangular, with a slightly rounded top skull. The teeth should meet in a scissors bite. The tail is carried up over the back when active, and held low when at rest.

  • Average Height: 10 to 12 inches, although dogs can be up to 17 inches tall at the shoulder.
  • Average Weight: 12 to 15 pounds, but some individuals can weigh up to 18 pounds.


The coat may catch your attention first, but it's the Coton's personality that really shines. These dogs are happy, affectionate, and even a little clownish. You might hear a few excited barks from a Coton, but they aren't commonly yappy dogs.

This breed is extremely people oriented and loyal to their owners, although they tend to be equally affectionate toward strangers, making them poor watchdogs. They also get along quite well with other dogs, pets, and children. Socializing these dogs from an early age is the best way to ensure that they do.

Woman Takes Selfie With Her Coton de Tulear

Exercise Requirements

Due to their energetic nature, Cotons de Tulear have moderate exercise needs. Your Coton should have at least 30 to 45 minutes of activity every day. Daily walks and time to run and play within a yard are necessary to keep these dogs mentally and physically healthy.


Although these dogs are eager to please their people, they are also fairly independent. This can lead to a bit of stubborn behavior now and then, but overall, they are cooperative and easily trainable. In fact, their energy level and fun-loving ways make these dogs great candidates for agility and fly ball. However, they also do well in obedience trials.

Health Concerns

The Coton is not completely free of health concerns, though there is a very low incidence of genetic diseases within the breed. There are a few conditions these dogs may be prone to.

  • Allergies: These dogs can have skin allergies and some may have to eat a hypoallergenic diet due to food allergies.
  • Joint problems: Hip dysplasia and patellar luxation can occur in small dogs like Cotons de Tulear.
  • Eye issues: Canine Multifocal Retinopathy 2 (CMR2) is a genetic eye problem that can affect Coton puppies.
  • Neurologic conditions: Bandera's Neonatal Ataxia (BNA) is an inherited recessive trait seen only in Cotons. Puppies with this condition cannot stand or walk properly. Testing is available to identify if dogs carry this gene.


The Coton de Tulear can live as long as 19 years, although 14 to 16 years is the average. Good nutrition, adequate exercise, and proper vaccinations will keep members of this breed in good health.


Caring for the coat of the Coton presents this breed's greatest challenge. Due to the soft, airy texture of the hair, ideally these dogs must be thoroughly brushed out every day. The coat will mat if brushing is not carried out. This is because the Coton doesn't shed in the usual sense. Loose hairs tend to get caught in the coat and accumulate into mats, which must be carefully teased out if you want to preserve the dog's natural look.

The breed can be kept in a puppy cut (a grooming style where the hair is trimmed to the same shorter length all over) if daily brushing isn't possible. The Coton's ears should be cleaned out on a regular basis, and the nails should be trimmed as needed.

Fun Facts About the Breed

  • Despite the breed's luscious coat, the Coton de Tulear is reportedly hypoallergenic because they rarely shed and have a low dander count.
  • They're often referred to as the "Royal Dog of Madagascar" after their origin.
This is a baby Coton de Tulear

Where to Buy or Adopt a Coton de Tulear

If you're looking for a Coton de Tulear of your own, you can expect to pay around $1,500 to $3,000 for a quality Coton puppy. The United States of America Coton de Tulear Club and Canadian Coton de Tulear Club are national organizations where you can find breeder directories, guidelines for finding ethical breeders, questions you should ask, and recommended screenings for the breed.

Adopting a Coton de Tulear can be an excellent way to save a dog's life. The majority of available dogs are adults, although puppies are sometimes relinquished and Coton de Tulear mixes are common. The American Coton Club coordinates rescues and adoptions for members of this breed. You can also search for Cotons and Coton mixes in your area on Petfinder.

Is the Coton de Tulear the Right Breed for You?

If you're in search of a small, friendly companion that will provide you with endless love, the Coton might be the perfect fit. Owners with allergies to dogs could particularly benefit from the Coton de Tulear due to their hypoallergenic coat. Just be sure you can commit to the daily grooming needs this breed's gorgeous hair requires so you can keep your Coton healthy and happy.

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Meet the Coton de Tulear: A Cheerful Canine Addition