What is the Madagascar Dog (Coton De Tulear)?

Pets - What is the Madagascar Dog (Coton De Tulear)

The Madagascar Dog (Coton de Tulear) is a small breed with an elegant, cotton-like coat. Their name derives from Tulear, Madagascar – where they were born.

They are affectionately known as the “Royal Dog of Madagascar” and were bred to serve as companion dogs for Madagascar’s aristocracy. While not feral or prone to prey drive, these canine companions make excellent pets.


The Coton de Tulear is Madagascar’s national dog, an island 250 miles off Africa in the Indian Ocean. It belongs to the Bichon family of dogs and descendants of Barbet, one of Madagascar’s national breeds.

They were likely brought to the island during the 16th century aboard trade and pirate ships. The islands served as a popular refueling stop along the East Indies trade route.

Once on the island, they quickly adjusted to life on its shores. Some adopted royal court members and wealthy Madagascan households as pets; others roamed freely through town. Most spent their days hunting small native wild boars and scavenging for food in the jungle.

Their intelligence, alertness, and adaptability enabled them to survive in harsh tropical climates. Indeed, it is said that they evolved their coat specifically for cooling purposes.

Cottony coats may have developed during their early years living on the tropical island. These animals were highly intelligent and alert, capable of sensing danger from predators like crocodiles.

As the Coton de Tulear gained popularity in Europe, breeders began shipping purebreds to America. In 1974, Dr. Robert Jay Russell, a researcher of lemurs in Madagascar, sent two Cotons to his father J. Lewis Russell of Oakshade Kennel in New Jersey; these pups would go on to become popular breeders across America and beyond.

On Madagascar, there was once no breed registry. That changed in 1966 when Mr. Louis Petit joined a group of enthusiasts and formed the Societe Canine de Madagascar; but at that time the breed wasn’t recognized by FCI (World Kennel Club).

By 1970, the Societe Canine de Madagascar petitioned the Federation Cynologique Internationale to recognize their breed. They created an original standard revised three times: in 1987, 1995, and 1999.

Malagasy Cotons have no official records or pedigrees kept, yet they possess a distinct heritage. Legend has it that they were brought to Madagascar during the 15th or 16th centuries on pirate ships, and this presence on the island helped shape them into what we now know as Cotons de Tulear.


The Madagascar dog, commonly referred to as the Coton de Tulear, is a small but intelligent canine companion. It’s beloved for its sweet temperament, playful spirit, and easy-going manners.

The breed has a long-standing tradition in Madagascar and was once seen as the Royal Dog of Madagascar, serving as an emblem for its ruling aristocrats. These dogs rarely left the island and kept their bloodlines pure for centuries – which helped explain why they became popular among Europeans.

These intelligent, affectionate dogs were once employed as pest control on trading ships and have a long-standing connection to the high seas. As watchdogs, they alert their owners of potential dangers around them and make wonderful pets for modern families.

They possess a distinctive cotton-like coat which may be due to a genetic mutation in their gene fibroblast growth factor 5 (FGF5). However, further investigation is necessary to pinpoint exactly why this mutation occurred and why it produces such soft and fluffy fur.

No matter their exotic origins, this breed is easy to train and makes an excellent family pet. They enjoy playing and socializing with other canines while remaining loyal and devoted to their human families.

Their adorable personalities have long been a source of popular fascination. They make ideal pets for any family and will bring years of joy to their owners’ lives.

Some people believe this breed was first bred in a shipwreck off the coast of Tulear in Madagascar. During the 16th century, traders brought these small dogs with them on their journeys to the island, and they proved invaluable in saving people from drowning.

They quickly adapted to life in Madagascar and became companion dogs for the Merina tribe. While they didn’t hunt wild boar or crocodiles, they survived by scavenging for food and hunting insects, making them highly resilient in the tropical climate of Madagascar.

These charming dogs were beloved to their native Malagasy ancestors and eventually spread throughout Madagascar, drawing a large French population who bred them for companionship and beauty. Ultimately, these wonderful breeds were exported to Europe and North America, where they enjoyed great success.

Health issues

According to Canguilhem, “Health is the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being – not simply the absence of disease or infirmity.” It’s essential to recognize that health encompasses more than just our physical well-being; it encompasses mental, social, and spiritual well-being as well. Holistic well-being encompasses both animate and inanimate environments as well as our physical, emotional and psychological well-being.

Since ancient times, dogs have been an integral part of Malagasy culture. Not only did they hunt and herd, and protect property and homes from sorcerers (Campbell 2012), but their poisonous abilities were also highly valued (Campbell 2013).

Dogs have long been beloved pets among the wealthy, particularly in Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar. In 2007, an estimated 90% of middle-class households owned pet dogs there; this rate is twice as high as in America, where pet dog ownership is estimated to be 46% (Ratsitorahina et al. 2009).

The Coton de Tulear is one of the world’s most beloved companion breeds. Referred to as the “Royal Dog of Madagascar,” these cheerful little pups possess a sweet disposition and show great affection towards their owners.

They’re known for their clown-like appearance and long, soft coats, which tend to be hypoallergenic. These pups are easy to bathe and groom due to their easy care requirements.

Cotons typically enjoy good health, but they can experience common health issues like periodontal disease, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and cataracts.

If not treated promptly, these conditions can result in vision loss or blindness in your Coton de Tulear. If you notice any warning signs of these issues in your pet, speak to your vet immediately.

Another common health issue for Cotons is luxating patellas, or when the kneecap shifts out of place during movement. This condition can cause pain and an altered gait pattern.

Other health hazards for small dogs include allergies, ear infections, and bone fractures – which can be life-threatening if left untreated. It’s essential to monitor your pet’s well-being by taking them for regular vet visits, brushing their teeth regularly, and providing them with a high-quality diet.


The Coton de Tulear is a small dog breed that originated in Madagascar and was once known as the royal canine of the country. Its name derives from two sources: its seaport town’s name (Tulear), and the cottony coat that covers its short, slender body.

These adorable dogs may appear to be stuffed animals at first glance, but they are real dogs showing extreme affection and loyalty to their humans. They’re happy-go-lucky companions who enjoy clowning around and snuggling up with their owners.

They possess great intelligence and an eagerness to please. Friendly and lovable, these intelligent dogs will need consistent positive training to grow to their full potential.

Training can include socialization, obedience instruction, and even health and well-being training. Without proper socialization and obedience instruction, your Coton may become anxious or destructive, leading to unwanted behavioral issues.

You must invest the time in teaching your Coton the correct training from an early age and continue this throughout their life. Doing this will help them develop into well-mannered, social dog who enjoys making new friends.

Cotons require socialization with people, especially children, and other animals. They thrive best in a family setting where they’re raised from puppyhood to be socialized with others.

Some Cotons require more training as they mature, but most will get along fine with other dogs and cats if socialized from an early age. Furthermore, regular brushing of their coats to keep it shiny and free of knots is recommended.

Another training requirement is making sure they get enough exercise. Daily walks or playtime with their families or friends will keep them physically and mentally fit and enable them to enjoy life more fully and spend quality time with their families.

They require regular mental stimulation through interactive toys and games, such as puzzles, treats, and other items that teach them how to socialize with other dogs and people.

Coton de Tulear : The adorable, funny, small dog from Madagascar
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