These beautiful and athletic dogs originate from a large Island in the Indian Ocean 450 kilometres (300 miles) off the coast of Southern Africa; Madagascar.
Madagascar has a lot of unique and gorgeous scenery: rainforests, deserts, mountains , beautiful beaches surrounded by coral reefs and clear turquoise water. It has some of the highest biodiversity on the planet, and it’s believed that 80% of its wildlife and flora is found nowhere else on earth.
There are many legends and stories about how the Coton may have developed, or been brought to the island. Some think that they may have been brought on pirate ships or by merchants who may have used them to control the vermin onboard as well as companions on their long journeys. At one time, it is also believed that only the affluent or royalty were allowed to own these gorgeous dogs which led to one of their nicknames- The Royal Dog of Madagascar.
Although they are considered part of the Bichon family, it has been discovered that genetically they are actually between the Pumi and Portuguese Water Dog.
In the early 1970’s some dogs were exported to Europe and ended up being bred to the Fèdèration Cynologique Internationale (FCI); also known as the ‘European’ standard which involved focusing on having them as small, all white dogs. At the same time others were exported to the USA, where they were bred to the original standard recognized in the United States created by the Coton de Tulear Club of America (mCTCA); known as the ‘Malagasy’ standard which includes all of the colour and height variations which were seen originally in their homeland. This is the standard which I, as an ethical breeder with the Malagasy Coton Preservation Club (MCPC) follow.
Aside from being bred to different standards, the other difference between Euros and Malagasy’s is the population size; with the Malagasy’s being much smaller.
Cotons in my opinion are the perfect dog. They are bred to be amazing companions and excel at this. Their whole purpose is to be with their people and make them happy. If you are a marathon runner they will be as well, if you’re a couch potato, they will be snuggled right up with you. This is their best feature, but also their worst- if you work full time, or are gone from the home a lot, to places you won’t be taking your dog with you, then this breed would not be a good choice for you.
They of course are like any dog- you will get out what you put in. They are super smart, and if you put in the effort with training, and socializing you will have an amazing companion.