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TOPICS on-line in this issue:

1. The Colors of Cotons, Part 1

2. Keeping the Whelping Box Warm (updated 5/20/99)

1: The Colors of Cotons de Tulear, Part 1

(This article first appeared12/8/96 on K9GENES, an on-line mailing list devoted to caninegenetics. To join this list, see information in:Explore CotonCyberspace!)

by R.J. Russell, Ph.D.,
CTCA President

The Coton de Tulear (Coton) is a rarebreed of Bichon that developed on the island of Madagascar during thepast three centuries. The breed is distinguished by its dry, fly-awayhair which resembles cotton. The word "Tulear" is the name of apirate/slave trading port city in southwestern Madagascar wherelegend has it the first of this breed appeared.

There are three principle color varieties ofCoton: White; Black & White, and; Tri-Color. Color may be seen ineither top coat or undercoat hair or both. All three color varietiesmay be born in litters in Madagascar, North America, and Europe andall three color varieties may give birth to one another. The CTCAStandard has always strongly supported all three color varieties. Inmarked contrast, the FCI standard supports only pure white dogs andhas very little toleration in its standard for pups that are not purewhite. However, in the show ring, when the FCI standard is used,well-marked, colored Coton pups are shown and sometimes win, eventhough the FCI standard has no provisions for brown, black, and white(Tri-Color) in pups nor is it at all clear at what age such a coloredpup would be disqualified by an FCI judge because it has retained itscolor. In fact, many, perhaps most shows that use the FCI standardseem to judge Cotons of color by a de facto, unwrittenstandard.

WHITE (approximately 57% of the 515 CTCA Cotons registered)

White Cotons are all-white. Like some other Bichonbreeds, a White Coton often has "champagne" (cream-biscuit/light tancolor) patches on its ears and may even have a body patch or saddleof champagne faintly visible. These patches may persist throughout aCoton's lifetime, but most often they fade. However, in almost everycase, the coloration will become visible if the coat is wetted(soaked) even in Cotons greater than 14 years old.

We have never observed the color yellow, per se,on a Coton. However, the FCI standard has used this term (jaune). Wesuspect it is the same as "Champagne/cream biscuit/light tan"above.

Some Malagasy Cotons (diverse bloodlines fromMadagascar exclusively) will exhibit russet (light reddish-tan,chestnut colored; often termed "liver" in other breeds) patches whichpersist in maturity. These White Cotons have only the color White andthe russet patches -- no black hairs are present. In older Cotons,these russet patches fade considerably, but they do not disappearcompletely even in Cotons greater than 14 years old. We have not seenthis persistent russet patch coloration in European bloodlines, butit may exist there as well.

NOTA BENE: the term "fade" here means one of threethings: (1) the color in the hair shaft is replaced gradually withwhite beginning at the base of the hair (e.g., brown hair fading towhite in a Tri-color Coton), or (2) the colored hair is lost andreplaced completely by a hair shaft of another color (usually whitetop coat hair replacing brown or tan), or (3) the colored top-coathair remains but becomes overwhelmed by a profusion of whiteundercoat hairs in maturity or old age (e.g., black coloration fadingto gray or silver in a some Cotons). Note, too, that some people inthe fancy have used the term "mutate" to describe pelage colorchanges through development; this is not the correct use of thisterm.

BLACK & WHITE (approximately 14% of the Cotons registered)

Black and White Cotons are distinguished at birthby having pure black patches and pure white hair. There may be onlyone or two small back patches or the dog may be mostly black. Thereis no limit within the standard regarding percentage of coloration ona colored Coton's coat. At birth, some Black & White pups exhibitbrown hairs in areas immediately adjacent to the black patches, oftenon the face and ears. These brown hairs invariably fade (disappearcompletely) by about 18 months old. The black hairs, however DO NOTdisappear.

Many but by no means all Black and White Cotonsshow a gradual fading of some of their black patches in maturity orin probable response to hormonal changes (e.g., testosteroneproduction during estrus for the male; post-parturition restorationof the normal hormone balance for the primaparous female). Thischange to either a gray or silver appearance of the pure black patchoccurs NOT through the loss of black hairs, but through the increasedproduction of white undercoat hairs that surround a single, thicker,black top coat hair follicle. We are studying this curently and havecounted from 4:1 to as many as 8:1 white undercoat to black topcoathairs per folicle within a "graying" black patch. In our experience,a black patch, whether on the ears or body, never naturally fades towhite and no Black & White pup could ever be mistaken foranything but a Black & White adult.

TRI-COLOR (approximately 29% of the Cotons registered)

In 1973, I created the designation "Tri-colorCoton" to refer to Cotons that are born with three colors: white,brown, and black (e.g., as shown on the Malagasy postage stamp of 11/74, whichdepicts a mature, well-marked Tri-color Coton).

A Tri-Color neonate may appear with coloredpatches over some or much of its body (80%). The patches appear brown(or tan) with a regular scattering of black hairs, or largely brown(or tan) with a ring of black hairs. These are strikingly beautifulpuppies and juveniles, but their color appears to fade as theymature. The fading process can take 18 months. But, Tri-color Cotonsare ALWAYS identifiable as Tri-colors (NOT White Cotons) even as veryold individuals. Patches of tan/cream biscuit color remain as does adusting of black guard hairs. These are readily apparent when thedog's coat is wetted. From a distance, an adult Tri-color willusually appear "off-white" or slightly cream colored when viewed nextto a pure White Coton. (NB: percontra the CTCA's Standard, some ownersemploy bleaches to reduce the off-white caste to a Tri-color's coat).There are a number of CTCA breeders (including us, Alika Cotons) whowould like to see adult Cotons sporting the beautiful colors of aTri-color juvenile.


As the years have passed, we are now seeingever-more breeding and, as a logical consequence, new combinations ofalleles. Not surprisingly, then, we are seeing color patterns unlikethose seen before. Here are just a few:

We have noted a new brown color pattern that firstappeared perhaps two or three years ago in Europe. It is becomingmore common in the pups of some bloodlines of European-only Cotonsboth in Europe and in the United States. We have no official name forthis pattern yet, but we are calling it unofficially "mountain lion"or "honey bear," or, most recently, "toasted marshmallow." Thesebrown pups are born almost wholly medium brown with emergent blackhairs sprinkled evenly throughout their coat (not unlike a mountainlion cub). They may have a black dorsal streak. As they mature, someapparently turn into White/Apricot adults. We are following thisdevelopment with great interest.

Recently, a Black Coton was born with tanhighlights above its eyes and a white blaze from its stop and muzzle.This Coton has a white ventrum. Overall, its coloration resembles aBlack and Tan color pattern as seen on a Bernese or Swiss MountainDog. This Coton's parents hail from a long line of European Cotons(sire) and Malagasy Cotons (dam). We hope to have a photo of thisinteresting pup, now 4 months old, in the Winter issue (2/97) of theCoton de Tulear News. As far as we know, this Coton's coloration isunique.

Recently, a Coton was born in a litter produced bya long line of Malagasy Cotons that appeared at first glance to be a"gunmetal Gray and White" pup. The "gray" patches (80% of its body)are in fact a combination of black hairs and brown/tan hairs, so thisis very likely an unusual varient of the Tri-Color variety. This puphas not yet matured. Presently, it closely resembles a tiny,Tri-color Rough Collie puppy. As far as we know, this Coton'scoloration is unique.

We anticipate additional, interesting colorcombinations to appear as the Effective Breeding Population sizeincreases and the gene pool expands. We view these colorfuldevelopments as very healthy for the breed.


In the next K9GENES posting (Colors of Cotons,Part 2), I will briefly discuss the CTCA's working hypotheses aboutthe inheritance of color in this breed, the relationship betweenpelage coloration and pigmentation in this breed, possiblepleiotropic effects of color alleles in Cotons, and possibleexogenous factors influencing color in Cotons.

REFERENCES (illustrations of the color varieties of Cotons)

Robert Jay Russell, Ph.D., and Laurie Spalding(1996) "The Official Coton de TulearBook," Preston & Lewis Publishers,Longwood, FL, 413pp.; 102 photographs of Cotons (available throughthe CTCA and Dog Lovers Bookshop, NYC; please see:THE Book & the CotonNewsletter).

Bonnie Wilcox, D.V.M., and Chris Walkowitz (1989)"The Atlas of Dog Breeds of theWorld," TFH Publications Inc., Neptune,NJ, 912pp.; an adult Black and White Coton was chosen to representthe breed, see page 312 (the book is now in its 5th edition, so thispage number might be different now).

The CTCA's Coton News& Information Network web site, seePictures ofCotons.

2: Keeping the Whelping Box Warm

(from the Fall 1996Coton de Tulear News, to order, click on:THE Book & the CotonNewsletter)

UPDATED May 20th, 1999

by R.J. Russell, Ph.D.,
CTCA President and Coton breeder for 20 years

The first two weeks of a puppy's lifeare critical weeks for maintaining optimal temperature conditions inthe whelping box area. During this time, a puppy has no ability tothermoregulate. If exposed to ambient (air) temperatures that areabove or below a certain range. A puppy that is too hot will losewater and dehydrate, causing acute and rapidly fatal kidney failure.A pup that is chilled just one time may die within 24 hours despiteyour best efforts to reheat and nurture it. Regulating thetemperature of the whelping area is one of the most critical aspectsof breeding.

A Coton mother, cuddling her new born pups, will exhibit a skintemperature of about 85 degrees F (about 29 degrees C). This is justslightly too warm, but it will encourage a pup to be active and tonurse. Pups, when satiated, push away from the nipple and cuddle witheach other or in the mother's slightly cooler hair. Coton pups seemto do best when maintained at a temperature of about 80 degrees(about 27 degrees C) for the first ten days of life.

After the first day, the mother Coton will leave the whelping box forever-longer periods of time. It is then that the pups face a seriousdanger from cooling (or, under warm air temperature conditions, overheating). We suggest that the whelping box and its environs should bemaintained at no less than 79 degrees F (about 26 degrees C) and nomore than 83 degrees (about 28 degrees C) for at least the first 10days of a puppy's life. If the litter has more than two pups, thecooler part of the range is best since pups should clump togetherwhen resting. If you notice that the pups climb into a tight ball,the air temperature is probably too cool; if they disperse andstretch out, their pink skin rather reddish, then the air temperatureis too warm. Note: ALL healthy pups will twitch whilesleeping--sometimes jerking around like bacon on a hot griddle. Thisis normal puppy development behavior and has nothing whatsoever to dowith thermoregulation.

The first problem the breeder faces is determining the temperature ofthe whelping area accurately. How does one monitor the temperature toknow if the temperature suddenly and unexpectedly increases ordecreases? For our litters, we had to set the alarm clock throughoutthe night to arise and check on the temperature conditions of thewhelping area. Not only did this result in less than optimal humansleep, it still could not guard against a sudden loss or increase ofheat that might be due to a failure of the heater. And finally, howdoes a breeder keep the whelping area within the proper temperaturerange?

A Great New Temperature Alert Thermometer

The Tandy Corporation (Radio Shack) has justintroduced a great new product that sounds an alarm if the ambient(air) temperature rise above a maximum set point or goes below aminimum set point. It also records the maximum and minimumtemperatures as well as the current temperature. The product is:"Radio Shack Temperature Alert Thermometerwith Remote Sensor, Catalogue Number 63-1011," and it is a tremendous bargain at less than $24 US. Wepriced other units from various scientific supply houses -- all costmore than three times as much as the Radio Shack product and noneworked as well.

The alarm sounds for one minute, then it sounds for several secondsevery hour for the next 12 hours. It sounds much like a very largedigital watch alarm, so we recommend that you place a baby cribmonitor next to the alarm, then carry the baby crib speaker with you.Fischer-Price supposedly makes a good remote crib monitor, but wehaven't tested it yet.


Keeping the Whelping Area Warm

In the summertime, when most people run airconditioners, and in the winter, when most people set the thermostatto about 70 degrees F (21 degrees C), you will need to provide yourwhelping area/box with supplemental heat. Heating pads, adjusted lowand placed beneath a towel, provide radiant heat to warm the litter,but many problems may plague such a system. For example, it isdifficult to regulate most pads, even those designed for dog areas.Also, puppies can displace the pad's cover and come into contact witha pad that is too hot. Finally, even a day-old pup can easily wanderoff the pad and chill. It is best, therefore, to provide a proper airtemperature for the whelping box area, not just its floor.

Local area electric heat is the best way to warm the air. You caneffectively isolate the whelping area by creating a tent (of sheets,chairs, gates, etc.) over and around the whelping box. This "tented"area will retain the heat and allow you to warm just one area of yourhome or kennel. We have tested many, many electric heaters. Mostcycle on and off, providing the poor pups with a rush of far too muchheat, followed by a long period of far too little heat. Most electricheaters offer abysmally inaccurate and inconstant temperaturecontrol.

Some electric heaters offer mostly radiant heat which fries one sideof the pup while the leeward side of the pup gets as cold as the farside of the moon (figuratively speaking). Other electric heatersfeature a gale-force fan which only serves to overheat or chill thepup via an overzealous blast of air.

We have found and used what we think is the
ideal whelping area electric heater: the Vornado EVH VortexHeat ($99 to $119; there may be newerproduct models available from the company today). Vornado is acompany based in Witchita, Kansas, whose hi-tech fans and heaters aresold in many retail stores. We purchased two of these EVH heaters in1994 and have used them intensively, even in the summer. Each cankeep a room warm, or can efficiently and inobtrusively heat just asmall area such as a whelping area or under a desk in a cooloffice.

The heater has many unique and valuable features. First, itsthermostat is accurate. It will maintain a set temperature to within0.2 degrees F (0.1 degrees C). Its operation is continuouslyvariable, so the fan will run faster when it must heat and moreslowly when the desired heat level is being maintained. Likewise, theheat coil output varies from just a few watts to more than 1000 wattswhen necessary -- all automatically. The heat coils are far removedfrom any curious pup or adult, and the coils never become hot enoughto start a fire (or scorch paper) even if the heater is accidentlytipped over. Finally, the fan's action is gentle, virtuallyinaudible, and thorough. There is scarcely a draft that can bedetected while no area within the whelping area becomes too warm ortoo cool. Its all quite uncanny.

In conclusion, the Radio Shack Temperature Alert Thermometer withRemote Sensor combined with the Vornado EVH heater creates a verystable and secure temperature environment for whelping Cotons. It canbe used whenever you need to keep a Coton, whether a pup or aconvalescent adult, at a constant temperature.

UPDATE, May 20th, 1999...

We've tested and successfully used the Fischer-Price Baby Monitor. It has an adequate range and good sensitivity. But many other, competent crib monitors are available.

On 5/12/99 9:34 PM, an alert CotonNews web site visitor, Mr. Stan Ono, emailed us:

For your information, the RadioShack Temperature Alert Thermometer Catalogue Number 63-1011 referenced in "Keeping the Whelping Box Warm" is no longer available. It is a discontinued item. The closest produc carried by Radio Shack is a weather station at a cost of $ 299.00. There is another item 63-1012 that only alerts when temperature exceeds 100 degrees and 32 degrees, and will announce temperature on the hour (but not from 9pm - 7am, the times you really need it). If you have any other ideas for monitoring temperature, we would greatly appreciateknowing as we are expecting Coton pups in two weeks. Thanks

Dear Mr. Ono,

I think we may have some good news for you and I hope it is in time. We have found a rather super remote sensing thermometer with alarm that continuously transmits both temperature readings and sounds an alarm about 100 feet from the sensing unit. It is dirt cheap and available (when last we checked) from Sam's Club stores for under $30 (with onesensor probe, AAA and AA batteries not included). We bought two and are in the process of testing them now. Here's the product information:

Springfield Precise Temp Indoor/outdoor Wireless
Multi-Zone Thermometer. Model 90723. Springfield
Precision Instruments, Inc., PO Box 4003, 76 Passaic
Street, Wood-Ridge, NJ 07075

Let us know how you make out and how it works for you. Our very best wishes to your prospective mother!

Jay Russell, Ph.D.

CTCA President

Title and contents of The Coton deTulear News & Information Network © 1995-2005, theCoton de Tulear Club of America, all rights reserved. Celebrating theCTCA's 30th Anniversary in 2006.

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