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The CTCA Coton de Tulear Standard

A Standard is the description of an ideal representative of the breed. The CTCA standard, first published in 1974, is adapted from the original Malagasy breed type.

[NOTE: the huge French all-breed dog corporation, the Federation Cynologique Internationale, maintains a different standard for dogs developed in Europe since 1977 and in 1999, the French Coton de Tulear Club adopted, over the protests of most European breeders, a new standard that calls for a long-backed, short-legged, all-white Maltese-like dog.

Brief Description of the Breed

The Coton de Tulear is a hearty, lively, small companion dog with a friendly, engaging personality.  Calm and intelligent, the "Royal Dog of Madagascar" is characterized by its long, dry, cotton-like coat.  There are three color varieties.

The Coton de Tulear is shown in Non-sporting Class in various North American shows and the FCI Companion Class [FCI Group 9] in Europe.  The Coton is not a toy dog.  In the Western Hemisphere, the Coton de Tulear is registered by the Coton de Tulear Club of America (CTCA).  The CTCA was formed in 1976 to maintain the Official Breed Standard, Stud Book, Pedigree, History, and owner's Registrations.  The CTCA's registry is the oldest, continuously active Coton de Tulear registry in the world.

  • Head: Skull somewhat rounded with a proportionate muzzle and slightly accentuated stop.  Top-view, triangular.  Tape measurement: muzzle to stop, 1.75-2.5" (4.5 to 6.4cm); stop to occiput, 4-5" (10.2 to 12.7 cm); total head length,6-7.25" (15.2 to 18.4 cm).

  • Eyes: Large, dark brown, sparkling, expressive, with dark eye rings.

  • Nose: Black and pronounced.

  • Lips:  Black, finely featured.

  • Bite:  Level or scissors; incisors should touch.

  • Ears:  Dropped, 2.75-3.75" long (7 to 9.5cm), covered with long flowing hair approximately 4-6.5" total length (10.2 to 16.5 cm).

  • Neck:  Rather long, 4-6.25" (10.2 to 16 cm), strong but gracefully carried, head erect.

  • Body:  Deep chest tapering slightly to the abdomen.  The ratio of thoracic to abdominal girth, 1.2-1.4 to 1.  Topline, (withers to the base of tail), straight to somewhat convex, 12-16" long, (30.5 to 40.6 cm).  Height at withers less than 13" (33 cm). Bodyweight less than 18 pounds (8.2 Kg).  Little or no sexual dimorphism, but males may appear more muscular than females.

  • Legs & Feet:  Forelimbs mostly straight and strong.  Hindquarters are slightly angulate with well-muscled thighs.  Feet small with black pads.

  • Tail:  Carried straight or curled over the dorsum, (no preference), 5.5-8.5" long, (14 to 12.7 cm); covered by flowing hair.

  • Coat:  Long,  (4-6.5"; 10.2 to 16.5 cm), dry, "wind-tossed" flowing hair.  The texture of cotton, not silky.  Prominent beard and mustache.  Well-haired limbs, tail, and ears.  Eyes may be obscured by hair that must not be scissored in show dogs but may be trimmed for pets.

  • Coloration:  Three color varieties are recognized without preference.

    • White:  All white, often with champagne, (cream-biscuit), highlights on ears and dorsum.

    • Black-and-White:  Pure white with prominent black patches on head and body.  No restriction on the ratio of white to black.

    • Tri-Color:  Mostly white and cream, but tinged with beige areas; black hairs dust portions of the ears and sometimes the body and head.  Tri-colors are usually heavily marked as neonates and juveniles, but as the adult coat appears, these Cotons may appear almost white.

      White is the most frequently seen color variety, but a Black-and-White male won the coveted Championship of Madagascar in 1974.  The Tri-Color has been honored on an official postage stamp of the Repoblika Demokratika Malagasy (Madagascar).

  • Grooming:  Well-brushed but not scissored.  As for any long-haired breed, eyes and ears should be kept clean.  The show dog's coat must be natural.  Adulteration of the coat, (e.g., powdering), is not permissible.  Owners are encouraged to ensure that hair is kept trimmed on the feet, (between pads and toes), in the ears, and around the anus.  Since few Cotons are shown, owners should consider trimming the hair that falls down over the eyes if it is apparent that the Coton's vision is impaired.

  • Movement:  Free, balanced, effortless.  Good reach in the forequarters and good drive in the hindquarters.  Slight lateral roll at low speed.  Legs move straight fore and aft along the line of travel; as speed increases, there is a slight convergence of legs toward the centerline.

  • Faults:  Undershot or overshot bite.  Poor pigmentation.  Bodyweight is greater than 18 pounds. (8.2 kg; **formerly: "Bodyweight greater than 15 pounds" -- revision 10/96).   Height at withers greater than 13.0" (33 cm; NB: no revision has yet been adopted on the lower limits of the breed's linear dimensions, but such a limit is needed).

  • Disqualifications:  Silky (oily) hair.  Cryptorchidism.  Eye color other than dark brown.  Any trait that indicates unsound structure or poor health.

Other Standards and the Destruction of Breeds by the Show Game

Some of the French-speaking people in Europe have asserted that the Coton de Tulear was developed by the French following the breed's importation into France in 1977.  The French have created a standard for the breed that reflects their desires based upon one Frenchman's opinion, (Federation Cynologique Internationale Standard, published 1971 by M. Petit).  They prefer a smaller dog, (toy-sized), which is all white with a brownish-colored nose.  In North America, some Coton breeders and exhibitors, new to the breed, have adopted the FCI Standard in opposition to the original CTCA Standard.

In almost every case, a Coton de Tulear that meets the FCI Standard will also meet the CTCA Standard.  In contrast to the FCI's standard, the CTCA Standard, designed by professional biologists, reflects a desire to maintain the breed's natural genetic soundness by preserving and protecting a controlled amount of variability.  The French standard strictly bans color in Cotons; the CTCA welcomes the breed's three color varieties.  The CTCA does not promote a "cookiecutter look" for this breed.  Such conformity inevitably results in a breed that is highly inbred, that has no genetic variability and hence poor viability and health.  The CTCA promotes the original three-color varieties of Coton de Tulear, a position that preserves essential color-producing genes that may also be responsible for the Coton's calm, laid-back demeanor.  In contrast with the Malagasy and the North Americans, the French despise Cotons that have persistent color on their coat and as recently as 1996 have asserted again that the Coton is a "pure white breed".

It should be noted that excessive inbreeding is required to create a breed in which every dog looks and acts exactly like every other dog in the breed.  Excessive inbreeding to conform to the currently fashionable "show ring" look has, in our opinion, ruined the genetic soundness of many AKC breeds.  The CTCA remains determined to protect the soundness of the Coton de Tulear.

For more than two decades, the CTCA has been preserving and protecting the wonderful Malagasy Coton de Tulear from the excesses of the show game, overbreeding, and excessive inbreeding.  We invite you to join us.

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