Coton de Tulear Breed Magazine - Showsight



I t’s easy to imagine a pack of little cotton balls running happy and free on the beautiful Malagasy seaside at sunset! The mystery is: how did those wonderful four legs arrive there? The legend goes that a boat sank off the Madagascar coast in the area of Tulear and a few small, white dogs reached the coast and settled there. The history confirms that often little dogs were used on the sailing ships to hunt mice or as precious toys of noble wom- en even when traveling. It’s also proven that European vessels approached the island regularly; however, nothing con- firms the “Titanic” version. The first historical description of a dog on the island was made by Fort-Dau- phin Governor Etienne de Flacourt who described them as a “quantity of dogs which are small, have long snouts and short legs like foxes. There are some of them that are white. They engendered with dogs that came from France and stayed, they have short ears.” Were these the ancestors of our Cotons? Nobody can confirm. In that time not only the French but also the Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish and Eng- lish landed on the island. Moreover, in the Middle Ages, the Arabic, Indians and Indonesians approached the island, maybe bringing with them some dogs from their own country. And last but not least, could there have been an

endemic, pre-existent breed of canine in Madagascar? In 1928, there was a second written testimony by French scientist Guillau- me Grandider. He reported the meeting of the local dogs, “poor starving ani- mals that roam in villages fighting for the most squalid pig’s garbage, or that go away in the bush where they survive on their hunting as wild animals” in his book Histoire physique, naturelle et politique de Madagascar . Most likely, the Coton survived in packs in the wilderness, but they also became companion dogs of the native Malagasy and Merina tribal nobles, gaining the name, “The Royal Dog of Madagascar.” It is a unique dog amongst several unique animals found on this wild and isolated island. Still, the origin of the Coton is mysterious, apart from the fact that they lived in Madagascar where the natural selection staggered over four centuries and gave us a rural, lively, smart, happy, strong dog that is able to survive in a very difficult envi- ronment…the Coton is a small and extraordinary dog. And when were they first consid- ered by the official fancy? Notwith- standing the colonists who had tamed the dogs, Cotons were jealously pre- served, owned and bred by a few high ranking families (and probably by the French colonies settled on the island). However, no registry nor any sign of an

official organization was created until 1966, when a small group of people, including Mr. Luis Petit, established the Société Canine de Madagascar that immediately applied to the FCI (Fed- eration Cynologique Internationale) to have the recognition of the Malagashy breed...Coton de Tulear. Official breed recognition arrived a few years later, and in 1971 the first standard was internationally published. A group of expert judges, among them Monsieur Leblond, Monsieur Triquet and Monsieur Le Petit met on the island to study the breed and wrote the first description of the ideal Coton de Tulear, the first standard. This is the unique picture (kindly given from Monsieur Leblond, see Figure 1) of the best Coton bred in Madagascar from which the first standard was written. In the handbook la société canine de Madagascar, there is a chapter titled “le chiens de compagnie” (com- panion breeds). It lists in this group

Fig. 1: “The unique photo of the actual Coton from which the first breed standard was based.”


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