There was rumor that the Coton de Tulear may have suffered slaughter during the years of French colonization (1895), fighting for France in WWII and civil war (1947-1948) — in retaliation and to prevent the French from owning the dogs that were bred and held by Madagascar’s highest of nobility, the Merina, yet nothing in writing validates that claim. The instant boom of independence (1960), tourism and the use of the breed as a commodity for barter also raised speculation of the Coton’s endangerment. The scarcity of finding excellent examples of the breed at the time that the FCI granted purebred status (1971) may have been one tip-off to its validity.
In 1966, Mr. Louis Petit formed the Société Canine de Madagascar, better known as the Malagasy Kennel Club. On May 15, 1968, the Coton de Tulear was pronounced the official breed of Madagascar and was registered with the club. Monsieur Petit, along with Raymonde Triquet and André LeBlonde, met on the island to study the breed and write the description of the ideal Coton for the Fédéracion Cynologique Internationale. After much searching, it was agreed that one Coton, whose name is unknown, was the best example and from whose type, temperament and characteristics were taken for the first standard.
Getting FCI Recognition
Recognition for the breed was submitted to FCI in 1970 and granted in 1971. Shortly after, in the same year, the French Société Canine Centrale (SCC) also recognized the breed. While many studbooks on many breeds have been closed with the SCC, the studbook for the Coton has remained open. There needed to be a system if a Coton were to apply for registration without a pedigree behind it. The SCC instituted the TI (Titre Initiale), similar to the system that Monsieur Petit described as the beginnings of the pedigree process for a newly recognized purebred breed:
U’Rick, a black and white male Coton from Madagascar, born on January 2, 1971, was the first Coton registered as a correct representative of his breed. His RI was issued on November, 23, 1972. From 1972 to 1974, little to no FCI pedigrees were registered. The SCC was more successful. From 1973, starting with one provisional, registrations for the Coton grew exponentially in the SCC’s purebred dog register (called Livre des origines français, or LOF). Latest sources from the SCC state that in 2012, 2,064 Cotons were granted LOF registrations in France alone.
Breed Troubles in Madagascar
As demand increased, it became difficult for the Société Centrale de Madagascar to effectively process exportation. There was basically little to no documentation from the Malagasy breeders, and the condition of the island was such that there was no way to effectively monitor practices. It was feared that more Cotons were leaving undocumented than those that were. Also, around that time, the Malagasy government had its hands full in protecting the unique flora and fauna of the island. Scientists and hobbyists were making pilgrimages to the island to study various unique life forms. With the island’s culture still being predominantly poor in comparison to most other countries, more attention turned toward the vulnerability of the island’s environmental treasures, so less attention was being paid to the treasured Royal Dog.
It wasn’t until 1988 that the Malagasy government actually approved a bill that specified conditions of Coton exportation. Numbers could not exceed 120 per year, females 30 percent, males 70 percent, along with stringent restrictions to verification of health, pedigree, etc. This bill may have been too little, too late, as on June 4, 1989, at a dog show at the Hilton Hotel in Madagascar, only four out of eight Malagasy Cotons were actually deemed Cotons, two getting an excellent rating and two a very good rating. In 1990, André Le Blonde drafted a report with what he saw in Tananarive and Reunion. He experienced bitter disappointment in the quality of the Coton in Madagascar, yet witnessed a better, sturdier Coton on Reunion Island. The same observation held true for a French breeder who had the opportunity to venture to Madagascar for the same purpose in the late ‘90s. Even today, there are very few Cotons left in Madagascar, and it seems that the better specimens are being bred on Reunion Island.
Due to poverty, environment and government issues plaguing Madagascar, the Madagascar Kennel Club and the Malagasy government could no longer manage the standard for the breed. Thus, the FCI turned the ownership of the standard over to France in 1997, hence the Coton de Tulear’s country of origin being stated as France. Since it’s official beginnings of exportation initially to France, to Belgium and then to Italy, by 1990, documented Cotons would spread to many FCI member countries: Finland, Argentina, Denmark, Sweden, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Spain and the Netherlands, even Puerto Rico. They also appeared in the UK and Canada in the 1980s. Cotons from FCI and SCC stock also started to appear in the United States in the early ‘80s, even though Madagascar stock had made its way to the United States in the early ‘70s.
Cotons in the United States
The earliest known breeder for the Coton de Tulear using FCI French stock in the United States was Jacques Sade’s Plattekill kennel in New York in 1987. Many more kennels followed in the early 1990s with stock from Belgium, France, Sweden and Italy. Because the United States is not an FCI member country, American-born or -bred Cotons could not obtain FCI pedigrees and were not able to exhibit in European shows.
Breed clubs, such as United States of America Coton de Tulear Club, Inc. (now the parent breed club to the AKC) and ACTA emerged in the early ‘90s and registered purebreds, kept studbook, issued breed club championships and, later, documented rankings as the Coton show community grew. The US-born and -bred Coton enjoyed a prolific showing in rare breed venues, such as American Rare Breed Association (ARBA), FORBES, SKC, CRS, Canine Kennel Club, Rarities, etc. Oftentimes, a few top European champions would come over to the states to live with a breeder to garner a US championship and to offer services to further proliferate the breed here in the States.
The first Coton de Tulear to achieve a championship of record in the United States was Cottonkist Macaroon in 1994, bred by Jacques Sade, and owned by Kennette and Richard Tabor of Cottonkist kennels. He was also ARBA’s first A1 champion of his breed. Macaroon’s direct progeny were also quite successful, and to this day his lines are seen in many US breeding programs. Every year, another American Coton won top billing for the breed until 1999, when a European-bred Coton took No. 1 of all breeds in the ARBA show systems.
The AKC accepted the Coton de Tulear in the Miscellaneous group in 2012. The breed will join the Non-Sporting Group this year. The breed will be accepted into the AKC studbook beginning June 2, 2014, and will be elligible to compete in the Non-Sporting Group starting July 2, 2014. The United States of America Coton de Tulear Club is the official parent club (usactc.org) of the Coton de Tulear.