The Coton de Tulear (Coton for short) and the Maltese are both members of the Bichon family of breeds, along with the Bichon Frise, the Bolognese and the Havanese. The Maltese is a registered breed recognised by the American Kennel Club (AKC), but the Coton is in early stages of gaining recognition. Lovers of the breed have started clubs of their own, and the accepted breed standard for the Coton is one provided by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), an international federation of kennel clubs based in Belgium.
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The face of the Maltese, like its body, is pure white in colour, while the face of the Coton may be white, black and white, or tricolour. Tricolour in this instance means a combination of black, white and champagne-coloured hair.
Face and Head
The Coton's head as it frames the face is round and spherical and has a medium-length muzzle and mouth. The Maltese's head is slightly rounded from the front, but wide in relation to its length. The face is flatter than that of the Coton, with a shorter snout, pronounced zygomatic arches (cheekbones) and a slight stop.
The adult Maltese has very long, silky hair that grows downwards on either side of its face, while the Coton has mid-length hair that tends to grow into the eyes of the dog unless it is clipped away. The Coton also commonly has facial hair such as a "beard" and "moustache," and the hair feels more like soft cotton than the silky Maltese's hair.
Eyes and Ears
The Coton has prominent eyebrows with hair that protrudes up and forward. The dog's eyes are large, round and very dark, and one of the hallmarks of the breed is its extremely long, thick eyelashes. The ears are triangular and set high on the skull.
The Maltese has eyes that are set wide apart, and the rims of the eyelids may be pigmented black or brown, depending on the colour of the nose which should be medium length, fine and well-tapered. The ears are low set on either side of the head.
The Coton de Tulear is said to originate from the Coton de Réunion, dogs that travelled with tradesmen from the island of Réunion to Madagascar. The dog was named after the city of Tulear on Madagascar, and the "cottony" coat similar to the Bichon. Originally called the 'Royal Dog of Madagascar', French colonists gave it its current name. The breed is almost extinct in Madagascar, and is now to be found mainly in Europe and North America.
The Maltese has been considered the "aristocrat" of the canine world for more than 28 centuries. During the time of the Apostle Paul, the Roman governor of Malta had a Maltese dog, and the Greeks were known to erect tombs for their Maltese dogs. The breed was accepted for registration by the AKC in 1888.
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- American Coton Club: Home of the Rare Breed Coton de Tuléar
- United States of America Coton de Tulear Club: USACTC Official FCI Breed Standard
- The Dog Pages: Coton de Tulear Dog Breed Information
- American Kennel Club: AKC MEET THE BREEDS®: Maltese
- Dog Breeds of the World: Bichon-type dogs - Bichon Frise, Maltese, Coton de Tulear, Havanese, Bolognese
- United States of America Coton de Tulear Club: Other Information About the Coton