The Coton de Tulear is a member of the Bichon dog family. The Bichons as well as Poodles and Briards are descended from an ancient European breed called the Barbet, The Bichon Tenerife, a small short haired descendant of the Barbet, was introduced by the Spanish to the Canary Island. The Tenerife, now extinct, was then introduced to the Indian Ocean islands of Maritus and Reunion by sailors in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Although this breed history is not well documented, speculation is that these dogs from Reunion bred with native dogs on the island of Madagascar and thus created the ” Coton de Tulear”. The little white dogs soon became favorites of Madagascar’s royalty. In fact, nobles soon enacted laws prohibiting anyone but themselves to own a Coton. This is how they became known as “The Royal Dog of Madagascar.”