Save Coton de Tulear in Madagascar

We are raising money to purchase and send Embark DNA test kits to the Coton de Tulear Malagasy Club (CTMC) in Madagascar.  The Coton de Tulear in Madagascar is endangered.

The results from these tests will aid the Coton de Tulear's Country of Origin in preserving and protecting the breed within Madagascar.  Please help us save the Royal Dog of Madagascar, the Coton de Tulear.

Summary of our September 2018 Trip to Madagascar (Mada)

We have been asked by many in the USA “why didn’t you bring back a puppy?” The people of Madagascar wanted to know, “What is your purpose for visiting us since you don't ask for a puppy?” Bottom line, what was our intent?

Our intent was to be Goodwill Ambassadors for our breed, and to offer any assistance we could provide, to help advance the Coton de Tulear Malagasy Club's (CTMC), mission and purpose. Also, to introduce the people of Madagascar to the oldest Coton de Tulear breed standard in North America, the CTCA breed standard.

I found the CTMC Facebook group and became a member in February 2017, their club was founded in 2016. I was excited to see there were Cotons in Madagascar and they even had a Breed Club! I shared my find with various breeders, that had more history in the breed, than I did. I was surprised at how these breeders discounted these “Cotons” and proclaimed that there are no purebreds left in Madagascar and if there are, they are all from French origins, not original to Madagascar.

A year goes by, and I meet a breeder on Facebook that actually DNA tested a Tricolor Coton in Madagascar using the Embark Veterinary DNA test. This Coton came back as 100% purebred and not an import from France or lineage from France. When this Coton’s DNA was compared to the DNA of other Cotons it was comparable, it was a breed match.

We learned that Madagascar was recently accepted as an FCI Country and they were holding annual dog shows with a French Judge officiating and was judging the Malagasy Cotons. If they met the FCI breed standard, they could be added to the official registry called LOM (Livre des Origines Malagasy) which is recognized by the French Kennel Club, SCC. Once four generations from this LOM Dog passed the breed standard test, they would be issued official FCI registrations. Not many have passed the breed standard test, and for a variety of reasons; coat color, size, pigment coloring and shape of ears. Those that owned Cotons with color were told they were not Cotons, they must be mix breeds. The Malagasy people were discouraged as Cotons in Madagascar have always had color. That is, until the DNA test came back on that one Tricolor Coton, as being 100% purebred Coton even though it would not have passed the FCI breed standard test.

I spoke with the science team at Embark Vet about this dog’s DNA and what we were learning about Cotons in Madagascar. They were excited too and agreed to help us get more Cotons in Madagascar tested. Becky Olsen and I, started planning our trip. The board members of the CTMC were surprised to learn that there were multiple breed standards for the Coton de Tulear, they were never told this. They had no written history on the Coton in Madagascar.  They had no idea that Dr. Robert Jay Russell had spent two years in Mada, had brought Cotons to the USA and created a breed standard in 1974, based on the Cotons he saw in Mada. This breed standard is called the CTCA breed standard, named after The Coton de Tulear Club of America, founded by Dr. Robert Jay Russell in 1976.

The breed club, that Becky and I belong to, founded in Jan 2018, recognizes the CTCA breed standard and our club is called the Malagasy Coton de Tulear Preservation Club (MCPC). The basis of our club is to utilize all available means to preserve our breed, maintain genetic diversity, and to lower the COI of our breeding population; working with all breeders, from around the world, that are interested in our endeavor and sharing of information. The MCPC requires all our breeding dogs be DNA tested using Embark Veterinary’s DNA genotyping services. With this tool, we can see the Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI) at the chromosome level, and create breeding pairings that will help us to keep our genetic diversity and not lose what we have. We also use Wright’s COI, based on all generations back to the founder dogs, to give us a more accurate calculation of inbreeding to base our decisions on. We are guided, by the Institute of Canine Biology and by Embark Vet, in creating breeding strategies for our club and members.

Many, of the Cotons we saw in Madagascar, were healthy and beautiful specimens of the breed. Some of the dogs we saw did look like possible mixes and/or they had characteristics we were not accustomed to seeing in Cotons from North America. Missing pigment and semi upright ears being the majority of what we don’t see much of in our country. But with that said, breeders in the USA have produced some puppies with loss of eye or nose pigment and some have produced a few with semi-upright ears. We acknowledged this to the CTMC board. Only by DNA testing their dogs would we know what they have to work with and the COI of their Cotons. Through our breed club’s purchases, and Embark’s test donations, we were able to take 21 DNA test kits with us to Madagascar. We tested the best representation of the breed that we saw, and we tested a few that were missing pigment and had other breed dis-qualifiers, according to Coton de Tulear Breed Standards.

We will provide the results to the CTMC Board, and Embark Vet will hold an online seminar for them, in French, to help explain the results as well. In the meantime, I have created a GOFUNDME account to accept donations to help pay for more Embark DNA tests to send to the CTMC to help them broaden their knowledge of their breed population. We at the MCPC are very excited to partner with the CTMC and to help them regain their breed within their country. 

Unfortunately, shortly after we arrived in Madagascar and started sharing photos on Facebook of our visit, the breeders in Mada began getting inquiries from foreigners, around the world, who were making plans to fly to Mada to get puppies for new blood lines. This is a problem, don't believe the Facebook posts claiming puppies are being offered for free to foreigners, this is simply not true. Our advice to our friends in Madagascar, is at this time, to not sell any puppies outside their country.  They need to keep their good breeding stock in their country and to increase their breed population. There are many owners with Cotons throughout Madagascar, we only met a few, hopefully within a few years’ time, they will be able to increase their numbers and quality, and be able to sell Cotons to outsiders. This is a critical time for us (foreigners) to do what is best for the Malagasy, to keep their interests above ours, and help them save their breed.

Madagascar is a very poor country (75% unemployment) and the CTMC requires all of their members to vaccinate and deworm all their Cotons and puppies prior to selling them. This is a new concept for people in Mada, vaccinations are expensive and not all those that own Cotons, and breed them, are members of the CTMC.  It is an educational process. The Veterinary Association in Mada is relatively new. There are not many vets that work with small pet animals, usually livestock only.  Mada is a rabies country and has a high incidence of Parvo, this is why vaccinations begin at 3 weeks of age and Rabies vaccination is given at 3 months of age. The breeders we met are very passionate about their breed, and even though many were apprehensive about our intent, and the DNA tests we brought, after much explanation they lined up to get their Cotons DNA tested, unfortunately, we didn’t have enough tests to test them all. The cost of DNA testing is out of reach for the Malagasy people. Our hope, is that owners and breeders, from around the world, will want to help fund DNA testing for the Cotons found in Madagascar, and to help the Malagasy people establish and control the breed since they are the Country of Origin for the Coton de Tulear.

Becky and I would like to thank the Board and Members of the CTMC, for taking such good care of us during our visit and making us feel welcome. We love your country and it was a true delight to experience Madagascar under your care and direction. We are now family!  <3

For those interested in supporting our cause please share this GOFUNDME page and THANK YOU for your support!
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Debbie Newman 
Mesa, AZ
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