So how do you tell these two cotton candy dogs apart?!
Well, let’s firstly mention how they are similar before we talk about their differences.
The Bichon and the Coton both are companion breeds, meaning they live to please their humans. They are a similar size – the Bichon Frise slightly larger in weight and height, but not by much. And, primarily, at first glance their coats are very similar, super soft, fluffy and airy. They are both considered hypoallergenic – meaning that they are a good choice for allergy sufferers. They both belong to the Toy group, so are in turn, a small to medium sized dog, perfect for sleeping in laps! AND, they both came into their own at sea!
The Bichon Frise, and before we continue, here is how to pronounce it as it’s one of the most commonly butchered names! “Bee-shon free-zay” which translates as the “Bichon of the curly hair” in French! A perfect simple description of their pristine white puffball coat. The hair on a Bichon is thick, tightly curled, and should bounce back into place when stroked. The older of the two breeds originated in the Mediterranean as far back as the Middle Ages, living on ships to dispatch rats, pests and vermin, beginning out in Tenerife before evolving into the Bichon Frise we know and love today.
The breed gained huge popularity among the royalty and nobles of the 13th century which continued throughout the Renaissance. However, once the French Revolution occurred in 1789, unfortunately the Bichon’s life of pampering and warmth came to an end. Once their owners were carted off to the guillotine, many were thrown out to the street to fend for themselves, but being people pleasers they weren’t alone for long. Street performers noticed their knack of entertaining crowds, and with the help of some training, the bright and adorably fluffy pom pom dogs were soon walking on hind legs, waving, somersaulting and working their little socks off to encourage passersby to part with a coin or two!
This began the wonderful relationship between the Bichon Frise and the circus! Earning their keep as both entertainment for the masses, and ratter for vermin, the Bichon Frise was perfect for life as a circus performer. Not only were they suited personality wise for the job, but their bright white coat and joyful facial expression was easily spotted even from the cheapest seats at the back, making them super popular among the ringmasters of Europe.
Now, the Coton de Tulear however (ahem, “Cot-on duh Too-lee-arr”), originated in Madagascar. They are named after Port Tulear on the island! There’s even a little legend about them! According to folklore, these little white dogs often accompanied traders and even pirates along the coasts of Africa. However one journey came to an unfortunate end, when a shipwreck killed everyone on board, except for our protagonists, the Coton! The legend goes that their puffy cotton wool coats formed natural life jackets, bobbing them along the surface as they made it to shore.
Once on the island of Madagascar, their lives were turned upside down! These feral pirate pups survived by scavenging, living amongst lemurs, chameleons, fossa and even outsmarting crocodiles! Necessity built very sturdy and robust dogs, and there is a theory that the tropical and unpredictable climate led to the airy and light coat that the Coton is known for, in order to keep them cool. The coat of the Coton is slightly different to that of the Bichon, firstly they come in grayscale shades, varying between white, gray and black. Additionally, their hair is finer, longer and hangs a bit like the waves that carried them to their sanctuary.