The Differences Between The Maltese Dog And The Coton De Tulear

Small, white fluffy dogs are among the most popular pets in the UK, and a significant amount of breeds share a range of similar traits when it comes to their coats, build and general appearance at a glance. For the uninitiated, it can be difficult to tell some of the various small fluffy white dog breeds apart from each other, as they can appear very similar if you don’t know the differences to look for!

Two of the most commonly confused breeds are the Maltese dog and the Coton de Tulear, and while these two breeds have a lot in common, they are not actually closely related and are also very different! In this article, we will look at the main differences between the two breeds, and how you can tell them apart with a little practice. Read on to learn more!

The coat

Starting with the most prominent feature of both dogs first of all- the coat. The Maltese dog is white and white only, and so if the dog you are looking at has a different colour coat or the coat is not pure white, you are not looking at a Maltese! The Coton de Tulear can be found in pure white, white with tan markings, black and white, and tricolour. So if the dog you are looking at is pure white, it may still be either of the two breeds!

As well as the colour variances, the traits of the coats of the two different breeds are markedly different as well. The Maltese dog has a fine, single layered coat that has no curls or kinks in it, and the hair on the top of their heads grows very long, and may be trimmed or tied back to keep it out of the dog’s eyes. The coat of the Coton de Tulear is thicker than that of the Maltese and may have a slight wave to it. It should be very soft in texture, and is rather like unprocessed cotton to the touch. The coat of the puppy also tends to be softer than that of the adult Coton. The fur of the Coton de Tulear is also referred to as hair rather than fur, having a fine texture more akin to straight human hair than it is to true fur.

The heads and tails

The Maltese dog has low-set ears with long hair, while the Coton de Tulear’s ears are closer to their cheeks, and high set, on a shorter and more triangular head.

The tail of the Coton de Tulear is low set on the base of the back, and the tail is carried below the level of the hocks. The tip of the tail tends to have a slight upwards curve, and when the dog is on the move, the tail will rest on the dog’s back.

The Maltese dog’s tail is set higher up on the rump, and curls over the back in a distinctive arc, with the very tip of the tail hanging over the hindquarters.

Both breeds of dog have plumed tails with relatively long fur on them, but the fur tends to be slightly more prolific and rather longer on the tail of the adult Maltese dog.

Body shape

The body of the Maltese dog is compact, and approximately the same length as the height of the dog. This helps to provide the dog with a smooth moving gait that is elegant and flowing, and allows the dog to be fast on their feet and able to make precision turns. The Coton de Tulear is slightly more sturdy, and a touch longer in the body than they are tall, with the length of the back being about a third greater than the dog’s height from the floor to the withers. The Coton de Tulear’s movement should be even, free and flowing.

Height and weight

There is not much difference between the sizes of the Maltese dog versus the Coton de Tulear, particularly when viewed from above while standing up! Both dogs are small and streamlined, and stand close to the ground.

The Coton de Tulear is slightly larger than the Maltese dog, weighing up to 15lb at the top end of the spectrum, while the Maltese cannot weigh more than 7lb maximum. This difference alone should be sufficient for most people to tell the difference between the two breeds!

The Coton de Tulear can stand up to 12” tall at the withers, while the Maltese breed stands up to 10” for males, and 9” for females. Overall, the Maltese dog is smaller in both height and weight, but if you do not have a dog of each breed in front of you to make a comparison, this can be hard to judge!


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