The gentle and friendly Havanese with their soft coats and bright eyes are a favorite of apartment-dwellers. But this lively and intelligent “Dog of Cuba,” who is gaining popularity, was once nearly extinct.
The Havanese is from a bloodline called the Barbet, now known as the Bichon family, descended from the Mediterranean area as far back as 600 B.C. Relative breeds include the poodle, the water spaniel, and the Portuguese Water Dog.
There is some dispute between dog historians about the origin of the Havanese. Some theorize that they descended from the Italian Bolognese and the South American Poodle. Others think their origin lies within the Maltese and that they were transported to the West Indies.
Cubans agree that the Havanese were brought by sailors as gifts intended to charm señoras in the early 1800s. The puppies were goodwill ambassadors, encouraging trade between the sea captains and wealthy Cuban families. The Havanese became a fixture in the homes of well-to-do citizens.
The Cuban Revolution of 1959 endangered this dog, as the population was forced to flee the country. They left pets behind in the care of friends and servants. A couple of families managed to smuggle their dogs out of the country. These were the first Havanese to arrive in the United States.
In 1974, the Goodales of Colorado began searching for a dog to enhance their breeding career. They wanted an intelligent companion dog, and in their search, they discovered an article about the Havanese in a Spanish magazine. They tracked down the Cuban families who had spirited the dogs out of the country and acquired six dogs from them. They expanded their search and located six more Havanese from a Cuban devotee in Costa Rica. Through their efforts with four bloodlines, they kept the breed from becoming extinct.
Five years later, the Goodales helped to found the Havanese Club of America. The United Kennel Club recognized the Havanese in 1991, and five years later, the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club.
According to the AKC breed website, the Havanese has, “a curled-over tail and a gorgeous silky coat, which comes in a variety of colors.” The Havanese has a sturdy body that is longer than it is tall.
The Havanese is a fun animal and has a reputation for being a canine clown. They are intelligent and sturdy enough to compete in dog sports such as obedience and agility.
The Havanese is active and needs a sufficient amount of exercise daily. Their coats need regular brushing, although some owners like to let the hair grow in plaits.
Possible Health Concerns
Havanese can be prone to the following:
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Legg-Perthes disease
- Mitral valve insufficiency
- Patellar luxation
- Heart murmur
- Portosystemic shunt
The Havanese is a toy dog, but these animals require more exercise than some of the couch potato breeds. This lively, fun companion will keep you busy throwing a ball or even playing chase with a wad of paper. They enjoy climbing, and you may often find them on the back of your couch.
Because Havanese are keen-witted, they can quickly con their owners into feeding them only tasty table food. It takes a savvy owner to keep a Havanese on a strict diet of balanced kibble with some added meat or fish or steamed veggies.
The Havanese is a high-spirited and sweet companion. Knowing one will make you grateful that the breed is still around.