The Havanese is a breed of Bichon type dog and is the national dog of Cuba. It was developed from the now extinct Blanquito de la Habana (“little white dog of Havana”). The Blanquito was descended from the also now extinct dog the Bichon Tenerife. It is believed that the Blanquito was later cross-bred with other Bichon types, to include the poodle, which created what is now known as the Havanese. When upper-class Cubans fled to the U.S. as part of the Cuban Revolution, only a few were able to bring their dogs. American breeders soon became interested in this rare dog in the 70’s. During this time the gene pool was only 11 dogs. The Havanese breed was only recognized officially by the AKC in 1996.
Even though the Havanese is a toy breed dog, it is sturdy and not too delicate. The average weight of the dog is 10-16 pounds, and stands 8.5-11.5 inches at the withers. The body is slightly longer than its height at the withers, and gives the dog an appearance of being a little longer than it is tall. The length of the body is a result of the long ribcage. The dog’s topline rises slightly from withers to coup, which makes it straight but not level. The muzzle of the Havanese is full and will taper just a bit at the nose. Equal to the length of the muzzle is the length of the skull measured from stop to point of occiput. The back of the skull is rounded, but the top is flat. The Havanese has dark-brown, almond shaped eyes. When the ears are extended they reach halfway to the nose. Without touching the face they arch slightly upward at the base and hang down on the sides of the head. The Havanese carries its tail arched forward up and over the back, with the tail’s long plume of hair falls on the body (the tail itself never touches the body). The Modern Havanese is acceptable in all coat colors and patterns including white, cream, red, chocolate, fawn, beige, brown, black, blue, silver and gold. The coat may be solid in color or have markings in one or more other colors. The coat of the Havanese is silky, lightweight, long and soft; and also slightly wavy, profuse, and undulating. Its outercoat is soft and light, and the undercoat sometimes seems absent. The coat should be very soft, and will almost feel cool to the touch, like unrefined silk. The coat is designed to act as sunshade and a cooling agent on hot days. During the winter, the dogs coat should be kept longer to protect it from the cold.
As a toy dog, the Havanese is smart and easily trained. The Havanese can be difficult to housebreak, but can be trained to use a litter box. The Havanese is very loyal and gets very attached to its owners, often times attaching to one person whom they will closely follow. Because of this, the dog does not do well in a household where it is left alone for long periods of time. Because of their size, and their ability to get adequate exercise in a house or small yard, the breed does not require as much vigorous exercise as other breeds. This is a very friendly dog and does not typically bark at strangers. However, some are shyer than others. The dog has a great need for affection and loves to perform in front of others. They are great with people of all ages, and can thrive in any type of home.
The typical lifespan of the Havanese is 14-16 years and they are generally healthy with few serious health issues. The main health concerns are luxating patella, liver disease, heart disease, cataracts, and retinal dysplasia.