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The Havanese’s long, silky hair invites you to stroke it, but it is not a toy. This little dog has a stunning charm and a pleasant demeanor, so that he involuntarily moves into the center of the action. He is extremely popular as a companionable and obedient family dog.

The origin of the Havanese

The ancestors of the Havanese probably come from the western Mediterranean region, because similar small dogs from the Bichon family have always been widespread on the coasts of Spain and Italy. The Maltese, the Bolognese and the Bichon frisé come into question as direct precursors, but there are different versions of the emergence of the Havanese breed.

Silk dog from Cuba

Whether the European dogs first came to Cuba via Argentina, whether they were imported into the Caribbean by Italian merchants or by Spanish conquerors, is unproven. According to the Havanese tradition, resourceful trading captains used them as gifts for the women of trading partners in order to achieve lucrative business deals. Another theory is that at that time in Cuba there was a breed of small dogs called Blanquito de la Habana. These pretty white dogs are said to have produced the Havanese by crossing them with poodles. The new breed was named after Cuba’s capital Havana-Silk-Dog, because it had wonderfully long, silky hair.

A checkered history

In the following time the Havanese delighted the ladies of the upper class, whereby he also rose to the fashion dog of the privileged class in Europe of the 17th century. The Havanese was found in Cuba until 1959. The rich upper class stylized it as a visible symbol of luxury. From the time Fidel Castro came to power, the entire inventory was banned from the island as a living symbol of capitalism. Fortunately, some animals were smuggled into the USA by Cubans in exile and that’s the only reason why this breed still exists today. The first Havanese came to Germany in 1981. A breeder brought a male and a female from a trip to America and with these first two dogs established the beginning of Havanese breeding in Europe.

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Body type and coat

The medium-length head has an overall broad shape with a moderate stop. Dark brown almond-shaped eyes look alert and interested. The high, pointed ears fall in the form of a fold over the flat cheeks. Its pointed snout with black nose shows dry, fine lips. The physique is compact with an arched chest. The long straight back and short legs create a rectangular silhouette. The croup falls slightly with the tail curled up or carried in an arch on the back. The fine, silky fur of the Havanese reaches hair lengths of 12 to 18 centimeters and it has hardly any undercoat. Ears and tail are lushly feathered with soft outer hairs. The coat can be straight, wavy or curly. The permitted color variations are diverse: pure white occurs occasionally, but more often you come across all nuances of light-colored, cream, gray, black, tobacco-colored and red-brown. The coat may also be interspersed with large markings in the shades mentioned. With increasing age of the Havanese, the color tones of the hair often change.

The character of the Havanese

With his sunny character, a Havanese charms almost everyone in the blink of an eye. His cheerful and cuddly manner enriches the life of his owner, regardless of whether he lives with single elderly people or with families with children. As an apartment dog, he is ideally suited and he gets along just as well with other pets. Great attachment to his people is accompanied by an initial shyness towards strangers, which is soon replaced by curiosity and playfulness. Since the Havanese is easy to train and learns quickly, he often appeared in dog shows and circuses, where he delighted the audience with great tricks. His agility and intelligence were also used by small Cuban farmers who used the brave little Havanese as herding dogs for the cattle. The daily walks don’t have to be endless, but in summer they should be along the water if possible, because the Havanese loves the cool water and is a great swimmer.

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Havanese are generally a robust and healthy breed. However, it does tend to watery eyes, so it is advisable to carefully remove the incrustations on the lid with lukewarm water. Cataracts and PRAs (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) can occur as breed-specific diseases, and there are isolated cases of liver and heart problems. Regular combing and brushing of fine hair prevents matting. There is no change between summer and winter fur. Despite the bulky hair, Havanese quickly catch a cold in cold, wet weather, as the apparently full coat lacks the heat-insulating effect. Also, according to the breed standard, shearing the fur is not allowed.

The Havanese at a glance

Origin: Western Mediterranean, Cuba FCI Breed Standard 250, Group 9, Section 1: Bichons, Maltese, Coton de TulearSize: smallWeight: 21 – 29 cmWeight: 3 – 6 kgFur color: All shades of white, fawn, black or spottedEye colors: Dark brownUse: Companion and companion dog Character: affectionate, adaptable, fond of children Health risks: predisposition to kneecap dislocation, sensitive eyes Life expectancy: approx. 12 – 15 years

Image: © / mdorottya