The Havanese is from the ancient Bichon family of little white dogs and claims such breeds as the Bichon Frise and Maltese as probable common ancestors. Since the earliest days of human civilization, lively lapdogs of this type were bartered around the world by seafaring merchants. In all times and places, small, clever dogs that did no useful work were among the possessions that set royals and aristocrats apart from lower social classes.
The native lapdog of Cuba’s aristocrats and wealthy planters was the Havanese, named for the capital city of Havana, where the breed gained greatest favor. Depending on the source, the breed’s forerunners were said to be brought to the island nation by Italian sea captains or by the Spaniards charged with colonizing the New World in the 1600s.
During its approximately 300 years in the lap of Cuban luxury, the breed was refined, perhaps with Poodle crosses, into today’s Havanese, once called the Blanquito de la Habana (Havana Silk Dog). The pivotal event in the breed’s history came in 1959, with the Communist takeover of Cuba. Many well-heeled Cubans fleeing Fidel Castro’s revolution brought their little dogs with them to America. With the help of American fanciers, the refugees preserved and perpetuated the Havanese. The breed is now a popular choice for discerning pet owners around the world.
Distinctive features of the Havanese include a curled-over tail and a gorgeous silky coat, which comes in a variety of colors. Some of their owners groom the coat shorter to make them easier to groom.
Their small but sturdy bodies, adaptable nature, and social skills make Havanese an ideal city dog, but they are content to be anywhere that they can command the attention of admirers young and old alike. Havanese, smart and trainable extroverts with the comic instincts of a born clown, are natural trick dogs. Havanese are also excellent watchdogs and take the job seriously, but will usually keep the barking to a minimum.