The Havanese is Cuba’s only friendly yet strong native breed and National Dog.
The Havanese is toy-sized, short-legged, sturdy dogs with a mild appearance. Havanese have a springy, lively gait with a cheerful aura that mixes nicely with their soft coat and floppy ears. Their coats are made up of 2 components: the soft undercoat and the abundant outer coat that can be groomed as short or long as desired.
Havanese are versatile, inquisitive, loving, playful dogs that love showing and receiving affection from anyone. They always “dress to impress” but can have a tendency to be vocal and protective.
The Havanese is a hypoallergenic, non-shedding breed but needs brushing at least twice a week so hairs that don’t shed don’t get tangled with outer coat hairs. Havanese are not built for a lot of outdoor activity, as a simple game of ball or brisk walk will suffice.
The Havanese have an average lifespan of 12-17 years. The most common health issues in the Havanese breed include elbow dysplasia, chondrodysplasia (abnormal bone growth), shunts, mitral valve insufficiency, and deafness. To prevent any of these from happening, yearly checkups are advised to examine knees, eyes, hips, hearing, and cardiac tests.
The Havanese belongs to the Barbichon or the Bichon group of small dogs. This breed group developed in the Mediterranean where Spanish traders gave Cuban women Havanese as gifts in order to maintain healthy trade relationships. Wealthy Cuban families also owned these dogs as cute pets to keep in their homes.
Once Europe took hold of the Havanese breed, they referred to them as White Cubans (Habeñeros). Upper class members appreciated the striking look of the Havanese, and started using the as performance dogs and gifted them as pets to influential elites. After some time, owners began using the Havanese as circus and trick animals in Europe and the popularity as pets started to decline.
The Havanese nearly went extinct for years to come, until the 1950s and 60s when three Cuban families left for the United States with their Havanese – these dogs became the progenitors to the modern day Havanese. Havanese then began to become more popular and dog fanciers put the first Havanese in the American Kennel Club show ring in 1996. The AKC finally classified the breed in 1999, showing under the Toy Breed group.