The Havanese breed has a rich history, including its naming as the National dog of Cuba as well as returning from the brink of extinction in the United States in the 1970’s. While the Havanese is fairly new to the US, only having been recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1996, historical documents show that ancestors to the Havanese were on board ships bound for Cuba in the 1500’s. Once in Cuba, these dogs were bound for royalty, and developed entirely at the hands of the Spanish aristocracy. In the 1800’s, when Havana was flourishing, tourists made annual trips to Cuba from all over Europe. Visitors often returned to their countries with Havanese dogs in tow, which eventually led to them finding favor among royalty such as King Louis XVI. As Cuba’s prosperity diminished, the gene pool for the dogs did as well. By the 1970’s only 11 Havanese existed in America, and through careful breeding the little dog of Cuba was brought back to life.
The Havanese is a highly intelligent dog, especially relative to other animals in the toy family. They are easy to train and housebreak, and can even be taught to use a litter box indoors. Havanese dogs are extremely loyal to their owners and become easily attached to their people, making separation anxiety a common issue. They have few exercise needs given their small size, and simply require one or two short walks per day. They do not bark often, which makes them fantastic candidates for apartment dwellers. Overall, Havanese love to give and receive attention, and their affectionate nature makes them great family pets.
Although the Havanese is a toy breed, weighing 10 – 16 lbs, it is not as delicate as other similarly-sized animals. With a coat that is long and silky, it is often affectionately referred to as the Havana silk dog. Although the coat is abundant, it is also very thin. The Havanese is extremely resilient to heat, but needs to be kept warm in the winter time. There are 16 standard colors permissible and 8 markings, making this dog extremely variable in appearance. In addition, the Havanese is considered hypoallergenic and does not overly shed, but its long, fine coat must be groomed regularly in order to ensure the fur does not become tangled or matted.
Havanese dogs typically live a long and healthy life, reaching 14 – 16 years of age. They develop few serious health problems, but are prone to luxating patella, which is the dislocation of the kneecap. They are also predisposed to liver disease, heart disease, retinal dysplasia, and cataracts. Occasionally, Havanese dogs develop tear staining, which appears as brown or yellow staining near the tear ducts. While often benign, the sudden development of tear staining can be an indication of a more serious health problem and should be examined by a veterinarian. Havanese may also be born deaf. The Havanese Club of America recommends a number of tests, including one for eye disease, congenital deafness, and joint disorders. More information can be found by visiting the website for The Canine Health Information Center.