Breed Spotlight – Havanese

This cheerful, socialable little dog is the only dog breed native to Cuba and has a fascinating history. The breed comes from the Bichon family of dogs and is related to the Bichon Frise and the Maltese, as they were likely ancestors.

The wealthy planters and aristocrats of Cuba were the owners of the Havanese, which gets it’s name from Cuba’s capital city, Havana. The breed’s forerunner was thought to have been brought to Cuba by seafaring Italians or possibly the Spaniards. In any case, the breed was further refined over 300 years and may have been crossed with poodles into the modern breed we know today as the Havanese. 

But the biggest boon to the breed was the communist assumed control of Cuba in 1959. Many of Cuba’s wealthy families escaped to the United States and brought their dogs with them. Soon, dog fanciers in America came under the spell of the Havanese and helped to increase its popularity.

All Havanese have a distinctive silky coat, so soft that they were once known in Cuba as Blanquito de la Habana or the Havana Silk Dog. Some owners keep their dogs clipped and others “cord” the hair in the manner of a Puli. 

These dogs make great city companions, but actually do well anywhere and appeal to young and older owners alike. They are easily trainable, and take easily to learning tricks, which brings out their clown like personalities. These companionable dogs make great pets for families and individuals alike. 

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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