Breed Type: Toy
Country of Origin:
Also known as:
Havana Silk Dogs, Blanquito de la Habana, Havanese Cuban Bichon
Bichon Havanais, Bichon Havanês, Havaneser, Havanezer, Bichon Habanero
Height: 20-28cm Weight: 3-6kg
Exercise Requirements:
Care Requirements:
Lifespan: 14-15 Years
Best Suited as:
Family Pets / Service Dogs

It is no wonder that Cuba has adopted the Havanese as their National Dog. Not only is the Havanese the country’s only native breed, they are also an extremely friendly and bouncy dog that many are proud to own. Not yappy and snappy like some small dogs, a Havanese is a true companion for life.

The Havanese, while classified as a toy dog, is a sturdy and solid dog. Their body is slightly longer than the height at the withers, giving the dog the appearance of being slightly longer than tall. Their silky plumed tail is high set and arches over their back when they are moving. It may fall straight forward or to either side of the body. The breeds’ bouncy gait is a result of their structure (shorter front legs than hind legs) and spirited personality.

The Havanese intelligent expression also reflects this dog’s spirited personality. Their dark eyes are covered with long silky hair and their eye rims, nose and lips are solid black. Most Havanese have eyes that range from light to dark brown. Their ears are set high and have a distinct fold. This breeds’ muzzle is full and rectangular and their teeth form a scissor bite.

The Havanese have a long, silky, and untrimmed, double coat. Their hair is abundant and wavy and flows with movement. Their coat comes in a variety of colors, including cream, gold, white, silver, blue, and black. Some are also partial or tricolored.

During the early 16th century, ancestors of the Havanese traveled from Spain to Cuba with the first settlers. Although it is unknown whether it was the upper class or the poorer farmers who originally brought over the dog, they soon found their way into the hearts of the resident Spanish aristocracy. At that time, their Bichon ancestors were referred to as the Havana Silk Dog and the Spanish Silk Poodle. As the breed developed, and Havana became the hotspot for rich European vacationers, many of these little dogs came back to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous with their new Spanish, French and English owners. By the mid-18th century, the Bichon Havanese was quite the popular breed in Europe. They were one of the original breeds exhibited in the first European dog shows and were also known to perform tricks in the circus. Notable owners are Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens.

Even though the political climate in Cuba changed drastically during these times and new leaders came into power, the Bichon Havanese stayed a popular family dog. While their numbers waned through the 1900’s their popularity in Cuba is now on the rise.

With the advent of the Cuban revolution, the many fled to the United States and Costa Rica, bringing their beloved dogs with them. A strong breeding program in the United States did not take shape until the 1970’s. One particular breeder in Florida, Mrs. Goodale, is credited with saving the breed. She found eleven Bichon Havanese dogs and her first lines appeared in 1974. In the 1990’s several kennel clubs recognized the breed, including the ANKC. With dedicated breeding, the Havanese has made a huge comeback and is one of the fastest growing breeds in the AKC.

Once circus dogs, the Havanese will delight you for hours with her funny antics. The breed is very quick to learn both simple commands and complex tricks if you have the time. When she is done playing, she will curl up in your lap and show you her soft and loyal side. This dual personality has made the Havanese a popular companion for many years. Your Havanese is also apt to be extremely loyal even though she happily greets almost anyone she meets.

Havanese make good watchdogs and will bark when a visitor arrives. Most Havanese do not bark excessively unless they are not properly trained. They are highly adaptable to almost any environment, and their only desire is to be with you. The only thing that seems to greatly upset the Havanese is being isolated for long periods of time. They love to perform in front of others and have a great need for affection.
Care and Grooming
Make sure your Havanese’s first present is a nice brush as you will be using it several times a day. The Havanese coat is usually kept natural but sometimes owners decide to have it corded, which is a unique technique that turns their long coat into cords of hair, similar to dreadlocks in humans. Some owners opt for an even easier look and clip their pet’s hair short. This is a very low shedding breed, so dead hair must be removed by a good brushing. Without proper brushing, your Havanese’s coat can easily become matted and dirty. Their coat very easily picks up debris from outside so make sure your pet is not mistaken for your mop.
Prone to ear infections, make sure their ears are cleaned regularly along with their teeth. Havanese only need occasional baths and take care not to get water in their ears. Many owners place a cotton ball just inside each ear before bathing to prevent water from getting in.

The Havanese is a relatively healthy breed, although as they age, some are prone to hip dysplasia, PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy), heart disease, cataracts, Patellar Luxation (dislocated kneecaps), Legg-Calve Perthes Disease, deafness and dry skin. Some Havanese tear and may develop brown tear stains which are particularly noticeable on light coats.
The Havanese Club of America developed a system to encourage widespread participation of seven recommended tests for eye disease (CERF), congenital deafness (BAER), patella luxation, cardiac diseases, hip dysplasia, hip joint disorder (Legg-Calve-Perthes), and elbow dysplasia.

Suitability as a Pet
Havanese have been a popular pet for many centuries for good reason. They are friendly and adaptable, easy to train, lovable and extremely playful. They bond quickly to their human families and are good pet siblings to a number of different animals including other dogs, cats and even smaller fuzzy pets.

Because of their intelligence and eagerness to please, they have found their way into public service as of late. They have been used for a variety of jobs including therapy dogs, service dogs and tracking. They tend to be low maintenance and do fairly well with less exercise than most dogs. They do very well in apartments, houses and on farms. As long as they have an owner that is devoted to giving them the attention they need, they will remain a cheerful pet.

Many Havanese also thoroughly enjoy learning new tricks and thrive in dog agility contests. Born clowns, they do very well in any setting where they are expected to perform.