The Havanese was uniquely developed in Cuba. Known on the island as the Habaneros, these personable, multicolored little dogs were originally presented as gifts to the wealthy wives and daughters of the great sugar-plantation owners. Clever sea merchants reasoned that the pets would serve as irresistible entrees to the families whose goods they wished to procure for European markets. Many an aristocratic señorita obtained her first Havanese in just this way.
From that point on, the breed enjoyed remarkable status as a valued member of the family. No one outside elite society could obtain a Havanese. The dogs were bred only for the purpose of prolonging their bond with their human family. They were never sold commercialy, only given as gifts between upper-crust friends. In public, the dogs were only seen in the company of their mistresses, usually perched on their laps or seated with them in fashionable carriages.
The advent of communism in Cuba brought an abrupt end to upper-class privilege, which meant that upper-class pets suffered as well. Of those who managed to escape into self-imposed exile, only the Perez and Fantasio families, and Señor Barba, were able to take their Havanese with them. The Perezes and Fantasios settled in Florida, while Barba moved to Costa Rica. Through their efforts alone, the breed was preserved. Despite arduous sea journeys, tumultuous social history and occasional economic hard times, the Havanese has shown remarkable endurance and resilience.
The Havanese is a long-coated breed, with a coat considered to be non-shedding. Nevertheless, regular grooming is required in order to keep the coat in top condition. Differing from other Bichon breeds, the Havanese is groomed and shown in a natural condition. Hair on the breed’s head is not drawn back ponytail style or trimmed into an exaggerated topknot. The only trimming permitted is on the feet, so they give a clean, neat impression and allow the springing gait to be seen.
Unlike many toy breeds, the Havanese is a model of sturdy strength. While its size and weight keep the breed well within toy standards, its substance and balance provide the dog with unusual stamina. Without a tendency toward heaviness, the natural movement of the breed allows for a characteristic spring in its step and a surprising capacity to jump and spin.
The Havanese’s enthusiastic bounce comes across in the show ring, evident in sound structure, unique movement and unforgettable expression. Its willingness to please its human companions, along with its quick-witted aptitude, also makes the breed an excellent candidate for success in the obedience ring. Full of vigor, the Havanese likes to keep busy, also qualifying as a potentially consistent agility performer.
The most appealing aspect of the breed – the jewel in the Havanese’s crown – is its winning temperament. Happy, loving, intelligent, social and accommodating, these dogs perform to their highest capability when rewarded with constant human companionship. An ideal family companion, they blend well with dog-oriented children, offering themselves as constant playmates. They are equally content to sit, snuggle and watch while in the company of family members. Gender plays no part in the breed’s mellow temperament, as both males and females display equal portions of brains, beauty and heart. Both playful and alert, the Havanese is both trainable and intelligent, with a sweet, non-quarrelsome disposition.