Group: Toy Group
Origin: Western Mediterranean basin, development: Cuba
Height: 8½ to 11½ inches (22-29 cm)
– The ideal height is between 9 and 10½ inches.
Weight: 7 to 13 lbs (3-6 kg)
Also Known As: Bichon Havanais, Habaneros
Today the Havanese is bred primarily as a family companion. He is a happy, outgoing, pleasant and affectionate little dog that is also exceptionally bright and easily trained. He is very devoted to his family and loves children.
Even though the Havanese is classified as a Toy breed, this is not a tiny, fragile dog, but rather robust, muscular and very athletic with great stamina. Most Havanese take naturally to the water and love to swim. They also do very well in Agility.
In appearance, the Havanese has a unique lively, elegant, springy gait which gives the impression of agility. His expression is mischievous and intelligent with large, dark, almond-shaped eyes.
The Havanese’s coat is non-shedding, long, soft and wispy with curls at the ends. He comes in white, cream, champagne, gold, blue, black, silver, chocolate, or any combination of these colours. The coat is profuse but extremely light and soft which was the reason for the breed’s original names: Havana Silk Dog or Spanish Silk Poodle. Although the coat is very warm looking, it developed as a barrier from the tropical sun and overheating.
A Brief History of the Havanese
The Havanese is a member of the Bichon family. The breed originated in the Western Mediterranean region and developed along the Spanish and Italian coastal regions. It is believed that the Havenese’s ancestors were brought to Cuba aboard trade ships sailing from the island of Tenerife. The Havanese is the National Dog of Cuba and its only native breed.
By the mid-eighteenth century the breed was popular in Europe and type was well established. With the Cuban revolution, those Cubans who owned Havanese were among the first to leave the country and with that, a few dogs ended up in the United States. By the 1970s, the gene pool was being rebuilt and today, all Havanese, except those who remained in Cuba, stem from 11 immigrant dogs.
The Havanese’s traditional role was that of a family companion, playmate, watchdog and herder of poultry.
For further reading on the history of the Havanese breed, see:
- Havanese History — From the Havanese Club of America
The Havanese is a very healthy breed with a life expectancy of about 14 to 15 years. However, like all breeds, the Havanese may be susceptible to certain health problems, including:
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
- Cataracts — In the Havanese, cataracts can develop at any age, can cause blindness or grow slowly and never progress to blindness. Cataracts can appear in different locations within the lens as well as affect one or both eyes. The Havanese Club of America highly recommends annual eye examinations.
- Chondrodysplasia — Chondrodysplasia or CD, meaning faulty cartilage, can manifest in various ways. The most recognisable effect is “Dwarfism.” A disorder of the bone which may result in premature closure of the growth plates. This can be either mild or moderate and not easily seen or it can be severe. In addition, while some dogs affected with CD may have straight short legs, others may have one or both legs bowed. Chondrodysplasia has many syndromes and Dwarfism is only one. Other abnormalities can include cataracts, as well as liver and heart defects. For more information on CD, see the Havanese Health Issues section of the Havanese Club of America website.
- Luxating Patellas
- Legg-Calve Perthes
- Heart Disease — Mitral Valve insufficiency has been confirmed in the Havanese breed.
- Deafness — Both bilateral (complete) and unilateral (partial) deafness has been found in the Havanese. At this time, the mode of inheritance is unknown.
It should also be noted that the Havanese may have a heightened sensitivity to certain Anesthetics and may require reduced levels. In addition to general anesthesia, some Havanese may be hypersensitive to pre-anesthetic sedatives. For further information on this important topic, please see: Anesthetic Reactions from the Havanese ABCs.
If you are considering the adoption of a Havanese puppy, or any breed, it is very important to be selective in choosing a responsible and reputable breeder. Ensure that the prospective puppy’s parents have all health clearances. Breeding of any dog should not be done until after they have been proven to be free of evidence of significant hereditary diseases. In order to qualify for the “Breeder Referral List” from the Havanese Club of America, “a breeder must provide proof of BAER-hearing, CERF-eyes, OFA-Hips and Patella’s.” Many breeders also test for Liver Shunt and Cardiac issues. (For more information on selecting a breeder, see the articles on the General Information page.)
Additional Health Resources:
- Havanese Club of America – Health Issues
- Havanese Fanciers of Canada – Health & Wellness
- Collapsed Trachea: The Health Problem Every Owner of a Small Dog Should Understand
- Health and Nutrition — Growing section of the Canada’s Guide to Dogs website which includes information on several health and nutrition related issues.
- Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) — Havanese Breed Recommended Health Screening — Providing a source of health information for owners, breeders, and scientists that will assist in breeding healthy dogs. CHIC is a centralized canine health database jointly sponsored by the AKC/Canine Health Foundation (AKC/CHF) and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).
- AKC Canine Health Foundation — Working towards developing scientific advances in canine health.
- OFA – Companion Animal Eye Registry (CAER)
- Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA)
- Ontario Veterinary College (OVC)
- University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHip)
- HealthGene — HealthGene Corporation is the leading provider of veterinary DNA diagnostic services in Canada.
- Labgenvet — Laboratory of Veterinary Genetics is a Canadian diagnostic laboratory that offers a comprehensive service of DNA tests for veterinary genetic diseases.
- Grooming — This section of the Canada’s Guide to Dogs website includes tips, articles and information covering all aspects of dog grooming along with a listing of Groomers from across Canada.
- Have a Hav? Or Just Considering One? — A comprehensive Havanese FAQ to help you decide if a Hav might be the right dog for you and your family.
- Havanese ABC’s — Excellent resource for information about the Havanese.
- Euro Bichons — Euro Bichons is Europe’s only Multi-Bichons Breed Community – Bichons Frisé, Havanese, Bolognese, Lowchen, Maltese, Coton Du Tulear.
- 10 Things to Consider Before Getting a Dog
- Toy Breeds—Selecting the Perfect Pooch
- Clubs, Sports & Activities — For information on the many sports and activities you can get involved in with your dog.
- Working Dogs — The Working Dogs section of the Canada’s Guide to Dogs website provides information and listings of organizations that are involved in various dog jobs, such as Guide Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Police Dogs, Protection Dogs, and much more.
*NOTE: The Fédération Cynologique International (FCI) is the World Canine Organization, which includes 91 members and contract partners (one member per country) that each issue their own pedigrees and train their own judges. The FCI recognizes 344 breeds, with each being the “property” of a specific country. The “owner” countries write the standards of these breeds in co-operation with the Standards and Scientific Commissions of the FCI, and the translation and updating are carried out by the FCI. The FCI is not a breed registry nor does it issue pedigrees.