Although it is new to the AKC, the Havanese is quite an old breed in "dog years". Its history is fascinating and important to defining type, as it is unique in many respects. The Havanese is the
National dog of Cuba and its only native breed. The flag of Spain was first raised over Cuba by Christopher Columbus in November of 1492. In the ten years following, colonization was begun on the
island by Spain, who owned it for the better part of the next four hundred years.
The first settlers came from two distinct classes- farmers primarily from the island of Tenerife, and the "segundos", or second sons of the Spanish aristocracy. Ship's logs of the early sixteenth
century reveal that dogs were brought along on these early colonists' voyages, and logic tells us they were most likely the dog of Tenerife, common ancestor to all the Bichon family. Because of the
draconian trade restrictions imposed on its colonies by Spain, Tenerife remained one of the only ports open to Cuba for trade, and it would appear these little dogs, who soon found their way into the
homes of the resident Spanish aristocracy, developed without much outside influence. They did, however, develop in response to the climate of this tropical island. The Havanese of today is still a
remarkably heat-tolerant little dog, due in no small part to the unique coat. Once called the Havana Silk Dog, or the Spanish Silk Poodle, the coat is like raw silk floss, profuse, but extremely light and
soft, and insulating against the tropical rays in much the same way that yards of silk sari protect the women of India. In its native country, the coat was never clipped for this reason, and the hair
never tied into a topknot, as the Cubans believe it protects the eyes from the harsh sun.
In spite of the trade restrictions, Colonial Cuba developed and prospered. By the 18th Century, it was the cultural center of the New World, with an elegance that surpassed anything the British had
managed in ITS colonies! The aristocracy of Europe found the city of Havana to be a great vacation spot, with its operas, theatres and palacios. On their return to Europe, they brought back the little
Dog of Havannah, which found favor in the courts of Spain, France and England. In both Spain and in the court of Louis XVI, they were shorn in the manner of poodles, and were much admired for
their diminutive size. The English, on the other hand, appeared to leave them au natural, and called them the white Cuban, although they were as often found in parti-colors and shades of fawn.
By the mid-eighteenth century, they were downright trendy in Europe. Queen Victoria owned two and Charles Dickens had one, beloved of his seven children and named Tim. They were exhibited in
the early European dog shows and type was well-established. In Cuba meanwhile, the times were changing. The aristocracy of the sugar barons was dying out and a new class was emerging, the
bourgeoisie, and the little dog of Havana, adaptable as always, became a family dog extraordinaire, playmate of children, watchdog, and herder of the family poultry flock. It is a position he has held
there for the past hundred and fifty years.
With the advent of the Cuban revolution, the class of Cubans who owned Havanese was the first to leave. A handful of them found their way to this country, and by the end of the 70s a gene pool
was being rebuilt. All the Havanese in the world today, save those from the "iron curtain" countries and those remaining in Cuba, stem from those 11 little immigrants. Remarkably, through all their
travels, Havanese type has remained virtually unchanged from that of the dogs painted in the eighteenth century. To preserve it now and for the future is the challenge. Portrait of Federico II
Gonzaga by Titian
What is the Difference between a Havanese and Havana Silk Dog?
In searching for your new Havanese puppy you may have come across something called Havana Silk Dog and wondered what is the difference. It’s a very good question.
First, the breed known as the Havanese is the ONLY AKC recognized breed that originated in Cuba. Through history the Havanese has been known as the Havana Silk Dog and Spanish Silk Poodle.
Some people are trying to market the Havanese under on of the old names, the Havana Silk Dog. Those trying to use this marketing ploy are using the exact same dogs that the original and only
Havanese breed were and are from.
The Havana Silk Dog Association of America (HSDAA) was formed a few years ago. Unfortunately, the creation of the HSDAA is a political movement within our breed which has had a divisive impact
on our long-established national breed organization, The Havanese Club of America (HCA).
This group claims that dogs registered to the HSDAA are an "elite" registry of Havanese dogs who are appropriately health-screened, free of chondrodyplasia (a condition which causes bowing of
the legs and is sometimes associated with other serious health issues), and who display "true Cuban breed type." The goal of this organization is to gain recognition for the "Havana Silk Dog" as a
breed that is separate and distinct from the "American Havanese." Please understand that this organization's use of Havana Silk Dog to describe their "distinct breed" is very misleading. The term
Havana Silk Dog is a historical name for the Havanese and these dogs originated from the same dogs as the Havanese. So we are talking about the same breed; not a new, distinct, or designer
The Havanese is the native dog of Cuba and today there are many reputable Havanese breeders here in the United States. HCA, as the AKC Parent Club for Havanese, serves as caretaker of our
breed. We take pride in a proactive health program led by the HCA Health Committee. HCA developed the innovative Top Paw Health Award system to encourage health testing and recognizes those
breeders who are embracing healthy breeding program and mentoring others. All reputable Havanese breeders, whether a member of HCA or not, breed to AKC standard and do these
recommended health test. Reputable Havanese breeders would not breed a dog with any known health issues including chondrodyplasia. To learn more about the HCA health test and Top Paw
Health Awards, visit the HCA website. http://havanese.org/health
Finding a reputable Havanese breeder
Do your homework! Read about the breed and the health issues. Interview prospective breeders and ask to see proof of current health tests on their foundation dogs. Review www.offa.org data base
for health information and health certificate. Ask about how their puppies are socialized, about their health warranty, and go visit the breeder to see the environment where the puppies are raised.
Under no circumstances should you consider buying a Havanese puppy from a pet store or a puppy broker. These puppies all come from puppy mills. Your best source for healthy puppies is the
hobby breeder who shows their dogs in conformation events, health tests their foundation stock, belongs to breed organizations, and works with other reputable breeders towards the goal of
breeding healthy Havanese puppies bred to the AKC Havanese standard. Additionally, a reputable breeder will have a health warranty on their puppies which will tell you what they will do if your
puppy develops a serious health issue. Good breeders do not want their puppies to end up in shelters and they require you to give them first option for taking the puppy back if you can no longer
care for it. A good breeder's commitment to you to take a puppy back should be for the life of the dog!