Filed Under: Dogs, General Care

Do you need a loving sturdy companion that will sit in your lap and easily jump up to get there? Then the Havanese may be a breed of dog for you. This agile little dog runs from 10 to 15 pounds and a height range from 8 1/2 to 11 1/2 inches. This toy breed is almost hypoallergenic and will shed very little if at all. Their coat is slightly wavy with a soft and a light outer coat with a slightly heavier undercoat. The coat of a havanese is actually light and designed to act as a sunshade and a cooling agent for hot island days, making this breed extremely heat tolerant and an ideal pet for southern temperatures. This fluffy breed does, however, need protection against those cold winger days since their coats’ primarily function in cooling.

The Havanese is extremely friendly with humans and agreeable with all other pets. This active breed is great with children and loves to be around people, often following them from room to room. These dogs have been used as a companions, childrens’ playmates, watchdogs and a herders of the family’s poultry flock.

Originally from Cuba, the havanese, is that country’s only native breed. The havanese has also been called the “Spanish Silk Poodle” and the “Havana Silk Dog.” The first settlers of Cuba were farmers from the island of Tenerife and the second sons of the Spanish aristocracy. The early ancestors of the Havanese were brought on voyages to the New World and are believed to be from the island of Tenerife, as are all common ancestors of the Bichon family.

By the 18th century, colonial Cuba was found to be a great cultural and vacation spot. A favorite with the bourgeoisie of Cuba, the aristocrats of Europe often returned to Europe with a souvenir from the New World, the Havanese. Queen Victoria owned two havanese and Charles Dickens had one.

During the Cuban revolution, Castro considered the breed a symbol of the aristocracy and nearly had the Havanese wiped out. Most of today’s descendants originate from just eleven dogs that were smuggled off the island.

The Havanese comes in a variety of colors, all of which are acceptable including black, white, chocolate, cream and parti-colored. Their skin may be freckled or parti-colored.

The gait is “springy” and is characteristic of the Havanese. This action compensates for the slightly higher rear than front legs, and is termed “padding.”

The Havanese breed is predisposed to a variety of developmental abnormalities. As with many toy breeds, luxating patellas are possibility and Legg-Calve-Perthes, or aseptic necrosis of the femoral head, has been identified in a small number of individuals. Hip dysplasia, a conformational problem of the hip joint that later results in arthritis of the hip joint, may also occur. The most common skeletal defect involves osteochondrodysplasia (OCD), which involves having bowed, shortened, or asymmetric forelegs.

Three eye disorders are unfortunately seen with more prevalence in the Havanese and they include: cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and retinal detachment. The Havanese has the second highest prevalence
of cataract formation of any breed.

Missing incisors (the smaller front teeth) is also a common congenital disorder seen in this breed. There has also been a higher than normal incidence of cryptorchidism (one testicle), heart murmurs, deafness, seizures and liver shunts. Dogs suffering from OCD are more likely to have cataracts and hepatic and cardiac abnormalities and therefore should not be used for breeding. Members of the Havanese Club of America (HCA) are actively working to identify and eliminate these traits whenever possible.

Looking for a Havanese puppy of your own? Check here!


Adamson, Eve. “Give Me some Sugar, Meet Cuba’s Favorite Dog, the Havanese.” Pet Product News. January 2008. Pp. 99-101.

Severin, Glenn. Severin’s Veterinary Ophthalmology Notes. 3rd Edition. Communications Inc. 1996. P. 523.

Starr, Alison and Thomas Famula et al. “Hereditary Evaluation of Multiple Developmental Abnormalities in the Havanese Dog Breed.” Journal of Heredity. July 9, 2007.



Topics: breeds, havanese

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