Q'Bin Havanese
Multi-Championed Superior Quality Breeder of Havanese
About the Havanese Breed

- By Charlie Petrizzo
Circle of Life Professional Canine Services

Is your perfect pooch small in stature yet hearty of heart, generally very good with children and one that will not leave its coat all over your carpet? If so then I have the breed for you; the Havanese.

As is evidenced by the 3,950 AKC Havanese registrations files in 2005 the breed's charm, beauty, temperament and child friendly nature has caught the attention of dog lovers in America. Accepted as an AKC breed in May of 2001 by 2004 the breed’s unique combination of diminutive stature and hearty heart made it number 53 in terms of new registrations filed out of 154 AKC recognized breeds. In 2005 the breed jumped to 42nd.

Despite its only recent recognition by the AKC, the Havanese has a history dating back many centuries to the Bichon (from the French meaning lap dog) family of dogs that includes the Bichon Frise, Maltese, Bolognese, and Coton de Tulear. The uniqueness of the breed was developed in Cuba either by sailors or Cuban natives who received the dogs as gifts from Italian merchants trying to do trade with the aristocratic families of the island. Today’s Havanese is the result of years of crossing Poodles with the Blanquito de la Habana (Havanese Silk Dog). Now extinct, the Blanquito had a pure white coat with a silky texture. It was smaller in stature than the Bichon Tenerife from which it descended. Tenerife is the Capital of the Canary Islands. The dog found its way here and to other colonies of Spain.

The Cuban Revolution was the impetus for many upper class Cuban families to flee to the United States. Unfortunately, those who decided to flee were forced to leave many of their prized possessions, including their beloved dogs, behind. This resulted in near extinction of the breed. However, the dedicated efforts of an American breed fancier, Mrs. Goodale who began her lines with 11 dogs, 6 which came from Cuban families that had immigrated to the United States and 5 that came from Costa Rica, saved the breed and allowed it to reach the height of its popularity today. Her lines first appeared in 1974.

Like all breeds the Havanese does have some health concerns. These include Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), cataracts, luxating patellas and hip dysplasia. The potential for a parent to pass one of these traits to its offspring makes the selection of a reputable breeder critical. In 1979 the Havanese Club of America (HCA) was formed. The primary goal of the club was the promotion of quality breeding. Today the club was the promotion of quality breeding. Today the club boasts over 400 members. To be recognized by the HCA a breeder must adhere to strict health requirements aimed at eliminating hereditary health disorders from the breed. Any dog that will be used for breeding purposes must complete the BAER hearing test, receive certification of clear eyes from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) registration and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) on hips and patellas. The price of a pup from a reputable breeder will generally range from $1800 to $2500.

Some puppy mills and backyard breeders are now producing Havanese. Do not let emotion or impulse allow you to fall prey to the lower prices or immediate availability of a pup that they may offer. Their motivation for breeding is profit only as opposed to producing healthy pups that further enhance the quality of the breed. Purchasing your pup through such a source perpetuates their existence. Make sure any breeder you are considering completes health tests on their breeding stock at a minimum.

The physical characteristics of a Havanese include a long, flowing lightweight and silky double coat that can range from smooth to wavy to curly. It is a coat that does not readily shed. However, the breed possesses a recessive gene for short hair. This was discovered by German breeders in the 1980’s. The short hair dogs became known as “Shavanese.” If two dogs that possess the recessive gene are bred they will produce pups with short hair, a serious fault.

A wide variety of colors are recognized. Spotting or smoky highlights are common. In the United States black and chocolate tend to be favored by breeders with the reverse being true in Europe. In fact, some European countries do not recognize black or chocolate as acceptable colors.

The ideal height is between 9 and 10.5 inches although the breed standard allows for 8.5 to 11.5 inches. The body should be slightly longer than it is tall and the top line should rise slightly from the withers to the rump. Strong legs that allow for easy movement, dark almond shaped eyes, well feathered ears of medium length and a tail that curves over the back are all features of the breed.

In the show ring the inclination is to show the breed in its natural state as opposed to the “fluffed and puffed” look portrayed by the typical toy dog. The breed standard forbids top knots or bows in the hair while in the show ring, a further indication that the Havanese is a toy breed in stature only.