Breed At A Glance


Intelligent, eager to please and sociable

Life Expectancy
13-16 years

Average Height
8-11 inches

Average Weight
7-13 lbs

Coat Color
Cream, gold, white, silver, blue, and black, as well as parti and tricolors

Coat Length/Texture
Soft and long double-coat

Shedding Propensity
Little or not at all

Also known as Havana Silk Dog, Havanese Bichon

General Temperament

Thought they are considered a toy breed, the Havanese is a strong and solid breed who loves to run and play and are easy to housebreak. This adaptable little dog has spent centuries in a wide range of roles: from the lap dog of aristocracy to poultry herder to watchdog. The modern Havanese makes an excellent and beloved addition to a family, and is well-suited for apartment living.

Although they prefer the company of their owners, Havanese also enjoy the company of other animals, and will be happy as long as they are not isolated for long periods of time. They get along well with children and other pets, and love to play games. They are intelligent and easily trainable, and often will perform tricks to get attention from both family members and visitors alike. In fact, they are so good at tricks that they have long since been used in circuses, much like their Bichon Frisé cousins.

Havanese are not fearful and do not bark obsessively like some other toy breeds, but they will be sure to alert you when visitors arrive. They may be a bit wary of strangers at first, but once the dog is sure they are welcome, they will do whatever they have to in order to get the visitor’s attention and affection.

The smart, playful, affectionate, and non-shedding Havanese has enjoyed a huge increase in popularity in recent years.

Breed History

The Havanese is named for the capital of it’s home country, Cuba, and it is widely accepted that the Havanese shares a common ancestry with the Bichon Frisé: both breeds were developed from Mediterranean water spaniels (or “Barbet’). Some of these little white dogs were used as barter on sailing vessels, and were taken to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Over time, many descendents of the Tenerife dogs were brought back to Europe and became the favorites of Spanish, Italian and French royalty.

When the Spanish colonized the island of Cuba in the early 1500’s, seamen on trade routes from Tenerife and Spain, as well as members of the Spanish aristocracy, brought the plucky, adaptable breed with them. Over the next few centuries, Cuba grew to be a significant cultural center, and the “dog of Havana” prospered. Many Europeans who traveled there brought Havanese back with them when they returned home.

Many Cubans fled to the United States during the revolution in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, though few were able to bring their dogs, and it was difficult to import additional Havanese due to the trade embargo between the U.S. and Cuba. The original breed club established in the U.S. in the 1970’s included only 11 specimens. But through careful breeding and the introduction of additional stock from other countries, the Havanese has become one of the fastest growing breeds in the American Kennel Club.

The Havanese was recognized by the AKC in 1996.

Body Structure and Composition

The little Havanese carries an intelligent and mischievous expression on its face and a curious disposition in its soul. The full, rectangular muzzle leads to a proportionately broad skull. It’s body is slightly longer than it is tall, and the topline inclines slightly from the shoulder to the hindquarters. This is due to the short upper arms, and results in an unusually springy gait and the appearance of a deep chest. The tail is plumed and curls up over the back.

There is little to no difference in size or structure between the males and females of this breed.

The most distinctive characteristic of this breed is it’s fur. The long and silky coat might give one the impression that the Havanese is better suited for colder climates, but that coat in fact gives them remarkable resilience against the heat. Even though they hardly shed, it is important to brush the coat often to remove dander that can build up in the coat and lead to matting.

Medical Information

Although not particularly prone to illnesses, the Havanese shares a propensity for some of the same inherited medical conditions as the Bichon Frisé. Patellar luxation – or the tendency for the kneecap to slip out of place – is a common ailment among Havanese, and can cause pain and lameness, or an unwillingness to bear weight on that leg. Eye conditions such as cataracts and retinal dysplasia can also affect this breed, and thyroid problems have also been seen. But as with all pure-bred dogs, it is important to find a reputable breeder who can provide lineage information as well as records of medical testing to be sure you are receiving a well-bred and healthy puppy.

Anecdotal Information

Charles Dickens owned a Havanese named Tim.

Queen Victoria of England owned two Havanese.

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