The Havanese is a toy dog, weighing approximately 7 to 13 lbs. when fully grown. Bred as companion dogs, the Havenese are affectionate and playful and get along with most people, dogs, cats and other animals, according to the Dog Breed Info Center. The Havanese is an old breed, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC), and its history is long and rich.
The Havanese is native to Cuba, and is the county's national dog, according to the AKC. It is believed that the first Havanese came to Cuba aboard trade ships from the Spanish island of Tenerife in the 16th century. The breed made it to Europe in the mid-18th century, and the United States in the 20th century, according to the Dog Breed Info Center.
The Havanese, also known as the Bichon Havanese, originated from a now-extinct dog known as Blanquito de la Habana, or Havanese Silk Dog, according to the Dog Breed Info Center. With the transportation of Bichon lap dogs from Europe during the 17th century, the Havanese became smaller and its coat became silkier.
During the Cuban, French and Russian revolutions, the Havanese faced extinction. When Cubans began fleeing the country, some managed to escape with their Havanese. A U.S. breeder managed to find 11 Havanese and saved the breed, according to the AKC. The modern-day Havanese is a descendant of the 11 dogs that escaped from Cuba, according to the Dog Breed Info Center.
Because of the Havanese's past and its near extinction, it is a relatively new dog for many kennel clubs, according to the Dog Breed Info Center. The United Kennel Club was the first to recognize the breed in 1991. The AKC followed in 1996, and the Canadian Kennel Club in 2001.
Breeders in Germany in the 1980s found that some Havanese puppies in their litters were born with short, smooth coats, which, according to the Dog Breed Info Center, is not a breed characteristic of the Havanese. This is a recessive gene in the Havanese, and the breeders named the dogs smooth-coated Havanese, or Shavanese for short. The Shavanese cannot be shown or bred because of its coat.