|Yuppy Puppy Havanese
|3 Time Westminster Winning Breeder
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 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.
It is believed that during the days of the Spanish Empire they were brought to Cuba favor of wealthy
senoras who would encourage their merchant husbands to ship their merchandise on the sea captains'
The dogs 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 dog has a coat like raw silk floss, profuse, but
extremely light and soft, and insulating against the tropical rays much like yards of silk in an Indian
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, theaters, 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 poodle style and were much admired for their
diminutive size. The English, on the other hand, appeared to leave them au natural and
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, a position he has held there for the past
150 years. With the advent of the Cuban revolution, the class of Cubans who owned Havanese was the
first to leave. Many fled with their dogs to Costa Rica, and a handful of dogs found their way to this
country until, by the end of the 1970's, a gene pool was being rebuilt. Most of the Havanese in the
world today, save those from the Iron Curtain countries and those remaining in Cuba, stem from those
early immigrants numbering less than a dozen. 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.