The Havanese, Dog of Cuba
By Michael Russell
It seems that every country has its own history when it comes to dogs and which dogs become the particular dog which has flourished in that country. Cuba is no exception, for it is the native country of the Havanese. Although the Havanese most probably originated with the Spanish settlers of Cuba many centuries ago as descendants of the Bichon Barbichon of Southern Spain , it became apparent after many years of development that the dog was destined to become a unique breed. Because at first there seemed to be many of these little toy dogs that carried a distinctive coat color of a deep brown similar in color to that of the cigar, it is theorized that the name “Havanese” came from the name “Havana Brown” which is the first known name of the dog. Eventually this name was popularized into the name “Havanese” and it is under this name that the dog is now recognized as an A.K.C. breed.
This little dog is similar in many respects to the Bichon Frize. However the coat color can be of any blend or combination, whereas the Bichon is always white. The coat of the Havanese is long and shaggy and the standards for the show ring require that the coat not be clipped, altered, or tampered with in any way. The coat is double. However, since this is a bred that has lived for years in the tropics, the double coat is not “hard” or woolly but is soft and silkyin appearance and texture, rather like that of a single coat. The guard hairs of the top coat are long and rather wavy. The A.K.C. also allows for the mature Havanese to be shown in a “corded” coat. A Corded coat will happen naturally if, as the dog is maturing, the coat is allowed to separate itself into parted clumps of hair which gradually will wrap around themselves over time (usually with human interference) and develop into cords. This type of coat is seldom seen on a pet Havanese for it takes a lot of patience to “train” a coat in this manner. The head is furnished with a beard and hair which is long over the eyes. This long hair is believed to protect the eyes of the dog from the hot Cuban sun and because of this it has become tradition for this breed to leave the hair in a loose fall over the eyes rather than pulling it back into a topknot. The Havanese is not a large dog, at the withers the height should not be over 11 and a half inches, the minimum being 8 inches.
This little dog should be jaunty and happy in appearance and of course should have a temperament to match. It is a dog that has been used through centuries as a family pet and also a herder and protector of the family chicken flock, a task which it can perform quite well. It is an active breed and not one to remain quiet for long, as some small lap dogs do. This little dog is quite intelligent and does well at tricks and also excels in such ring sports as obedience and agility and flyball.
Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Dogs
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