Bichon Havanais (Havanese)

Country of origin:
Western Mediterranean Region (F.C.I.), Cuba
Height (cm):
Weight (kg):
Life span (years):
white, fawn, black, havana-brown, tobacco colour, reddish-brown
Hair length:
Recognized by:
FCI code:
Good with kids:
Pros Cons
  • affectionate
  • friendly
  • good watchdog
  • excellent companion
  • needs a lot of grooming 
  • not easy to housebreak

The Bichon Havanais is a funny, mischievous dog with a wonderfully loving and docile temperament. This breed was initially developed as a companion dog on the island of Cuba. Despite the fact that it has found its way to America quite recently nowadays it’s considered to be one of the most fashionable dogs in this country.

The predecessors of the Bichon Havanais arrived to Cuba with Spanish settlers in the XVI century. These lapdogs, which belonged to the Bichon family, were poorly accommodated for the Cuban climate so they gradually evolved into a totally new breed, the Blanquito de la Habana (the Havanese Silk dog). It was notable for smaller size and gorgeous silky hair. Its coat acquired heat-proof qualities and was highly useful in protecting the dog from merciless tropical sun. During the XIX century it was interbred with French and German Poodles, which were imported to Cuba from Europe. It formed the shaping of the Havanese as we know it today. The breed was called after Havana, the capital of Cuba, but this fluffy miniature dog had many nicknames throughout its history including Spanish Silk Poodle, Bichon Habanero, Havana spaniel, white Cuban and Havana Silk Dog.

Since the beginning of the XIX century the Bichon Havanais was a favourite lapdog of the Cuban nobility. Travellers from Europe who were charmed by impressive look and outgoing personality of the breed usually took its puppies to their native countries. The dog used to have much devoted following in Europe in the middle of the XIX century and Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens were among numerous celebrated fanciers who gave preference to the Havanese.

The Bichon Havanais lived through hard times in the wake of the Cuban Revolution. The good breeding practices were generally abandoned and the dog appeared on the verge of extinction. Fortunately, several Cuban families continued to breed and keep the Havanese and after the revolution 11 specimens were imported to the United States by the Cuban migrants. Virtually all breed members outside of Cuba have descended from these dogs.

The breed’s true popularity began in 70s of the XX century when an American pair scoured America for remaining descendants of 11 members that lately arrived from Cuba. Thanks to the excellent temperament and fascinating appearance as well as extensive breeding efforts of this couple it soon won lots of American hearts as a companion dog. It was officially recognised by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1995.


The Bichon Havanais has been a loving and gentle companion dog for centuries. Thus it acquired the temperament, which suits perfectly to this role. The breed is oftentimes described as a «Velcro dog» since nothing makes it happier than to always stay around its master. It suffers greatly without the company of its beloved humans so it shouldn’t be regularly left alone for lengthy periods. Unlike many other toy breeds it doesn’t tend to be snappy with children and will become an excellent playmate for a well-mannered child.

The Havanese usually behaves quite friendly with unfamiliar people though some specimens can show wariness upon a first meeting. The poorly socialised specimens are prone to be shy and timid in front of strangers. This alert dog stays always on the watch and will timely announce the approach of newcomers. So it will become a rather capable watchdog. Naturally it won’t do well as a guard dog because of its small size and affable nature.

The Havanese is also very accepting of other canine animals and it would appreciate their constant company. It can be easily introduced to the household with other living dog. Every dog now and then is tempted to give a good chase and the Bichon Havanais is no exception. However well-trained members will be polite and reserved with other home pets, including a home cat. Nevertheless it’s definitely better if the dog and other pet have been raised together.

Health Problems
The most common problems for the breed include:

• patellar luxation;
• canine hip dysplasia;
• elbow dysplasia;
• eye problems;
• achondroplasia;
• legg-perthes disease;
• dry skin;
• deafness;
• tear stains.

The Bichon Havanais requires impressive amount of care, as one would imagine from a first glance at this dog. Its lavish coat should be brushed minimum several times a week. In order to keep up the show look of the dog you are going to spend two to three hours weekly. That’s why many owners prefer to have their Havaneses regularly trimmed to a «puppy cut».

Anyway the hair around the feet and directly around the eye must be regularly sheared. The dog’s profuse coat should be frequently checked for any signs of parasites, mats or tangles. The Havanese sheds little to no hair so adopting this dog can become an acceptable variant for allergic sufferers.

The Havanese has been frequently used as a circus dog, which means that this biddable and smart animal is notable for exceptional trainability. Moreover it seems that it also likes to learn and derives true pleasure from this process. This dog performs incredibly well in obedience competition and agility. It’s highly advisable to use only reward-based methods in its training since the breed is apt to become overly stubborn and resentful if it has been treated harshly.

The Bichon Havanais is known to have certain difficulty in housebreaking. The dog has small bladder, so you will have to put up with occasional accidents in your house much longer than it’s usually in case with larger breeds.

Being kept primarily indoors throughout its history the Bichon Havanais is fairly undemanding when things concern its exercise regimen. Naturally it requires daily moderately-paced walk and enjoys quality times spending in playing with its master.

This dog suites ideally for families which prefer more sedentary life style. This doesn’t purport that its basic needs for the physical activity can be completely ignored. Physically dissatisfied Havanese usually turns into nervous, over excited or destructive creature.