The Breed History
The Havanese dog is thought to have originated on the Isle of Malta two thousand years ago. Tenerife dogs were the ancestors of the Bichon family of dogs. Those dogs that were later exported to Cuba were the seed stock for the modern Havanese breed. These dogs are designated "National Dog of Cuba". Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens owned Havanese dogs. The modern breed that is distributed outside of Cuba derives from just eleven dogs that served as foundation stock. The Havanese is considered a rare breed.
Breeding for Function
Companionship has been their primary purpose, though because of their willingness to please and their intelligence, these dogs have been applied to obedience work.
Height at Withers: 9-10.5" (23-26.5 cm).
Weight: 8-11 lb (3.5-5 kg).
Coat: The silky double coat consists of soft short undercoat hairs covered by a profusion of long (6-8" or 15-20 cm) soft hairs. The outer coat hairs may be straight, curly or wavy. The waviest coats cord naturally. Only foot hair trimming is allowed for showing. Many colors are acceptable including black, blue, silver, gold, cream, white, champagne and chocolate or these in bi- or tri-color combinations. The hair over the eyes is very long, covering them fully if not combed back.
Longevity: 12-15 years
Points of Conformation: The Havanese dog is similar to the Bichon in build with long back, short legs and a profuse soft haircoat. Their gait is characteristically springy and the plumed tail is curled over the back. Eyes are almond shaped, dark brown, large and have darkly pigmented palpebral rims. Ears have long feathers and are medium in size and folded, with moderately pointed tips. The skull is broad, slightly rounded, the stop is moderate, and the muzzle tapers. The button nose is very large and black, though in chocolates, the nose is self. The neck is moderate in length and muscling, and the topline is level, though over the croup it rises slightly to the high set tail. The tail may drop off the back when resting. The thorax is of moderate depth, with well-sprung ribs. Front and rear dewclaws may be removed, limbs are straight boned, and the feet have well developed pads; toes are well arched up.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Outgoing, active, friendly, high trainability, and good with children. Heat tolerant, high grooming needs, good alarm barker, needs close human companionship, possesses high activity levels.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative hip joint disease and arthritis. OFA reports 9.9% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 6.4% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. OFA reports 2.8% affected.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 22.6% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Osteochondrodysplasia (OCD): Developmental anomaly causing premature growth plate closure and crooked or bowed front legs. Segregation analysis suggests that this may be a syndrome that could also include cataracts, hepatic abnormalities, and cardiac abnormalities. Unknown mode of inheritance with a heritability of 0.36. Reported at a frequency of 20% in the 2004 Havanese Health Survey.
Portosystemic Shunt (PSS, Liver Shunt): Abnormal blood vessels connecting the systemic and portal blood flow. Can be intrahepatic or extrahepatic. Hepatic microvascular dysplasia may also be genetically related to this condition. Causes stunting, abnormal behavior, possible seizures, and can cause ammonium urate urinary calculi. Diagnose with paired fasted and feeding serum bile acid and/or ammonium levels, and abdominal ultrasound. Treatment of PSS includes partial ligation and/or medical and dietary control of symptoms. Molecular genetic studies show a complex inheritance with a single gene of major effect. Reported in 3.2% of Havanese presented to veterinary teaching hospitals. Reported at a frequency of 4% in the 2004 Havanese Health Survey.
Cataracts: Posterior suture and punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Unknown mode of inheritance. 11.57% of Havanese presented to veterinary teaching hospitals had cataracts. Identified in 2.61% of Havanese CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported at a frequency of 5% in the 2004 Havanese Health Survey. CERF does not recommend breeding any Havanese with a cataract.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 7.34% of Havanese CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 4.56% of Havanese CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Vitreous Degeneration: A liquefaction of the vitreous gel which may predispose to retinal detachment and/or glaucoma. Identified in 1.69% of Havanese CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Deafness: Congenital deafness can be unilateral of bilateral. Diagnosed by BAER testing. Unknown mode of inheritance. Reported at a frequency of 2% in the 2004 Havanese Health Survey.
Oligodontia, progressive Retinal Atrophy, and Retinal Dysplasia are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for black/chocolate is available from VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip radiographs, CERF eye examination, patella examination, and BAER test for deafness. (See CHIC website; caninehealthinfo.org). Recommended tests include blood ammonia and bile acids test for PSS, elbow radiographs, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and cardiac evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Havana Silk Dog (historical), Spanish Silk Dog (historical), Bichon Havanais.
- Registries: AKC, UKC, ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 36 (4,435 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Havanese Club of America: havanese.org
Havanese Fanciers of Canada: havanesefanciers.com
Havanese Club of Great Britain: havaneseclub.co.uk
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