The Havanese ("Habaneros" in Spanish) is also known as the Havana Silk Dog. The Havanese is the national dog of Cuba and its only native breed. These little "charmers" are a part of the Bichon Family and, according to some, are descended from the same bloodlines that produced the Water Spaniel, Poodle, Portuguese Water dog and Maltese. It is believed that during the very early days of the Spanish Empire their ancestors were brought to Cuba by colonists and traders who sold them to wealthy Cuban families or gave them as gifts to win the favour of wealthy senoras.
Because of the later trade restrictions imposed by Spain, the breed developed without outside influence. The coat is like raw silk floss, profuse, but extremely light and soft. In its native country, the coat was never clipped or tied into a topknot, as the Cubans believe the hair protects the eyes from the harsh sun. The Havanese love the water and are accomplished swimmers when exposed to open water at an early age.
In spite of the trade restrictions, Havana became a popular vacation spot and by the mid-eighteenth century, the Havanese became very popular in Europe. They were exhibited in the early European dog shows and type became well established. In Cuba meanwhile, times were changing. The aristocracy of the sugar barons was dying out and the bourgeoisie emerged. The little dog of Havana, adaptable as always, became an exceptional family dog, and playmate of children. It is a position he has held there for several centuries.
During the Cuban revolution, the Havanese began to die out but a handful found their way to the United States where they have slowly but steadily been rebuilt. All the Havanese, except for those from the "iron curtain" countries and those remaining in Cuba, stem from these immigrants. A few Cuban citizens began a search for breedable Havanese in the early 90s and have steadily rebuilt the Havanese in Cuba. Many of these have made their way to Canada.
Through out all of their travels, Havanese type has remained virtually unchanged from that of the dogs in the eighteenth century.