Havanese ("Habaneros" in Spanish) is
also known as the Havana Silk Dog. These little "charmers" are a part of
the Bichon Family and are descended from the same bloodlines that produced
the Water Spaniel, Poodle, and Portuguese Water dog. It is believed that
during the days of the Spanish Empire they were brought to Cuba by sea
captains to be sold to wealthy Cuban families as well as given as gifts to
win the favour of wealthy senoras.
The breed is thought to have developed without outside influence
and evolved unique adaptations for the hot cuban climate. It is a
remarkably heat-tolerant dog, due to its unique coat. The coat is like raw
silk floss, profuse,but extremely light and soft, and insulating against
the tropical sun. In its native country, the coat was never clipped for
this reason, and the hair never tied into a topknot, as the Cubans believe
the hair protects the eyes from the harsh sun. It loves the water and is
an accomplished swimmer.
By the mid-eighteenth century, they became very popular in
Europe. Queen Victoria owned two and Charles Dickens
had one called Tim, which was much beloved by his seven children. 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
an exceptional family dog, playmate of children, watchdog, and herder of
the family poultry flock. It is a position he has held there for the past
hundred and fifty years.
During the Cuban revolution, the Havanese began to die out except
for a handful of them who found their way to the United States where they
have slowly but steadily been rebuilt. All the Havanese in the world today,
except for those from the "iron curtain" countries and those remaining in
Cuba, stem from those 11 immigrants. Through out of
their travels Havanese type has remained virtually unchanged from that of
the dogs in the eighteenth century.
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