Origins of the Breed in Cuba
The Havanese is a member of the Bichon Breeds family, which includes Bichon Frise, Bolognese, Coton de Tulear, Lowchen and Maltese. Some of these breeds originated in the Mediterranean.
The Havanese breed was established in Cuba, probably from two populations of ancestral breeds. The first was a small, white Bichon type breed which was imported into Cuba in the 16th and 17th centuries, and possibly similar to the now extinct Bichon Teneriffe. The second group of dogs was a colourful group of poodle type breeds, which was brought into Cuba in the early 19th century by European immigrants.
The Havanese was created as a companion dog, and was, even then, an expensive lapdog, owned predominantly by the wealthy.
The Cuban revolution, in 1959, had a major impact on the breed. Many wealthy Cuban families left the country, with some taking their dogs with them. However, many Havanese were left behind, with servants or friendly families.
It is not clear what exactly happened to Havanese asa breed in Cuba following the revolution; their numbers were probably severely diminished, but it is unlikely that they came close to extinction, given that some of the old breeding families remained. There are no writings, however, that document their history in Cuba during the following three decades.
The breed as we know it today has developed from two groups of founders:
1. The USA Founders: In the 1970ies, Bert and Dorothy Goodale purchased Havanese from exiled Cuban families. These Havanese formed the basis for the breed and its recognition by the AKC.
2. In 1991, the Cuban Havanese Club was founded, and the formal breeding program was re-established.
A number of Cuban Havanese were imported into Europe, and together with imports from the USA gave rise to some of the old European lines.
Havanese in the UK
In 1993, Barbara Benersen imported the first four Havanese from continental Europe. into the UK. More Havanese followed over the course of a few years, and the breed was established in the UK.