Bichon Havanese breed: the perfect compact companion dog

László Enikő

2021. April 26 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

The Bichon Havanese is a lively, playful and people-loving lapdog. He is the perfect companion for anyone, as he is easy to handle, almost trouble-free and a lovely four-legged friend.


The Bichon Havanese owes its popularity mainly to its friendly, loving character. Its compact size also makes it ideal for keeping in the home. With his clownish nature and cute looks, it’s no wonder so many people can’t resist him. The bichon family includes several distinct species. They all have in common that they are lapdogs, social dogs who once lived in aristocratic courts. The most common of these is the Havanese, but they also include the Bichon Frisé, the Bichon Bolognese, the Maltese, the Löwchen, the Coton de Tuléar and the Russian Bolonka.


The origin of the breed is referred to in its name, as its selective breeding began in Havana, the capital of Cuba, in the 1700s and 1800s. But its roots go back further than that, presumed ancestors may have included Poodles, Bologneses, Malteses or Water Spaniels. Some believe its direct ancestor is the now extinct Blanquito de la Habana, or Little White Dog of Havana. The establishment of shipping routes thanks to Columbus also helped the breed to spread, allowing compact dogs to travel from continent to continent.

The Havanese was a popular social dog, especially among the rich. For a long time, white coats were preferred, but in the 20th century the colour black was considered undesirable in Europe. However, the Cuban revolution has caused a significant decline in the entire population. A total of eleven dogs were known to had emigrated to America. They belonged to the Perez and Fantasio families. Senor Barba settled in Costa Rica, where he successfully kept the breed alive and bred it for more than ten years. But in America, too, the lovely Havanese is beginning to spread. Presumably, all the Havana pups there can be traced back to the eleven dogs mentioned above. Despite its popularity abroad, the Havanese was no longer favoured in its homeland, where purebred dogs were seen as the heritage of the ruling class. For this reason, they tried to destroy as many as possible.

The Havanese is slowly becoming a popular family dog all over the world. Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens were fans of the only Cuban breed, the Havanese. According to sources the Havanese gene pool was expanded around the 1970s and 1980s with the introduction of Russian and Hungarian specimens.

Breed standard

The Havanese is the largest member of the bichon family. However, it still has a height of 21-29 cm. Their weight is 4-7 kg. The coat is thick, soft and silky to the touch. It can be slightly wavy, straight or even curly. The colours are very varied, all colour combinations accepted for dogs are allowed. For example, it can be red, black and white, black and tan, black or grey. Its eyes are dark, almond-shaped. Its feet hang down flat against the head. Its forelimbs are slightly shorter than its hind limbs. The tail is carried high and covered with silky fur. Expected lifetime 13-15 years.


The Bichon Havanese is a real compact companion dog. It has everything you need to become your best friend. He is a kind, playful, affectionate companion who loves you very much. He is always cheerful, which is contagious. Intelligent, easy to teach with positive reinforcement. He likes attention, and if he doesn’t get it, he will. He is an open, friendly type, and life is certainly not boring around him. He is alert, always wants to know what’s going on and doesn’t like to miss out on family activities. He is extremely agile, so he could be excellent in agility. He’s a real energy bomb, but he doesn’t mind lounging on the sofa.

Ideal environment

This little one is also great for smaller homes. He doesn’t need a huge garden, but he certainly doesn’t mind one, as he is very active. Despite his high energy, he does not have a particularly high exercise requirement. He can therefore be a very good companion for the elderly, but also plays well with children.


The hair of the Havanese needs regular grooming. The waistband can be left long, but nowadays many people prefer the more practical, short style. The fluffy fur collects a lot of stuff during walks, which always needs to be combed out. If you prefer a short style, it is recommended that you groom it relatively often. Its coat is prone to matting, so frequent combing is recommended. The eyes and ears should always be kept clean, and the claws should be clipped if they become too long.

Common health problems

Havanese is a healthy breed. Characteristic of small dogs are patella luxation and progressive retinal atrophy (these can be screened by genetic testing). If the fur is not properly groomed, skin disease can also develop.

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