The Havanese, a descendant of the Bichon Frise, was sometimes known as the Bichon Havanais, the Bichon Havanese, the Havanese Silk Poodle, Havanese Silk Dog, the Havana Silk Dog, and the Habanero – whew! Some believe that the dogs originated in the Canary Islands, especially Tenerife, but this may be because Tenerife was one of the only ports open to Cuba for trade. The little dogs were popular trading commodities, and they soon found their way into the homes of the resident Spanish aristocracy and developed with little outside influence. Havanese became treasured pets, bred to play with the children of aristocratic Cubans.
Political events in Cuba led to the total disappearance of the old bloodlines, save the dogs who left with their owners escaping Cuba, their descendants having survived in the US. It’s said that all Havanese in the world today, except for those from the “iron curtain” countries and those remaining in Cuba, stem from eleven “immigrant” dogs. Today, we have a Havanese type that has remained virtually unchanged from that of the dogs in the eighteenth century.