The history of the Havanese is not exact
but most believe that they originated in the Mediterranean area. The breed
has been traced back centuries ago to be found in southern parts of France,
Italy and Spain. Dorthy Goodale, through her research believes that all
members of the Bichon group as we know them today were one type of small
white dog from that area. She suggests that they were more like the
Bolognese of today. She describes other authors theories - an Italian
Bolognese crossed with a small South American Poodle or another possibility
- descended from the Maltese.
At any rate, it is believed that the Italian sea captains brought these
little dogs to Cuba through the Havana port and so this is likely where they
got their name.
In Cuba these dogs were considered status symbols and owned only by the
Cuban elite. To this they credit their near extinction as a breed. During
the Great Exodus when many families, thinking they would be returning
shortly back to their country, left their Havanese with their housekeepers
and servants not knowing they would not return. Also it was very
difficult for the families to smuggle them out due to the shortage of space
on the ships they left on.
Two families that were able to bring their little dogs with them were the
Perez family and the Fantasio family and these were the first Havanese
recorded in the USA. These two families through combined efforts helped to
save the breed.
As you can see, the Havanese has a very colorful history but has only been
recognized by the AKA since 1995 and the CKC since 1999. I've read that
there are only approximately 4000 purebred Havanese in the USA and probably quite a
few less in Canada.