History and General Information:
The national dog of Cuba , the Havanese (also refered to as the Havana Silk Dog) is its only native breed. While new to AKC (admitted 2/1/1996), the Havanese breed is a very old breed with a colorful and much debated history. It is generally agreed that the Havanese arrived in Cuba on sailing ships from the island of Tenerife early in the sixteenth century. By presenting gifts of this rare small breed to the wives of wealthy Cuban businessmen, the captains of the Spanish sea merchant ships were able to gain access to influential Hispanic homes and initiate valuable business contacts there. It has been hypothesized that captains of different vessels traded dogs with one another in order to expand the variety of colors and markings to further captivate the affluent Cuban families. Breeds put forth as foundations for this breed include Blanquito de la Havana (now extinct), Maltese, Bologonese, and a small South American poodle. With the Cuban Revolution, many upper-class Cubans fled to the United States, but only a few were successful in bringing there dogs (most of these were actually smuggled). By the time American breeders became interested in the breed, the gene pool outside Cuba and the Iron Curtain was down to 11 dogs.
The Havanese is a small, sturdy dog that carries its tail curled above its back , dropped folded ears, and a silky, long and profuse, slightly wavy coat. The coat can be maintained brushed out in a natural state, corded, or clipped into a puppy clip. If kept in full coat, thorough brushing will be required at least twice weekly. Due to its tropical origins, this breed has remarkable heat tolerance. In its native home, the hair on the head was never placed up into a topknot, but was left down to protect the eyes from the sun. Weight can vary greatly, generally between 7 and 13 pounds. Height is ideally 9-10.5 inches at the withers, with the body being longer than tall.
Havanese make wonderful family pets. While technically a toy, this breed is very sturdy and makes an excellent pet for children. They will play for hours on end with a child or be content to simply “be with you” while you watch television. They are an easily trained, self -entertaining breed- however do NOT let bad habits become entrenched as they may very difficult to address later. The one quirk that the breed does seem to possess is the love of shredding paper- Keep it out of reach or it WILL get shredded everywhere! This is not a trait that they outgrow.
As a rule, Havanese are a very friendly breed, but some individuals may be more shy than others around strangers. Not prone to “yapping,” they will generally bark to let you know that something is out of the ordinary, quieting when the alert has been acknowledged.
This happy little breed is a relatively disease free with a very low incidence of patellar luxation, hip dysplasia, cardiac defects, and liver defects.
Discussion of Colors and coat patterns:
Colors and coat patterns are extremely diverse. It is extremely difficult to determine the final outcome of puppy coats at birth. Some examples of coat colors are white, cream, fawn, red, brown, silver, blue, chocolate, and black. The coat may be solid or have markings of one or more colors, giving us sable, brindle, black and tan, Irish pied, parti-colored, belton, or piebald. There is a silvering gene that is very widely interspersed into the breed. A large percentage of puppies may be born one color and end up much lighter as adults due to a single gene or a combination of several genes.
I will give a brief overview of color genetics in the breed as currently understood, but much is still in the process of being discovered. The phenotype is “what we see.“ The genotype is the “genetic makeup“. Different genes control different parts of coat color. Some genes determine the “base” color while others acts as “modifiers.” Two copies of the dominant gene result in the dominant trait being expressed [DD], one dominant copy and one recessive copy (Dd) result in the dominant expressed, and 2 recessives [dd] result in the recessive being “seen” or unmasked. Each gene has a name designation, generally referred to as A, B, C, D, E, G, K, M, S, V, and T.
The A series (Agouti) is responsible for governing the patterning of dark pigment and determines where the dark pigment made by E will be deposited.
The B locus (Brown) determines what color the dark pigment will be.-black or brown This affects nose, eye rims, lips and pads as well as coat and eye color .
The C locus (Chinchilla) is the “concentration” gene. It acts like a filter that affects primarily light pigment (pheomelanin, the “yellow family of colors”). In the CC form, there is no filtering, so a deep full intensity coat will develop. Filtered red develops less color and will be seen as apricot, gold, or champagne, etc. This may be further modified by other enhancement or muting genes. White in Havanese is most likely an extremely filtered off-white.
The D locus (Dilution) holds the dilution gene which dilutes all pigmentation made by B. [DD] and [Dd] will be have no dilution, allowing black to be black and chocolate to be chocolate. [dd] resuls in the dilute colors called Isabella,lilac, mouse, or pearl. This is rarity in Havanese.
The E locus (Extension) controls the production of dark pigment. It can only make and deposit pigment
according to the expression of A and K. This includes face masks, dorsal stripes, and feet.
The G locus (Graying) is often confused with the V gene which “filters” colors. G “softens” color over time. Colored hair is replaced with silver, white, or clear hair. The more the graying, the lighter the dog will appear This change may start immediately after birth, or much later in life. Graying appears to affect color with incomplete dominance. Some Havanese do not gray, a lot do.
The K locus (Black) is where dominant black and brindle belong. Full dominant black completely controls all expression on the A ( dark pigment) locus. It is still controlled by the E (Extension) gene.
The M locus (Merle) may or may not exist in the Havanese. Merle dilutes color in patches creating a marbled appearance. Double merle in other breeds results in health issues.
The S locus (Spotting) decides where the color will be deposited and how much of the body will be covered with color. White is not a color, but absence of color. Dominance in the gene is incomplete and may additionally affected by modifying genes. More than one combination of genes may produce a similar look. This gene produces white marking ranging from a few white hairs, to an Irish pied (>50% Colored), to a Heavy Marked Parti (approx 50% color, 50% white), to Classic Parti (>50% white), to Piebald (mostly white with just very minimal color, possibly just on one or both ears). .
The V locus (Silvering ) acts in a very similar matter as the C gene, but acts as a filter limiting the development of dark color (black, brown). The individual hair changes from dark to light without acutally being replace by a lighter hair. It may be affected by modifiers producing a wide range of expression. When dealing with black, both dark a light silvers start out black from birth. With a single copy of the V gene, the color can change over 2-3 years and the dog will be a dark silver or a dark charcoal.
With two copies of the gene, the color change can begin almost immediately and the dog will be a light to medium silver. You may have a “silver brindle“, “ silver sable”, and a “silver and tan.” When this gene locus is affecting brown, a puppy is born chocolate. A single copy of the gene may result in the color change taking 2-3 years and resulting in a silvery brown or mocha color. Two copies result in a rapid change to a creamed coffee color.
The T locus (Ticking) decides whether or not the white areas on the coat will be flecked with color of not. A ticked coat is called Belton.
This vast array of possible combinations makes Havanese colors intriguing, but extremely unpredictable.
The most reliable way to determine coat colors genetics of the sire and dam is to observe multiple litters as they reach maturity. However, with three different gene loci responsible for reduction of color AFTER birth, even then surprises can occur due to the phenomenal numbers of combinations that may occur in even a single animal. Some puppies may even be born one color to lighten , then darken again with age due to an “on-off” modifier. It is easy to see why no breeder will every be able to 100% guarantee a puppy’s final appearance, although certain pairings definitely increased the reliability of the prediction.