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The Havanese is the national dog breed of Cuba, where they are a much beloved family pet. Although a relatively recent introduction to the United States, they are an old breed in Cuba and have been long-loved in European countries as well.
Its predecessor was the Tenerife, a Spanish dog that lead to modern day Bichon-type breeds like the Havanese. Spanish settlers brought Tenerife dogs to colonial Cuba in the early 1500s, where they slowly over time developed into the Havanese breed we know and love today.
By the 18th century, Cuba had begun to attract wealthy Europeans for vacationing; especially Havana, which at the time was an important Spanish port. Returning to Europe, these aristocrats brought with them the Dog of Havana, which grew quickly in popularity in the royal courts of England, France, and Spain. By the mid-18th century, their popularity had spread even further through Europe, where they were shown in early European dog conformation shows. Charles Dickens had one, and Queen Victoria owned two!
Read more at Havanese.dog.