The Furry Critter Network

Havana Silk Dog Breed Description

Back to Canine Breed Menu


Breed Organization

The Havana Silk Dog Association of America

Native Country
Western Mediterranean Basin - Cuba

Other Names

Life Expectancy
Approximately 15-18 Years

Litter Size
No Litter Information Available

Breed Group
Toy - No Registry Information Available

General Description

The Havana Silk Dog is a purely Cuban invention and is a reflection of the culture of La Habana and its people – attractive and fun-loving, brave and resourceful, and highly adaptable to any situation. He is a small, elegant, but athletic dog with strong herding instincts, rectangular in form with long, silky hair of various colors. His charming temperament is reflected in his typically high head and tail carriage, and his lively, elastic gait.

Breed Standard

Size: 9 to 11 inches
Proportion: Height at top of shoulder equals the distance from top of shoulder to set-on of tail, creating a rectangular outline rather than a square one. A well-balanced dog is approximately one-third head and neck, one-third body, and one-third leg.
Substance: Medium bone throughout, neither coarse nor fine. Not to exceed 13.5 pounds.
Head: Measured from tip of the nose to occiput, is about 50% of the height at top of shoulder.
Muzzle: Rather refined, the cheeks very flat. Length of muzzle in relation to skull is ideally 3 to 4. Mandible flat and firm. Jaws align in a scissors bite.
Nose: Broad, square, and always black. Any color other than black is a disqualifying fault.
Stop: Moderate
Planes: Parallel
Eyes: Set well apart, rather large, very dark. Eyelids rather almond-shaped. A curtain of hair falls forward from the occiput, covering the eyes. Pigmentation of eye rims and lips is ideally black. Any deviation from the ideal to be penalized to the extent of the deviation. A halo of dark pigmentation surrounding the eyes is very desirable.
Ears: Set high on skull, broad based, with a distinct fold at the line of the skull. Triangular in shape with fine leather, the ears reach the outer corner of the eye. Carried neither folded along the neck nor framing the cheeks. When alert, ears lift at the base, producing an unbroken line across top of skull.
Skull: Broad and slightly rounded. Its width, measured between the ears, approximates the length of muzzle.
Neck: Moderately long, allowing for high head carriage. Length of neck approximates 50% of the length of body measured from top of shoulder to set-on of tail. Carries a slight arch and blends smoothly with the shoulders.
Topline: Straight but not level, rising slightly to point of hip. Length of croup measured from point of hip to base of tail approximates the distance between the eyes.(1.5 inches)
Body: Broad and rather long, allowing for greater reach and drive. Chest is rather broad in front and reaches the elbows. Ribcage is oval in shape, with ribs well-sprung off the spine, and a clearly defined tuck-up. Loin is short, broad, and well-muscled. Length of ribcage is approximately twice the length of loin.
Tail: Set on so that it is naturally carried raised in the shape of a crozier (inverted J) over the back while moving. The vertebrae of the tail should not touch the back. In repose the tail can be dropped and should extend slightly past the hock.
Shoulders: Laid on well, muscular, strong, and well laid back. Angle at point of shoulder approximates 100 degrees.
Upper arm: Relatively short and well-angled, with forelegs set well under the body Upper arm is shorter than forearm from elbow to pastern.
Forechest: Is pronounced.
Forelegs: Lean, straight and parallel when viewed from any angle. Distance from floor to elbow is equal to the distance from elbow to top of shoulder.
Pasterns: Upright.
Feet: Round and compact.
Legs: strong and muscular, with moderate angulation. When stacked, hind foot falls slightly behind a vertical line dropped from the ischium. Legs straight and parallel when viewed from the rear.
Pelvis: Angle from point of hip to ischium is ideally 30 degrees off the horizontal.
Hocks: short and straight, parallel when viewed from the rear; not exceeding 30% of the height at the point of hip.
Hind Feet: slightly longer than forefeet.
Coat: Rather flat, very soft and silky, with a slight wave. Coat is long, but should not obscure outline or movement. There are two coat patterns.
• Silk: A typical drop coat, with long silky hair entirely covering the dog.
• Satin: Hair on head, feet, and front of legs is short and fine. Body coat of moderate length, with longer, silky furnishings on ears, chest, backs of legs and tail.
Color: Any color or combination of colors is equally acceptable as long as the nose is black.
Gait: Lively, elegant, and elastic. Movement is sound, with free reach and good extension. Head and tail are carried high while moving. Topline may level out as speed increases but does not slope toward the rear.
Temperament: Lively, playful, curious, and intelligent. Very outgoing and self-confident.


If the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel enjoys the distinction of being the only purebred dog born of dissatisfaction, surely the Havana Silk Dog enjoys the distinction of being the only purebred dog born of an effort to eliminate a genetic problem from within a breed! For it was the efforts of a dedicated group of American Havanese breeders to simply produce a sounder and healthier animal which resulted in the reemergence of the Havana Silk Dog, a breed of Cuban origin popular some one hundred fifty years earlier and long thought to be extinct. This disappearance, as it turns out, was apparently less a matter of true genetic extermination than a case of what cultural anthropologists term "extinction by assimilation". As was true with the Cavalier and the English Toy Spaniel, the genes which had originally created the Havana Silk Dog were still alive and well, but had simply been assimilated into the modern Havanese breed over the years.

Utilizing only rigid selection in an effort to breed away from dwarfism, this elegant little Cuban breed was restored to its original form, at first by accident and then by deliberate design, and was found to breed true within a very few generations.

That the breed is very old is without doubt. As early as 1700, an entrepreneur by the name of Mr. Cowley brought a troop of small dogs advertised as "the Little Ball of Dancing Dogs" from Cuba to the court of Queen Anne, who was by all accounts enchanted by them and later owned several. Likewise the Toy Poodle counts among its earliest progenitors a breed of Caribbean origin known in England as the White Cuban, which translates neatly into "Blanquito Cubano", an early name for the breed in its homeland.

These so-called "small dogs of Havane", or "Havana Silk Dogs", were popular in the courts of Europe in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, and were exhibited in early shows there, but by the end of WWII, it appeared they had vanished from the Continent along with so much else, and were all but forgotten outside their Caribbean home.

Then in the early 1970s, ads began appearing in American dog magazines for "Toy Havanese", a purely American name given to the small dogs apparently brought to the US with Cuban immigrants in the decade following the Cuban Revolution. The descendents of these dogs formed the basis for the Havanese breed in America, and were exported throughout the 1980s to Western Europe in an effort to rebuild the breed there.


Lively, playful, curious, and intelligent. Very outgoing and self-confident.

There's a fair amount of discussion on the internet about Havana Silk Dogs lately, and many puppy buyers are understandably confused. There has been a concerted effort by Havanese breeders to co-opt the Havana Silk Dog name by asserting that the Havanese and Havana Silk Dog is the same breed. This is simply not so. The original Havana Silk Dog was part of the heritage of the modern Havanese but they were never the 'same' dog. Even Cuba's resident expert on the Havanese, Zoila Portuondo Guerra, states in her book Bichon Havanese, that the Silk Dog was a progenitor and not the same as the Havanese.

It's important to understand that "Havana Silk Dog" is merely one of many old names used in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe to describe the little dog of Cuba, and probably the most descriptive, which is why the HSDAA chose to use it. The Havana Silk Dog and Havanese standards describe entirely different dogs, from coat to outline.


The Silk Dog is great at performance sports like Rally and Agility, and makes a superb Therapy dog as well as Service dog (some are being used to aid children with special needs and autism.)


The Havana Silk Dog Association is very proud of the fact that it is one of the few registries in the world that has established a certification process for registration that requires all breeding dogs to pass designated health clearances in order to register a litter. This is not because of a large number of health problems in the breed, but rather because the desire is to AVOID any health issues from becoming a problem in the future. Being pro-active and screening all breeding dogs for potential health issues will go a long way toward preserving the health of this wonderful breed.

Back to Canine Breed Menu

Featured Rescues

"Don't Shop ... Please Adopt"

laptop pro


The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) was the first humane society to be established in North America and is, today, one of the largest in the world.

Our organization was founded on the belief that animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment at the hands of humans and must be protected under the law. Headquartered in New York City, the ASPCA maintains a strong local presence, and with programs that extend our anti-cruelty mission across the country, we are recognized as a national animal welfare organization. We are a privately funded 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, and are proud to boast more than 2 million supporters across the country.

The ASPCA’s mission, as stated by founder Henry Bergh in 1866, is “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.”

laptop pro


If you can’t find the pet you’re looking for on Petfinder, don’t give up. Some shelters maintain waiting lists for specific breeds, so don’t be afraid to ask! There are also breed-specific rescues for just about every breed, and most of them post their pets on Petfinder. (Petfinder can even e-mail you when a pet that fits your criteria is posted — just click “Save this Search” at the top of your search results page.)

laptop pro

Rescue Me

Jeff Gold, Founder, Rescue Me! Animal Rescue Network

Jeff Gold lives in Watkinsville, Georgia on the same property as Rescue Me's Animal Rehabilitation Center, with 18 rescue animals. Shown with him in the photo to the left are Maggie, Izzie and Cortez. In 2003, after learning there was nobody doing boxer rescue work in Georgia, Gold founded Boxertown, an organization which helped find homes for over 500 boxers during its first two years. Based upon this success, Gold came up with the vision for Rescue Me! ― a network which helps all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals find good homes, anywhere in the world. is also a free service of Rescue Me! and provides the world's largest and most up-to-date directory of animal rescue organizations for all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals, including a comprehensive directory of wildlife rehabilitators in over 150 countries.