The Havanese is one of the barbichon (later shortened to bichon) family of small dogs originating in the Mediterranean in ancient times. Spanish traders brought some of these dogs with them as gifts for Cuban women, allowing them to establish trading relationships. In Cuba, the little dogs were pampered as the special pets of the wealthy. They became known as Habeneros, and eventually some found their way back to Europe, where the breed was called the "white Cuban." They became quite popular, not only as pets of the elite but also as performing dogs. Their popularity as pets waned, however, and their stronghold remained in the circus, where they performed throughout Europe as trick dogs. Eventually the breed declined in numbers to such an extent that it was almost extinct not only in Europe but also in its native Cuba. A few remained in Cuba, however, and three families with their Havanese left Cuba for the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. Most present-day Havanese descend from these dogs. The breed has gradually aroused attention from dog fanciers and pet owners, and in 1996 the first Havanese entered an AKC show ring and was accepted for regular recognition as a member of the toy group as of the first day of 1999. The Havanese is also known as the Havana silk dog.
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