Where are Havanese dogs from? Havanese history begins--where else?--in Cuba. In the early 16th century, Spanish settlers began populating the island, and they brought toy-sized dogs with them; these companion dogs, historians believe, are the true origin of Havanese dogs (and all Bichon breeds, for that matter). The settlers interbred and refined the toy dogs, and began the development of the breed as it's known today.
By the 1800s, the Havanese had become popular among the Cuban aristocracy, and eventually began being exported to England, France, Spain, and other European countries; the demand for the breed in Europe was huge by the 1850s, and owners of Havanese included prominent figures like Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens.
In the U.S., Havanese origin began with the breed's near-extinction. By the mid-20th century, only a handful of the dogs remained in Cuba; during the Cuban Revolution of the 1950s, some wealthy Cuban citizens fled to the United States, bring their dogs (including a few Havanese) with them. American breeders fell in love with the breed, and by the 1970s the Havanese was again thriving in the U.S. and elsewhere. The American Kennel Club added the Havanese to its registry in 1996.
Today the Havanese is beloved around the globe. The Havanese ranks 24th on the AKC's list of 195 recognized breeds.