Guide to Cat Breeds (See Full List)

Havana Brown

Havana Brown

Ancestry: Domestic shorthairs in Siam (now Thailand)
Place of Origin: Originally Siam; recreated in Britain
Date of Origin: Original date unknown; recreated in the 1950s
Accepted by: AACE, ACFA, CFA, CCA, and UFO in solid brown. CFF and TICA call the breed the Havana and accept solid brown and solid lilac (called lavender in CFF). UFO accepts the Havana Brown Longhair. Accepted in all associations for championship.

 
Description

The Havana Brown is the color of burnished mahogany, with a coat so smooth and glossy that it gleams in the light—a virtual reddish-brown beacon of lustrous color. Truly distinctive, the Havana Brown’s unique muzzle shape, lovely coat, brilliant green eyes, large, forward-tilted ears and loving personality make this breed stand out.

The Havana Brown is a graceful, medium-size cat with a firm, muscular body and an overall moderate body type—midway between cobby (like a Persian) and svelte (like a Siamese). This breed is surprisingly heavy for its size.

The Havana Brown’s head is distinctive—it’s longer than it is wide, narrowing to a somewhat narrow, rounded muzzle with a pronounced break on both sides behind the whisker pads. When viewed in profile, a distinct stop is evident at the eyes. The muzzle looks more like a protrusion than an extension of the head; some fanciers say the rectangular shape looks like a corn cob or the base of a light bulb. The end of the muzzle appears almost square and this optical illusion is enhanced by the well-developed chin. The somewhat narrow muzzle and the whisker break are distinctive characteristics of the breed and must be evident in show-quality cats. Allowance is made for somewhat broader heads and jowls in unaltered males.

The wide-set ears are large but not flared, rounded at the tips and cupped at the base. They are tilted forward, giving the cat an alert appearance. The ears are sparsely furred inside and out. The medium-sized oval-shaped eyes are set wide apart and are brilliant, alert and expressive. Eye color is any vivid shade of green, the deeper the color the better.

The Havana Brown stands relatively tall on straight legs. The females’ legs are slim and dainty compared to the more powerfully muscled legs of mature males. The tail is slender, not whiplike or blunt, neither long nor short, but medium in length in proportion to the body. Overall balance and proportion is more important than size. Males weigh 8 to 10 pounds; females weigh 6 to 8 pounds.

The coat is smooth and glossy, short to medium in length. In UFO, the Havana Brown Longhair is accepted, which sports a silky semi-long coat with minimal undercoat. UFO is the only association to accept this hair length so far. The breed comes in two colors in TICA and CFF, brown and its dilute color, lilac (lavender in CFF). The brown color is a rich and even shade of warm brown, tending to red-brown or mahogany rather than a black-brown or sable. A dark, sable-type brown coat is considered a fault. Lilac is a pinkish gray tone with matching lilac whiskers. Whisker color must match coat color; white whiskers are a disqualifying trait.

History

The origins of this breed go back many years—the Havana Brown is as old as the Siamese and comes from the same mysterious land. Siam, now Thailand, is the ancestral home of the Siamese, Burmese, Korat, and Havana Brown, as evidenced by the illustrations and descriptions in a manuscript called The Cat-Book Poems. The manuscript was written in the city of Ayutthaya, Siam, sometime between 1350 and 1767. (No closer estimate is possible since, lacking copy machines in those days, manuscripts were painstakingly hand-copied from previous versions when they wore out.)

Solid brown cats were among the first cats to be transported to Britain from Siam. Records in the late 1800s describe them as "Siamese, with coats of burnished chestnut and greeny-blue eyes." They were exhibited in Europe in the late 1800s and the early 1900s. A solid brown took first prize at a cat show in England in 1888. However, as the Siamese’s popularity rose, the solid brown’s fell. In 1930, the British Siamese Cat Club released a statement that said, "The club much regrets it is unable to encourage the breeding of any but blue-eyed Siamese." Without the club’s support, fanciers lost interest in green-eyed solid browns. World War II helped eliminate any remaining breeding stock.

Solid browns began their comeback in 1952. Five English breeders, working separately and then together, sought to reproduce solid brown cats with the all-over coloring of the chocolate points on a Siamese, rather than the sable brown of the Burmese. They used seal point and chocolate point Siamese cats, black domestic shorthairs and, to a limited extent, Russian Blues. In 1958, the British registry, Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF), accepted the new breed for championship competition under the name Chestnut Foreign Shorthair. In 1970 the name of the British breed was changed to Havana. (The North American Havana Brown looks very different from the British Havana, which the North American cat fancy would call a chestnut Oriental Shorthair.)

A female named Roofspringer Mahogany Quinn reached the United States in the mid-1950s and all North American Havana Browns can trace their ancestry back to this cat. In 1959, the breed was recognized by the now defunct United Cat Federation under the name Havana Brown. In 1964, CFA granted the Havana Brown championship status. Today, all North American cat associations accept the breed.

Despite its many years in existence, the Havana Brown is one of the more uncommon breeds (34th out of the 42 champion breeds accepted by CFA, according to their 2012 registration totals), but still this rare gem with the emerald eyes has many fans because of its unique conformation, lovely burnished color, and great personality.

Two stories exist about the breed’s name. One claims the breed was named after the Havana rabbit, whose color is similar to the breed’s and is considered by some to be the mink of the rabbit family. The other maintains the breed was named after the color of good Cuban cigars. No one knows for sure which story is true—or if either is.

Notes

Because of diligent breeding the Havana Brown is a healthy breed, particularly considering the small size of the gene pool (CFA closed the gene pool to outcrosses in 1974, only ten years after accepting the breed for championship, much too early in the breed’s development.) In the early 1990s, breeders became very worried as Havana numbers dwindled and breeding closely related cats was obligatory because no unrelated cats existed. Fanciers went to Dr. Leslie Lyons Ph.D. of the University of California Davis for help in supporting a CFA petition to allow outcrossing, and to help develop an outcross program. The Winn Foundation funded a protocol so researchers could investigate the Havana Brown’s genetic diversity. This study showed the need for allowable outcrosses to maintain the breed’s health and diversity.

Breeders petitioned CFA to open the breed to limited outcrossing. In 1998, CFA voted to allow the Havana Brown to be allowed limited outcrossings to increase the gene pool. The Havana can be outcrossed to chocolate point and seal point Siamese, certain colors of the Oriental Shorthair, and unregistered solid black and solid blue domestic shorthairs. Kittens from a Havana Brown and an allowable outcross can then be mated back to a Havana Brown, at which point the kittens are considered Havana Browns as long as they meet the color standard. Breeders are hopeful this will enlarge the gene pool and keep the breed healthy. So far, breeders report the program has been very successful. CFA is the only association that allows these outcrossings.

Breeders usually don’t place kittens until they are four months old, because at that time their potential as show cats and breeding stock can be more accurately evaluated. Because this breed is so rare, female kittens who can be used in breeding programs are kept, unless they have some fault that makes them unsuitable. It’s easier to get a male, as long as you are patient and agree to have him neutered. Some breeders alter their pet-quality kittens before placing them.

Grooming Havana Browns is easy; they don’t shed as much as most other breeds and need only occasional brushing. If combing your cat frequently isn’t your thing, this is a good breed for you. Bathing a pet-quality Havana usually isn’t necessary. However, your Havana usually enjoys gentle grooming and you have the opportunity to evaluate your cat’s health and condition during the session. Regular brushing can also help you form a close bond with your Havana.

Did you know?

The Havana Brown is the only cat whose breed standard requires a specific whisker color. The standard specifies brown whiskers, or lilac whiskers for lilac Havanas, to complement the coat color.

Personality

Havana Browns may be lovely to look at, but fanciers say their true charm comes from their wonderful personalities. Just as the Havana falls midway between the svelte and the cobby types, the breed also has a nicely balanced temperament—not too active, yet not a kitty couch potato. Havanas are very intelligent, affectionate, gentle, self-confident and remarkably adaptable and agreeable. They take almost any situation in stride, and set about to rule whatever roost they find themselves in with confidence and poise. Because they are so adaptable, they make good family pets and get along with other cats, most children and cat-friendly dogs, as long as proper socialization, introductions, supervision and training are provided.

Havanas crave human interaction and don’t do well if neglected or left alone for long periods. Closed doors are unacceptable—Havanas must be involved in all your activities. If you work all day and have an active social life at night, consider a less dependent breed. When given enough love and attention, however, they are loving burnished brown purr machines, completely dedicated to their chosen humans. Havanas are playful, too—their favorite toys are their humans. They enjoy other toys too, but only if you are there to toss back the ball or dangle the feathers. They’d rather have a half hour of your time than an entire roomfull of catnip mice. A compatible cat companion is necessity if you’ll be away all day earning the cat food.

Breed Characteristics

Size:Medium.
Coat Length(s):Short hair.
Body Type:Moderate.
Grooming Requirement:Little grooming needed.
Talkativeness:Quiet.
Activity Level:Average.
Affection:Very affectionate.
Usually Good With:Everyone.
Time Alone:4 to 8 hours per day.
Attention:Needs lots of attention.
Handling:Moderately docile.