Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
Photo of adult Havapeke
Photo thanks to Kathy Van De Weert

The Havapeke is a hybrid dog, which is a mix between one Havanese parent and a Pekingese (usually of the toy variety). The Havapeke is a small sized fellow with an abundance of long fur, a compact body and sweet face. Their abundant thick coat requires considerable dedication and daily combing to keep it tangle-free and in good condition.

Like many small dogs, the Havapeke know their own mind and have a tendency to take control. This can make them demanding for the first-time dog owner to control, whilst early socialisation and good training help overcome this tricky trait.

About & History

Relatively new on the scene, the history of the Havapeke is difficult to trace, so we can only really look to the history of the parent breeds.

The Pekingese

The Pekingese originates from China and is thought to be one of the most ancient dog breeds still in existence. They have been around for some 2,000 years, and are named after the city of Peking (now Beijing). For centuries, the Pekingese dog was closely guarded and a great favourite with Chinese nobility. Indeed, this special little dog was not allowed to leave palace confines, and most certainly not taken abroad.

The first Pekingese dogs to come into Western hands did so in 1860 when the English army invaded Peking during the Opium Wars. These dogs went by the name of Chinese pugs or Chinese spaniels and the breed remained rare outside of China for many decades to come.

The Havanese

The Havanese dog’s history goes back several centuries. Their distant ancestors were dogs that were imported into Cuba by Spanish settlers. This population of dogs interbred and because of trade restrictions enforced by the Spanish, they become somewhat isolated on the Island of Cuba. Over the years, this produced Bichon type dogs, along with the Havanese.

By the 1800s, the Havanese was popular with Cuban aristocracy, and came to the attention of European travellers who then exported them to France, England, and Spain. With a loyal and loving character, the popularity of these charming little dogs spread widely.


Think 'fluffy scruff ball' and you'll pretty much have the Havapeke summed up. The guys may be small but boy are they sweet! Both parent breeds are blessed with long luxurious locks and their resulting offspring is no different.

On a more serious note, the Havapeke is small or toy-sized, with their appearance varying depending on which parent the pup most takes after. However, both parents have several features in common, such as being compact with short, sturdy legs, and a medium length, plumed tail carried over their back.

One big difference between the parents is the skull shape and nose length, with the Pekingese having a very flat face. Thus, a Havapeke usually has a snub snout or a muzzle of intermediate length. Both parents also have drop ears and a long coat. With regards to their coats, the Havapeke can be a range of colours, including black, fawn, white & black or fawn & black.

Character & Temperament

Sensitive but stubborn, sums up the Havapeke temperament. These are a loyal and loving dog, but have certain cat-like characteristics, such as wanting to do things on their terms. The Havanese has a reputation for being gentle and extremely tolerant, whereas the Pekingese parent is more demanding and can be stand-offish. Indeed, the latter trait may mean they are happiest when they are the sole centre of attention in a household without other pets.

Although affectionate, the Havapeke do not enjoy rough-and-tumble, and may not be a good match for people with young children. Another factor to consider is their love of barking. Whilst their small size means they live comfortably in a flat, the neighbours might not be happy about it.


The Pekingese side of the family can make for a stubborn dog that knows their own mind and is hard to persuade otherwise. This can be daunting for the first time dog owner, who may struggle to assert themselves over a Havapeke. Their small size means this isn’t necessarily a disaster, as they can be picked up to get them out of trouble, but it can make for 'small dog syndrome' and an undesirably bossy dog that thinks they’re in charge.

However, good socialisation as a puppy, followed up with reward-based training and the Havapeke makes for a great canine companion.


As a hybrid breed, there are few statistics relating directly to the Havapeke health. However, the parent breeds do have certain predispositions to disease. Some of the conditions which may show up in the Havapeke pup are listed below.

Patellar Luxation

This is an anatomical quirk affecting the kneecaps, which allows the latter to slip to one side. This can mechanically lock the leg in the bent position, causing the dog to skip for a step or two.

This common problem can range from mild to severe. At the lower end of the scale, no treatment is required or just occasional doses of pain relief. However, the worst cases require reconstructive surgery in order to regain mobility and reduce the risk of secondary arthritis in later life.

Liver Shunts

Liver shunts (also known as portosystemic shunts or PSS) tend to occur in smaller dog breeds. The condition results from the failure of a specific blood vessel to close down after the puppy is born. In the womb, this portal blood vessel serves a useful role in bypassing the foetal liver. However, if this blood vessel fails to close after birth, the liver doesn’t come 'on-line' and isn’t able to play its vital role in detoxing the blood.

Dogs with a shunt can become very ill, seizure, and fall into a coma. The gold standard treatment is surgical ligation of the shunt, but this is a specialist procedure and costly. Mildly affected dogs can have a good quality of life when managed with medication, but may have a reduced lifespan.

Corneal Ulcers

The large eyes of the Pekingese parent can predispose the Havapeke to developing ulcers on the surface of the eye. It is vital to seek veterinary attention if the dog shows any signs of eye discomfort, such as closing the eye or rubbing at it. Early treatment can reduce the risk of serious complications, which could threaten the sight in that eye.

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome

Havepekes that lean strongly towards the Pekingese side may suffer from Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome, or BOAS, for short. This syndrome makes it difficult for the dog to breathe because of abnormalities with their nostril size, soft palate, tonsils, tongue, and windpipe.

Exercise and Activity Levels

All dogs, regardless of size, require some degree of exercise. Although the Havapeke is small, they do need to get out twice a day to stretch their legs and have a good sniff. However, compared to other dog breeds, they are low energy, making them a good companion for someone who wants to potter along outdoors to meet people.

Another consideration is exercise in hot weather. A flattened face and thick coat mean the Havapeke quickly overheats in hot weather. Try to exercise the dog in the cooler parts of the day, stick to the shade, and take water along.


Some sources suggest the Havapeke is a hypoallergenic hybrid, but this is doubtful for many reasons. Reputed to be a low shedder, there is still plenty of hair and dander to shed into the environment, which is capable of triggering allergies.

Their long coat requires daily attention to prevent knots forming. Just like human hair it requires combing through from root to tip, to remove matts, and then brushing to smooth it down. Also, be especially vigilant for burrs and grass awns swept along by the coat, as these will cause discomfort.

In addition, daily teeth cleaning is strongly advised. The crowded nature of the Pekingese mouth means food easily becomes trapped, causing a higher than average risk of tartar formation and dental disease. Additionally, regular parlour trips are advisable to keep the coat neatly trimmed. However, avoid excessive bathing as this strips the coat of natural oils.

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