Havana Brown is a very rare breed of cat, a medium-sized cat with a long, muscular body. The head of the Havana Brown is a triangle, but has a unique look because the chin is well developed and rather square.
This look gives a corn cob appearance to the muzzle. The ears and eyes of the Havana are medium in size, and the eyes are a clear, bright green. A group of English cat fanciers began working together with an intent to create a self-brown cat of Foreign Type in the early 1950’s.
The breed continued to develop in the UK and became known as the Chestnut Brown Oriental and retained the Siamese conformation. Early in the breeding program, two kittens were also exported to Siamese breeders in the USA.
Over the next decade, breeding took a different turn as genetic problems began to plague the new breed. It became necessary to utilize other breeds for genetic outcross and the phenotype began to evolve and develop into a different look than what the original breeders in England had intended.
This change in direction tore apart the breeding group and caused many difficulties in continuing to progress the breed within the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy. Soon, the Chestnut Brown cat was being produced in many colors, known just as Oriental with a numeric system to designate the coat color.
Havana Brown kitten Solid brown cats were exhibited in Europe during the late 1800s and the early 1900s. A self-brown took first prize at a show in England in 1888, indicating that, at that time, fanciers valued and treasured brown cats.
At a 1928 cat show, the British Siamese Cat Club gave a special award to the cat with ‘the best chocolate body.’ Writers of the day described these cats as ‘chocolate-colored Siamese, that is, the same color all over.’ Soon after, however, self-browns fell from grace.
In 1930 the Siamese Cat Club announced, ‘The club much regrets it is unable to encourage the breeding of any but blue-eyed Siamese.’ Solid brown cats lacking blue eyes were accordingly banned from competition and disappeared from the cat fancy.
Self-browns made their comeback in the early 1950s when a handful of English breeders decided brown was still beautiful. Working first separately and then together, these breeders studied chocolate gene inheritance and then started a breeding program, apparently using Siamese, domestic shorthairs, and Russian Blues.
The breeders were striving to produce a solid-colored cat in the chocolate point coloring of the Siamese, rather than the sable coloring of the Burmese. At that time in England, the only recognized foreign breeds other than the Siamese were the Abyssinian and the Russian Blue.
Havanas are true extroverts with a loving and affectionate nature. They are very sociable cats that relish the company of their human families as well as that of other pets, and should not be left on their own for long periods.
They show exactly the same temperament and intelligence as the Siamese and can be almost as demanding, mischievous and inquisitive as their ‘pointed’ cousins. The Havana does not have known breed-related health problems, and pets from reputable breeders should be strong and healthy.
In common with all breeds of cat, they nevertheless need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors.
Like many older Siamese and Orientals, the Havana is sometimes prone to kidney problems, detectable by loss of weight and increased thirst, but a Vet can prescribe medication to help combat this, and many live to the age of 14-16.