The Havana Brown is a medium-sized, muscular cat that is one of a number of breeds classified generally as oriental or foreign shorthairs. Its most defining characteristic is its lustrous mahogany coat, which resembles that of a mink in both color and texture. Its fur is fine, short, exceptionally glossy and uniformly a warm, chocolate to chestnut brown. Although ghost markings are acceptable on kittens, adults should be solid (called "self-colored"), with no trace of tabby markings. The Havana Brown's eyes are oval and a remarkably vivid green. It has a narrow head that is slightly longer than it is wide and tapers to a rounded muzzle with a strong, squared chin. Its whiskers are also brown, complimenting its coat color. When viewed in profile, there is a distinct change in the slope of the Havana's forehead, called a "stop," at the level of the eyes. Its ears are large, rounded at the tips and pricked slightly forward, giving this cat an alert and inquisitive expression. The nose leather and paw pads of the Havana are brown with a distinctly rosy flush. Their necks and legs are long and slender, and their paws are small and oval. Males tend to be larger than females, usually weighing between 8 and 10 pounds. Females typically weigh between 6 and 8 pounds.
Some of the first Siamese cats seen outside of Thailand were solid bluish-brown in color. While they did not have the characteristic darker "points" on their ears, face, legs and tail, they resembled the Siamese in almost every other way. These solid-colored foreign shorthairs - sometimes called Swiss Mountain Cats - were documented in Europe and Great Britain back in the 1800s. They eventually lost popularity, as their pointed, blue-eyed cousins became much more fashionable. By the 1920s, the British Siamese Cat Club had specifically discouraged the breeding of any but blue-eyed pointed Siamese, and the solid chocolate cats all but disappeared.
It was not until the post-World War II era that cat fanciers renewed their efforts to recreate the self-colored brown oriental shorthair in Great Britain. In the early 1950s, a group of English cat fanciers began working together to restore the Havana Brown. The women credited with this effort include Mrs. Armitage Hargreaves of Laurentide Cattery, Mrs. Munroe-Smith of Elmtower Cattery, the Baroness Von Ullmann of Roofspringer Cattery, Mrs. Elsie Fisher of Praha Cattery and Mrs. Judd of Crossways Cattery. These breeders reportedly crossed a non-pedigreed black domestic shorthair with a Chocolate Point or Seal Point Siamese. This mating produced a solid chocolate-colored kitten and formed the foundation of today's Havana Brown. Crosses with Russian Blues were occasionally used in the breed's early development, presumably to add further refinement. In Great Britain and Europe, the solid brown shorthair became known as the Chestnut Brown Foreign Shorthair, the Oriental Chocolate or simply the Havana. Many matings were done with Siamese cats over the years, to stamp a truly oriental look into the English and European Havanas. Each of the different colors and patterns of the foreign shorthairs in Europe and Great Britain have different breed names, and they compete separately in cat show competitions.
The first Havana Browns, as they are known in America today, descended from Chestnut Brown Foreign Shorthairs that were exported from England to the United States in the mid-1950s. From that point forward, the Havana Brown began to diverge in type from its European counterparts, becoming less exotic and less angular in appearance. The Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) recognized the Havana Brown for registration in 1959 and granted it full Championship status in 1964. Some American breeders out-crossed their Havana Browns to Siamese and/or to Russian Blues. That practice ended in 1974, when the CFA closed the Havana registry to outcrosses. Then, in 1998, the CFA opened the Havana Brown registry to offspring of crosses with unregistered black or blue domestic shorthairs and certain colors of oriental shorthairs, in an attempt to broaden the rather limited gene pool. In 1999, the American registry was further opened to the offspring of Havana Browns and Seal Point or Chocolate Point Siamese.
How the Havana Brown got its name is a subject of some controversy. Many authorities insist that it was named after the breed of domestic rabbit of the same color. However, most fanciers of this breed prefer to believe that it was named because its glorious color resembles that of a fine Havana cigar.
Havana Browns are generally healthy cats. Uncommonly, they have been reported to develop blastomycosis, which is an infections condition seen in some areas that have sandy soil close to large bodies of water.
The Havana Brown is a graceful, affectionate and highly intelligent cat, with a big personality in a mid-sized package. It is similar in temperament to the Siamese, although it is less vocal and has a softer (and what many consider to be a more pleasing) voice. These are sociable, adaptable, friendly cats that crave human companionship and do not thrive when left unattended for long periods of time. However, they are not pushy or overly demanding of attention.
Havana Browns are playful, lively and full of fun. They are exceptionally agile, acrobatic and fleet on their feet and tend to like high places. Owners of this breed commonly find their cats on the top of the refrigerator or curled up on a high bookshelf or cabinet.
Havana Browns have a special talent for using their front paws in a number of unique ways. They like to pick things up. After holding and examining whatever object has become the focus of its attention, the Havana will toss the item into the air and then chase after it with a burst of speed and an endearingly gleeful expression. These cats use their paws to communicate with their owners and express affection through touch. They often reach out with their paws to get the attention of passersby, much like some dogs do. Havana Browns are dog-like in other ways, as well. For example, they commonly race to the front door to greet their owners or other visitors upon their arrival, which is not typical cat behavior.
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