The naming of this all-brown cat created in 1952 in England is one of the most confusing cat naming processes that I have encountered. There are two theories as to how the cat was named. The first is that name was inspired by the color of Havana cigars. The second is that the name was borrowed from rabbit breeders. There is an Havana breed of rabbit of the same color. Interestingly, this breed of rabbit was named after the Havana Brown color of Cuban cigars. So no matter how we dissect the name it does originate in the color of a Cuban cigar.
In the late 1950s it was decided to rename the breed in order to dissociated it from the impression that the breed had originated in Cuba. The renaming was done against the wishes of the breeders of this cat. The new name was decided to be: Chestnut Brown Foreign Shorthair or a shortened version, Chestnut Brown. Moving forward, in around 1970, the original name began to be reused again and it stuck. Clearly the rather long and tortuous new name was unpopular.
Early versions of the breed which fizzled out were the Swiss Mountain Cat which was an all brown Siamese shown in 1894 and the Brown Cat which was shown in 1930.
There are also two discarded names of the breed which were Berkshire Brown and the Reading Brown. These names are based upon the geographical location where the breed was first created. The names were rejected in favor of Havana. Finally, there was a third rejected name used early on which was Oriental Chocolate Cat.
This cat breed is very attractive but not well-known. Havana is the capital of Cuba, a Caribbean country under communist rule.
I am indebted to Dr Desmond Morris for researching the above and writing about it in his excellent feline encyclopaedia: Cat World.