The History of Yorkshire Terriers

The Yorkshire Terrier is a small and spunky breed that has gone from rat dog to fancy dog throughout the decades, and is adored by millions across the world today. The History of Yorkshire Terriers began more than 150 years ago during the Industrial Revolution.


Terriers that contributed to the Yorkshire Terrier breed

During the Industrial Revolution, some Scottish laborers sought and found work in a large County known as Yorkshire in Northern England. Many of these laborers brought their terrier dogs along with them. Among them were Paisley, Clydesdale, Skye, and Waterside Terriers. Those breeds were mixed with Manchester Terriers, Broken-Haired Terriers, and Rough- Coated toy terriers. The mixes were commonly referred to as Broken Haired Scotch Terriers, but were eventually renamed Yorkshire Terriers after the County they originated from.

In 1874 The breed was recognized by the Kennel Club in a stud book, but it wasn’t until 1885 that they were officially recognized as a separate breed from the Broken Haired Scottish Terriers.


Yorkshire Terriers had a job and provided entertainment

The early Yorkshire Terriers, and the terriers that made up the Yorkie breed, were mostly used to rid homes and clothing mills of rats. However, laborers enjoyed using the terriers for entertainment by filling a small pit with several rats, and taking bets on how many rats their terrier could kill within a specific time limit.

In 1859 the very first dog show was held, and it changed the course of History for what the Yorkshire Terrier would be known for from that point on. Once the wealthy women caught eye of these beautiful dogs in show form, the purpose for breeding them changed from rat dogs to lap dogs. Owners began breeding for longer and silkier coats, smaller size, and striking coloring in hopes of selling them to the wealthy.

Huddersfield Ben, “father of the breed,” was arguably the most famous Yorkshire Terrier in History. In the late 1860s he was seen throughout Great Britain in several Dog shows and, through his offspring, defined the look of the breed that we recognize today. People went wild for the looks of this show winning dog, and the demand for them began to increase.

Smoky – The WWII War Dog

Another famous Yorkie in our History was Smokey the WWII War Dog. In 1944 an American soldier stumbled across a young adult Yorkshire terrier inside a fox hole in the New Guinea jungle. The dog was later sold to Corporal William A. Wynne and at some point was given the name Smoky. Smoky accompanied Wynne throughout the rest of the war, even through combat fights in the Pacific. Smoky even saved Wynne’s life on a transport ship when it was under attack from enemy fire. She guided Wynne to duck out of the way just as eight men were struck and killed next to him. She was a hero and in Wynne’s words “an angel from a foxhole.”

Smoky went on to do many more things for the military during the war. Including running a telegraph wire through a 70ft long pipe that was 8 inches in diameter. Dirt that got into the piping at the joints caused Smoky to have to squeeze through even smaller openings in some sections of the pipe. When Smoky came out on the other side Wynne and his crew were so ecstatic. They praised and petted the pup continuously for a whole five minutes. This dog was able to accomplish in just a few minutes what would have taken a digging crew three days to complete. Those three days could have been enough time for enemy planes to find the construction crew, and bomb the 40 planes on site and 250 men working there. Smokey’s brave endeavor through the pipeline saved precious time, and possibly many lives.

After the war, Smoky spent ten years entertaining millions of people on live television and in live performances with her incredible tricks that she had learned throughout her time with Wynne. She was even able to walk a tightrope while blindfolded! She also served as a therapy dog and provided wonderful entertainment in the veteran hospitals, showing off her endless bag of tricks to the patients. Smoky went down as the first therapy dog on record according to an Animal Planet investigation.

The Yorkshire Terrier breed went down in popularity in the early 1940s and it is believed that the incredible stories of Smoky the war dog is what increased the breeds popularity again.

Smoky passed away at approximately 14 years of age, but she will never be forgotten. A beautiful memorial was built at her resting place.


Yorkies in Hollywood

In the 1960s Audrey Hepburn introduced the Yorkshire Terrier to Hollywood. Her beloved pup, “Mr. Famous”, even appeared with her in one of her films. Her little lap dog sparked the desire for other celebrities to have their own, and naturally, popularity of the breed among the masses, skyrocketed. Since that period, they continued to rise on the popularity charts, until they reached their highest point in 2006 boasting the position of 2nd most popular breed, right after the Labrador Retriever. Since then, they have remained in the top 10 and are currently holding the #9 position.


Yorkies Today.

Yorkshire Terriers today are still very popular among celebrities. Tom Brady, Kristen Cavallari, Hilary Duff, and Orlando Bloom being just a few that own one of these lovable dogs.

Although Yorkies have proven to be compassionate companions and lap dogs for celebrities and the masses alike, they still have a lot of their fierce, and feisty roots buried deep into their DNA. Yorkies are quick and nimble, and do very well in agility and therapy work. They are a large dog, trapped in a tiny little body, and they are not afraid to show it!

The Breed has come a long way

Yorkshire Terriers may have come from several breeds, but they certainly are a breed of their very own with a large personality to go with it. They have been helpful and entertaining companions since the beginning, and remain that way today. Their playful, yet loving characteristics, and small size have made them incredibly popular as pets, and they make wonderful additions to families everywhere.


Learn more about this breed and their Characteristics HERE!

Find the best foods to feed to your Yorkie HERE.


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