January 16, 2018

Yorkie 101: The History Of The Yorkshire Terrier

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by Susan Bailey

Today’s Yorkshire Terrier is a far different dog than when the breed appeared in 1865. In over just one hundred years, the size has been greatly reduced from an average weight of thirty pounds to a mere seven pounds today. And the trend is to have the Yorkie (as the breed is affectionately called) get even smaller, with adults tipping the scales at a mere three pounds. But who knows? Perhaps in the future, there will be a demand for the Yorkshire Terrier to grow back into a thirty pound dog.

Back in the 1870′s, word was getting around about the great pups from a sire named Huddersfield Ben, who was born in 1865. Huddersfield Ben was considered an ideal dog – a champion ratter as well as being friendly and handsome. Any dog that resembled Huddersfield Ben had to have been from Yorkshire, where Ben lived. Yorkshire dog breeders kept their breeding methods secret so they could be assured of buyers. His puppies eventually became known as Yorkshire Terriers.

Back in 1865 – the year of Huddersfield Ben’s birth – dogs were bred to exhibit useful qualities, not for their looks. There also was not much interest in keeping breeds pure. There are very few accurate records of dog breeding at this time. It is also thought that dog breeding was considered such a secret business that no records were kept for fear of the knowledge getting out to competitors. Yorkshire Terriers got their name because the breed was perfected in Yorkshire.

Yorkshire Terriers were bred to be specialists in killing rats. They were (and still are) thought to be more reliable at killing mice and rats than cats. They were also bred to bark when they found their prey and to let their masters know where they are. The mining industry thrived in Yorkshire at this time – and the mines were full of rats. They were until the Yorkshire Terriers got to work.

Back then, dogs went everywhere with their masters. A Yorkshire Terrier would go to work in the mines and come home with his master to the family. The family found the Yorkies to be great companions and excellent watchdogs. The coats became even softer and silkier. Eventually, the men went to work without the dogs and the dogs became pampered family members. The breed needed very little exercise, looked spectacular and was very trainable.

It is thought that the sire Huddersfield Ben weighed about thirty pounds. As the need for working dogs decreased, the demand for small dogs increased. The Yorkshire Terrier became increasingly smaller and smaller.

The hot trend is top breed Yorkies that tip the scales at three pounds, which has lead to concerns about the health of breeding such small dogs. The Yorkshire Terrier, as of 2006, is the second most popular purebred dog in America.

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