The Evolution Of The Yorkshire Terrier

Published: 24th January 2008
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In 2006, the American Kennel Club announced that the Yorkshire Terrier was the second most popular purebred dog in America. They are poised to become the nation's most popular dog - even over the ubiquitous Labrador Retriever. Where did the Yorkshire Terrier come from? What breeds went into making it? And why did it get to be so popular?

Despite being named after a Northern county in England, the direct ancestor stock of today's Yorkshire Terrier came from Scotland. When Scottish weavers lost work because of the rise of factory made clothing, they had to move south and brought their dogs with them. These dogs were Scottish Terriers, Paisley Terriers, Clydesdale (or Clyde) Terriers, the latter two breeds are now extinct. The Scottish dogs bred with the local terrier breeds, thought to have been Skye Terriers, Maltese and the now extinct breeds of Black and Tan English and Waterside. The eventual result was Huddersfield Ben, considered the fore sire of the entire Yorkshire Terrier breed.

The ancestors from Scotland were called, appropriately enough, the Scottish Terrier and the Clydesdale (or Clyde) Terrier (which is now an extinct breed). It is thought the also extinct Scottish breed the Paisley Terrier made a significant genetic contribution to the origins of today's Yorkshire Terrier. Scottish weavers became suddenly unemployed during the Industrial Revolution and moved south to the rough English county of Yorkshire in order to find work. They brought all of their families with them - including their dogs.

The Scottish dogs then inevitably wooed the blushing English roses of the local canine population. It is thought those breeds were the Black and Tan English Terrier (also now extinct), the Skye Terrier and the Waterside Terrier (which is - you guessed it - also extinct). According to the majority of Yorkshire Terrier information sources, the founding father of the breed, Huddersfield Ben, was born in Yorkshire in 1865. He became one of the most admired dogs of his day.

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. Just one hundred years after Huddersfield Ben's birth, the breed standard listed the weight of a Yorkie to be "no more than seven pounds". The current trend is to breed them even smaller. Who knows how small the Yorkshire Terrier will be by 2065?

Susan Bailey is a life long collector of books about the history of dog breeds, including the Yorkshire Terrier. The Yorkshire Terrier has a very sketchy history at best. There would be a lot fewer abandoned Yorkies if people studied more Yorkshire Terrier information before they bring a puppy home.

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