If you took a trip back in time to 1870, you probably would have a hard time recognizing a Yorkshire Terrier. In about one hundred thirty years, the breed has gone through tremendous changes in their looks and in their functions. But the Yorkshire Terrier has adapted to the great changes that the Industrial Revolution brought to the economy and to family life. Yorkies back then weighed about thirty pounds and came in more colors than just blue and tan.
Like many breeds of dogs, the name does not reflect their point of origin. For example, German Shepherds were actually developed in France. And Australian Shepherds originated in America. The geographical difference isn’t nearly so big, but it is still significant. The main stock for today’s delicate, adorable and pampered Yorkshire Terrier came from the unforgiving landscape of Scotland.
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.
The Yorkshire Terrier was bred back then for a specific purpose and not for looks. Rats were a terrible problem in farms, homes and the Yorkshire mines. Small, brave terriers were found to be better than cats for quickly dispatching these rats.
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.