Heritage of the Yorkshire Terrier Dog Breed

    Yorkshire Terrier illustration

    Heritage of the Yorkshire Terrier Dog Breed

    No breed of purebred dog is better or stronger than its heritage. The Yorkshire Terrier’s heritage originated in Great Britain. Most chronicles of the breed’s history explain that the Yorkshire Terrier was bred down in size. Both are facts that recorded history annihilates. The Yorkshire Terrier derives from the small working Terriers of the English and Scotch working people. The Waterside Terrier of Great Britain of the l4th century was a small dog, weighing 6 to 8 pounds, blue and tan in color with a silky coat, 6 to 7 inches long. He was an excellent ratter and was useful on the waterways, the transportation avenue of the times. This breed was crossed with the old English, or Manchester, silky-coated black and tan or blue and tan Terrier, which weighed around 5 pounds and was an exceptional ratter around the homestead. Ratting contests were a pastime often held by the local innkeepers, bringing patronage to their pubs. Minimal weight and a ratting ability were the most sought after points.

    Heritage of the Yorkshire Terrier Dog Breed
    Wee Dollar Princess, 1922 Collection of Joan Gordon and Janet Bennett

    The Industrial Revolution, in the later years of the l700s, added a new source for these desired points. The displaced crofters from Scotland migrated to the mills in Yorkshire, bringing with them their dale of Clyde, a small, silky-coated dog of various shades of blue (dark blue for perfection) with hair on the head and lower extremities slightly lighter than on the body color. Any approach to light straw color was not desirable, with weight not over 16 pounds.

    Heritage of the Yorkshire Terrier Dog Breed
    From a Color Lithograph of 45 “Leading Breeds of Dogs” by O. Poehlmann, copyright 1899 by F.E. Wright, New York. Collection of Jean Jones

    Along with these came their counterparts, the Clydesdale Terriers from the Glasgow region on the river Clyde, described in the last quarter of the 1800s as desired to be “a bright steel blue extending from the back of the head to the root of tail and on no account intermingled with any fawn, light or dark hairs. The head, legs and feet should be a clear, bright, golden tan free from grey, sooty or dark hairs. The tail should be very dark blue or black. Coat as long and straight as possible, free from all traces of curl or waviness, very glossy, and silky in texture.”
    A new force was appearing on the horizon, and ratting contests added shows for dogs most closely resembling a chosen model. The little dogs of Scotland and Yorkshire were known as Scotch Terriers, weighing from under 5 pounds to over 12 pounds. By 1870, these little ratting Terriers had been so well-developed by the people of the shire of York that they were given the name of Yorkshire Terrier.

    The Kennel Club of England was formed in 1873 by a group of gentlemen to provide the availability of recorded pedigrees and a code of rules for the guidance of dog shows as well as for the manner in which field trials should be conducted. The dogs were divided into two Groups: Non-Sporting and Sporting. Under Non-Sporting, the Yorkshire Terrier joined the selected 40 breeds as Broken-Haired Scotch and Yorkshire Terriers.

    Heritage of the Yorkshire Terrier Dog Breed
    Blue Dandy and Master Quality, bred by Henry Shannon. Collection of Joan Gordon and Janet Bennett

    Huddersfield Ben is considered to be the father of the breed. Born in 1865, the inbred offspring of a mother/son breeding, he possessed the rare traits to pass on his virtues to his progeny. He was a great sire, one of those animals who made the history of the breed and whose influence is apparent even generations after the progenitor has passed away.
    The Yorkshire Terrier was woven from these silky-coated, metallic blue and gold Terriers. Their glorious, silken tresses, their hardy bodies, and their intelligent, charming Terrier ways have brought them the manifest approval of mankind.

    Mrs. Foster’s Bradford Excel From The Illustrated London News, February 20, 1892. Collection of Jean Jones

    The first Yorkshire Terrier known to have been born in the US was John Marriot’s Jack, who was born in New York City in 1872. The breed has been recognized since the first dog shows, and by 1884, the year of the founding of the AKC, 33 breeders existed in nine states. Ch. Braford Harry, a great grandson of Huddersfield Ben, owned and imported by Mr. P. H. Coombs of Bangor, Maine, became the first Champion of Record in l890. In l893, Dr. N. Ellis Oliver of Chicago won a championship with Ch. Minnie York, making her the first female champion. The first American-bred champion was not recorded until 1908 when Mrs. Fred Senn of New York City won a title with Ch. Queen of the Fairies.
    The first licensed Specialty for Yorkshire Terriers was on February 12, 1918. It was held by the Yorkshire Terrier Association of America, one of the three breed clubs that were formed prior to theconception of our present breed club.

    As you love, show or breed your Yorkshire Terrier, remember that to go forward, you walk hand-in-hand with their past heritage.

    Heritage of the Yorkshire Terrier Dog Breed
    (A version of this article originally appeared in the YTCA Heritage, 1970 through 1983,which was published and copyrighted by the YTCA in 1985.)
    By Janet E. Bennett

    Janet E. Bennett

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