Yorkshire Terrier Blog

Yorkshire Terrier History (Yorkie History)

It is kind of a given that the Yorkshire Terrier breed has its roots in Yorkshire, England. But how exactly has this dog breed popped into existence?

In the present day, the Yorkie is a small and adorable lap dog. However, this breed has a long history behind it, and the modern Yorkie’s ancestors did not enjoy the comfort of the sofa all day long.

Let’s take a look at when the breed was formed and what it took for the Yorkshire Terrier to get where it is today.

Yorkie History: Beginnings

As the breed’s name suggests, Yorkshire Terriers were originally bred in Yorkshire, England.

The Industrial Revolution of the 1800s resulted in an influx of Scottish workers to England. Many men of the time traveled to their new lands to find work along with their versatile Terrier dogs. These small framed Terriers were known as the Broken Haired Scotch Terrier.

While dog breeders in those times did not keep detailed records (or any records in fact) of which Terriers were mixed to result in the Yorkie, we can make educated guesses based on the appearance of the now well-loved breed. It is a widely accepted theory that multiple dog breeds are part of the Yorkshire Terrier’s ancestral line.

The three main Terrier types brought from Scotland mixed with the English Terrier, which has resulted in the Waterside Terrier. In 1874, this mixed breed received its official name – the Yorkshire Terrier, which was named after the region it was bred in.

The Yorkie as a Ratter

In its humble beginnings, the Yorkshire Terrier had to work for its food. Namely, thanks to its small stature, this breed was used as a Ratter.

A ratter is a small-framed dog that is tasked with hunting down and killing rats and other types of vermin which are able to hide and live in small spaces – holes in the ground, tree trunks, tiny corners of the house no one has ever known to exist. Ratters helped workers control the rat population in mines and mills.

However, the Yorkie proved its bravery in other ways as well. Apart from minimizing the rat population, Yorkshire Terrier owners were often seen with their dogs enjoying rides in their pockets. But where were they going?
To hunt, obviously. Again, the Yorkshire Terrier’s small frame allowed it to corner small to medium-sized wild animals. Additionally, they have shown the true depths of their bravery as they have never backed down from a fight. 

Wild animals will get aggressive when they are cornered – both to save themselves and their young. Yorkshire Terriers had the courage to go after their prey and corner them, knowing that they would have to fight their way out of the problem. 

The way Yorkies held themselves during the hunt, it seemed to belong in nature. As their popularity grew, attention turned to their fluffy, silky fur and adorable size.

yorkshire terrier history

Yorkie History: Popularity

With their popularity, the Yorkshire Terrier was taken out of forests and put into living rooms. 

In the Victorian Era, Yorkies have managed to catch the public eye with their cute stature and silky fur. Their intelligence and the overall interest in small dog breeds – as they were considered to be of great value – made the Yorkie into a companion or lapdog. 

The breed turned from a Ratter into Royalty as the British royalty, nobles, and the upper classes began acquiring Yorkshire Terriers to be their pets. 

Thanks to its widespread popularity in England, it did not take long for the breed to make its way to America. The American Kennel Club officially registered the Yorkshire Terrier as a breed in 1878.

Famous Yorkies Through History

Over the 150 years since this breed has been given the name Yorkshire Terrier, many dogs have lived. However, some of them went down in Yorkie History.

Huddersfield Ben

Huddersfield Ben set in stone the foundation of the Yorkshire Terrier breed. He was quite a famous one as he has managed to win over 70 dog shows and Ratter contests. While he was on the larger side, he was known for producing litters of smaller dogs – as he was also a sought-after stud dog. Unfortunately, Ben only lived until the age of 6, but his legacy is still visible in the Yorkies being born around the world today.


Smokey was a World War II war hero. She was adopted by the 5th Air Force in the Pacific after American William Wynne found her in a shell hole. During her time with the troops, this Yorkie went on all of the missions with the soldiers. Additionally, she learned tricks to amuse the troops. Smokey’s heroic endeavors include carrying a wire through a seventy-foot pipe and parachuting down in her own specially made parachute from a thirty-foot pole. She spent her after-war years visiting veterans.

Yorkies: 1800 – 2000

The Yorkshire Terrier as a dog breed has gone through a lot. From its humble working beginnings to the lavish lifestyles of the rich and the famous, all the way to being war veterans, the breed has done it all.

This is how the Yorkshire Terrier, or Yorkie, we love and cherish today has spent the last 150 years. Working, enjoying life, being popular, and just being itself. 

The cuteness and intelligence of Yorkies is known and loved by many of their owners – even if some stubborn streaks are also included. However, while they might not know their own history, it is always interesting to learn a thing or two about your dog’s ancestors. Wouldn’t you agree?

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