Yorkshire terriers are the most popular toy dogs in the world.
But they were not always seen as house pets and lap dogs.
The Yorkie breed has a long history.
And their beginnings are far less glamorous than the image they enjoy today.
It was not until the late Victorian area in England and Scotland that they became popular as house pets.
Originally, Yorkies were bred for utilitarian purposes. They have a true blue-collar origin.
Keep reading to learn what Yorkies were bred for originally. We’ve got a bunch of fascinating and little-known facts about the beginnings of this incredible breed of dogs.
- 1 What Were Yorkies Bred For?
- 1.1 The Yorkshire Terrier Breed Is Very Old
- 1.2 Yorkies Were Initially Bred To Be Scotland’s Exterminators
- 1.3 Illegal Rabbit Hunters
- 1.4 Assisting Miners
- 1.5 The Transition From Work Dog To Lapdog
- 1.6 War Dog And Therapy Dog
- 1.7 First Show Appearance And Official Breed Name
- 1.8 Father Of The Yorkshire Terrier Breed
- 1.9 Yorkies Helped Create Some Other Dog Breeds
- 1.10 Recognition By Various Kennel Clubs
- 1.11 Why Yorkies Were Bred: Related Questions
- 2 What Yorkies Were Bred For: Final Thoughts
What Were Yorkies Bred For?
Yorkshire Terriers were bred to be ratters. They were used on farms and in mills to catch and eliminate rats and rodents.
They were also used by poachers and illegal hunters to catch rabbits and foxes. Yorkies also helped miners transport wire through narrow tubing. It wasn’t until the late Victorian Era, that Yorkies became popular as lap dogs.
Let’s take a look at some interesting and little-known facts about the Yorkie’s origins and the reasons it was originally bred.
The Yorkshire Terrier Breed Is Very Old
The Yorkshire Terrier breed is not new at all. It was developed in Yorkshire, Northern England in the 1800s. Unfortunately, we cannot pinpoint the Yorkie’s exact origins since many of the breeds that were used in creating it are extinct today. Also, as breeds became extinct, they no doubt merged into others.
Weavers and miners used a combination of different working terriers to create the Yorkie. However, there is no clear documentation of the Yorkie’s exact bloodlines.
The Yorkie is believed to have obtained its characteristic blue-and-tan coloring from the Waterside Terrier (also known as the Otter Terrier). Other terriers like the Clydesdale Terrier, Old English Terrier, and Skye Terrier were also used in creating the breed. The Yorkie might have gotten its black-and-tan coloring from the English Black-and-Tan Terriers.
Some people believe that even the Maltese Terrier might have been used at some point in the Yorkie’s creation. However, this is highly doubtful since Maltese Terriers have white coats.
Yorkies Were Initially Bred To Be Scotland’s Exterminators
Yorkies might be a glamorous breed today, but they did not start that way. They were originally bred for the purpose of hunting and killing rats, especially in mines.
Weavers, miners, and farmers used the breed as exterminators to eliminate rats from homes, factories, mines, mills, and farms. Since weavers used Yorkies extensively, there is a joke that “Yorkies might have developed their silky coats thanks to the weavers’ silky looms.”
In competitions that were popular at the time, Yorkies were pitched against each other in tiny boxes called pits to kill rats. The Yorkie that killed the most rats in a specified period was crowned the winner.
Even today, the Yorkie has a high prey drive thanks to its terrier genes and rat-hunting origins. Do not be surprised if your Yorkie chases everything, from small animals to bicycles to cars. You will need to train your Yorkie from a young age to curb its high prey drive.
Illegal Rabbit Hunters
The Yorkie’s initial official task of rat-hunting was often accompanied by illegal rabbit hunting. The dog’s powerful sense of smell helped it easily track down rabbits.
It could instinctively hunt without any special training. Yorkies also helped hunters and poachers flush out rabbits from the dense vegetation, so that the small game animals could be caught in nets or shot by marksmen.
In the mines, Yorkies not only trapped and eliminated rats, but also helped transport wires through the tubing. Their shiny gold coats made it easier for miners to see them in the dark mines.
The Transition From Work Dog To Lapdog
After the Industrial Revolution, Yorkies transitioned from their humble blue-collar beginnings as ratters into European high society, where they were pampered as lap dogs. During the late Victorian era, Yorkies became immensely popular as fashionable pets.
War Dog And Therapy Dog
A Yorkie named Smoky became a war hero during the Second World War. A soldier rescued her after finding her abandoned on a battlefield.
Smoky accompanied the sick and wounded soldier to the hospital and comforted him while he recovered from his wounds. She then went on to assist other soldiers in a similar manner, thus becoming one of the first therapy dogs.
First Show Appearance And Official Breed Name
The Yorkie made an appearance in a bench show for the very first time in 1861. It was called the broken-haired Scotch Terrier and Toy Terrier. The official name, Yorkshire Terrier, was first used only after the Westmorland Show in 1870.
Father Of The Yorkshire Terrier Breed
Despite the lack of documentation about the breed, experts seem to agree on one thing: a Yorkie named Huddersfield Ben, born in Yorkshire in 1865, is the father of the modern Yorkie. Huddersfield was bred by one Mr. Eastwood and later owned by Mr. Foster.
Huddersfield was a champion ratter. He also won many dog shows and sired several Yorkshire Terriers. Many of the remarkable Yorkies of the present day have one or more of his crosses.
Yorkies Helped Create Some Other Dog Breeds
The Yorkshire Terrier was used in creating the Australian Silky Terrier and the Biewer Terrier. Check out our comparison of the Biewer Terrier and the Yorkie and Silky Terriers versus Yorkies to learn about their differences and to find out which breed is right for you, if you are considering one of them as a pet.
Recognition By Various Kennel Clubs
The British Kennel Club recognized the Yorkshire Terrier breed in 1874. The breed came to the United States in 1872 but the American Kennel Club only recognized it in 1885. The AKC placed the Yorkie in the Toy Group, although they are Terriers.
Why Yorkies Were Bred: Related Questions
Next, we will answer some common questions related to the beginnings of the Yorkshire terrier. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments below.
What Were Yorkies Bred To Hunt?
Yorkies were mainly bred to hunt rats, mice, and rabbits. They were used extensively in cotton mills and mines to exterminate vermin and rodents.
Can A Yorkie Catch A rabbit?
Yes, Yorkies are exceptionally good at hunting. They have the instinct to hunt and do not need any special training for it. They instinctively flush out rabbits from thick vegetation and hunters have even used the breed to catch larger game like foxes.
What Two Breeds Make A Yorkie?
There is no documentation regarding the breeds used in the Yorkie’s creation. However, it is likely that breeds like the English Black-and-Tan Terrier, the Clydesdale Terrier, the Otter Terrier, the Skye Terrier, and the Old English Terrier were used to create the Yorkie.
What Yorkies Were Bred For: Final Thoughts
Yorkshire terriers enjoy a glamorous image today, but their origins were firmly working class. They were originally bred to catch rats in mines, farms, mills, and other businesses.
And they were excellent at that job and did it well for many years. Eventually, their cuteness won out and they gained immense popularity as lap dogs. Today, they are one of the most popular dog breeds to have as pets, period.