Home / Breed Information / Yorkshire Terrier History and Origin – What Were Yorkies Bred For?

Yorkshire Terrier History and Origin – What Were Yorkies Bred For?

Yorkshire Terrier History

Yorkshire terrier history - photo

The Yorkshire Terrier is one of the most popular breeds in the world today.

This is one really interesting breed, and its history is as interesting as the breed itself.

The name “Yorkie” is a short commonly used name for Yorkshire terrier. It is known that the name of the breed comes from its original location.

The Yorkshire Terrier evolved from the combination of several small Terrier breeds forming these beautiful and unique dogs that they are today.

The Yorkshire Terrier receives its present name in 1874, before that it was known under the name Toy Terrier, as well as the Broken Haired Scotch Terrier.

The breed was originally used as a hunting dog for some types of small vermin.

After several decades, this breed becomes one of the most popular toy breeds, but it has a unique history before this happened (read below).

Yorkie’s History Begins in England

Picture of a Yorkshire terrier with writing - Yorkie history

A few other types of Terriers were combined in order to get the Yorkshire Terrier as a new breed, and the dog receives its name from the region in England, in which it was bred for the first time.

The Industrial Revolution in England begun in the middle of the 1800s. At that time there were many mill workers and miners who traveled to England from Scotland in the attempt of finding work.

When they came to England, they brought with them small dogs, which were then known under the name Broken Haired Scotch Terriers.

Yorkie Origin

Which are the dog breeds that are the ancestors of the Yorkshire Terrier?

Unfortunately, there are not any records kept about the exact origin of the breed and it is not known which exactly are the Terrier breeds that took part in the combination so that the present Yorkshire Terrier is achieved.

And that is why the breeds thought to be the ancestors of the Yorkie are considered to be such on the base of the appearance of the breed.

There were three Terriers who were brought to England from Scotland at that time: Clydesdale, Paisley, Skye.

The Waterside Terrier was bred when they were mixed with the England Terrier.

Actually when the breed was created, during the early days of its appearance, all dogs, which were in the shape of a Terrier, and had this specific look of blue color on the long coat of the body and silver coloring of the head and the legs, were all called a Yorkshire Terrier.

Huddersfield Ben – “The Father of The Yorkshire terrier”

The type of the breed was defined in the 1860s, when a little Yorkie, owned by a woman, living in Yorkshire, participated at a dog show.

The dog’s name was Huddersfield Ben. And it became one rally famous dog. George Earl even painted a portrait of him.

Huddersfield Ben was one of the most remarkable dogs of any dog breed, one of the best stud dogs, an amazing specimen of its breed with excellent qualities.

This dog is so important and famous for the Yorkshire Terrier breed, that it is still called to be “the father of the breed”.

What Were Yorkies Bred For?

With the small size of Yorkshire terriers, you might wonder what job could they possibly have at all, except companion and lapdog?

But with this breed, there is more than you see.

Yorkies are brave, confident, and fearless.

Actually they are like big dogs in small bodies. And all the jobs that these dogs were used for in the past prove that statement.

Let’s see what were Yorkies bred for:


Back in the early days of the breed, the Yorkie was used as a Ratter dog. A ratter is a hunting dog that was sent to chase small vermin and rats, hiding in small places.

The dog was used a lot by miners and mill workers, going down in the mines and the mill buildings with its owners, taking care of the rats.

Rat infestation was a very big problem in the mid-1800s. During this period rats destroyed crops, carried deadly diseases, and made it very hard for the business in England.

That’s when Yorkshire terriers come to help with that problem. They were purposely developed to deal with rats. It turns out that they were one of the best in this job.

Note that during this period Yorkshire terriers were bigger than they are now.

The Yorkie is not only a ratter

But the Yorkie was one really skilled and intelligent dog and did much more than just being a ratter.

It used to do such a great job when hunting down small animals that hunters started to carry the little dogs in their pockets when going for hunting foxes, badgers or other types of small or medium-sized wild animals.

Yorkshire Terriers became really famous with their courage, they chased their prey without any hesitation, despite all.

Wild animals can become really aggressive when they have to defend their place, and especially their young ones, but this seemed not to bother the little dog at all.

It had such a great success in hunting and it seemed that the forest was really it’s calling.

Yorkshire terriers in America

In 1861, dogs of the breed started participating in dog shows in England, and the name of the breed back then was Broken Haired Scotch Terrie.

In 1874, the breed received its official name, which it is known until the present day – Yorkshire Terrier.

In 1872, the breed made its way to America, and the Yorkie was officially registered by the AKC in 1878.

The Popularity of the Breed

The dog quickly turned from a hunting dog into a companion dog during the Victorian Era.

English royalty and upper-class societies became really fond of the dog, and they loved it for the small structure and the unique appearance that the dog had. During that time, small dogs were considered to be really valuable.

When the breed became really popular in England, it was brought to America and carried out to have great success there, too.


At the beginning of the 20th century, the popularity of the dog was not so big, but this changed again during World War II.

It was then when Smokey, a Yorkshire Terrier became a war hero with its service at the 5th Air Force in the Pacific. She made a notable service and made the breed quite popular again.

Smokey was found by the American soldier William Wynne, in a hole in New Guinea, near the Japanese lines. She did not understand commands in English or Japanese language, but she became part of the troop.

After that, she went to over 150 air raids and 12 sea missions. She was a really courageous dog. She even survived a treacherous typhoon at Okinawa.

She quickly became the favorite member of the troop, amusing the soldiers with different tricks that she learned.

Her skills were really helpful not just for entertaining, but the dog was able to carry a telegraph wire through a 70-foot, eight-inch pipe to help the Signal Corps.

Smokey also had to jump from a 30-foot tower, using a parachute that was specially made for her.

The man who found her, William Wynne, became the owner of the dog when the war was over and they both spent the rest of their life after the war, visiting veterans in hospitals.

The Yorkshire Terrier Participate in the Formation of a New Breed

The Yorkshire Terrier became a founder of a new breed.

It is known as the Biewer Terrier. The dog appeared in 1984. It was really rare in color and it was named Biewer Yorkshire terrier at first.

After 30 years, the Brewer was recognized as a separate breed by the AKC.

What are Yorkies Bred for Today

Nowadays we can say that hunting and ratting for Yorkies are jobs from the past.

Today these dogs are bred mostly for companion and family dogs. They are also good playmates for bigger children.

Even though they are not used for hunting today, they still have hunting instincts. That’s why some Yorkies might show aggression towards different small animals like small cats, hamsters, or guinea pigs.

If you have other pets you should keep that in mind and socialize the Yorkie with the other pets from the first day you bring the puppy at home.

Today the Yorkshire terrier is one of the most popular toy breeds in lots of countries like the US, UK, Australia, Italy, and many more.

Of course, there is a reason for this popularity and this is the combination of size, appearance, and personality of these wonderful dogs.

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