Where the Yorkie Name Came From: An Origin Story

The Yorkie Origin Story shows Huddersfield Ben and Katie, two of the first known Yorkshire Terriers.

Have you ever wondered where the Yorkie got its name? These beloved pets have an extraordinary history, and I’m excited to share their origin story and where the Yorkie name developed.

The Yorkshire Terrier was named after its origin location, Yorkshire, England. Initially called a Broken Haired Scotch Terrier and then a Toy Terrier, the breed received its official name of Yorkshire Terrier in 1874. They have become known as Yorkies for short.

But what’s interesting is learning about the breeds that became the Yorkie and their incredible historical journey. In fact, if you want to learn about them, I wrote a complete guide on Yorkie breeds. Let’s talk about the breeds that ultimately made up and became the Yorkies we know and love today.

What Breeds Produced the Yorkshire Terrier?

The Yorkie’s story begins with its ancestors. Unfortunately, breeders did not keep good records in the late 1800s, so no one is 100% sure exactly what breeds were used for breeding a Yorkshire Terrier.

Based on what records were found and by simply comparing the Yorkie to similar dogs of the late 1800s, it is thought that the Yorkie came from three specific dogs:

  • Clydesdale Terrier
  • Paisley Terrier
  • Skye Terrier
Breeds that made up the Yorkshire Terrier including the Paisley Terrier, Clydesdale Terrier, and Skye Terrier.

These three dogs originated in Scotland and were primarily bred in Scotland and Northern England. They are all very closely related. So, what are the differences between the three? I put together this chart to break down the primary characteristic differences between the three:

ClydesdaleLong silky hair. Similar in size to the Skye Terrier.
PaisleySlightly smaller than Clydesdale and Skye. Bred for show and pets.
SkyeSoft wooly coat with muscular legs.

Other breeds that may be an ancestor of the Yorkshire Terrier include the Black and Tan Manchester Terrier, Dandie Dinmont Terrier, Leeds Terrier, and the Maltese. But no one knows for sure.

The Origin of the Yorkshire Terrier

So now we know what dogs the Yorkie may have come from. But how did we get the Yorkshire Terrier from these other terrier breeds? Before answering this question, it’s important to understand the original purpose of the Yorkshire Terrier.

During the Industrial Revolution, there was plenty of work in Northern England in mills, fields, and mines. However, these jobs had a common problem: mice, rats, and other small vermin. To overcome this, Scottish workers who migrated to Northern England bred fearless small dogs. They brought these small dogs with them to Northern England.

Despite their small size, their incredible bravery made them highly effective in hunting vermin. They would have no problem successfully going up against larger, unwanted animals.

Over time, word got out of these incredible dogs, and people wanted them to show or to have as pets. But you may be surprised to know that the Yorkshire Terrier was not yet the name of this new breed.

The Yorkie Wasn’t Always Called a Yorkie

When these dogs were first bred, they had several names over only a few years.

  • Broken Haired Toy Terrier
  • Rough Coated toy Terrier
  • Broken Haired Scotch Terrier.

In 1861, the breed began showing as a Broken Haired Scotch Terrier. The Yorkshire Terrier was the official name by 1874. It was named after where it was first bred in Yorkshire, England.

Speaking of show dogs, allow me to introduce you to the dog that has become known as “The Father of Yorkshire Terriers.”

Huddersfield Ben: The Father of Yorkies

Huddersfield Ben was linebred and born in 1865. His mother, Lady, was also linebred. Linebred means that there was a mother-son siring. M.A. Foster was his owner.

A sketch of Huddersfield Ben.

He was a very accomplished show dog, winning 74 awards during his short lifetime. For this reason, he was a highly sought-after stud who sired many dogs. Despite being over 10 lbs, his offspring were often under 7 lbs.

While you may think he was most famous for winning many awards, Huddersfield Ben’s true legacy was producing most of the foundation stock of the Yorkie we know today.

Unfortunately, Huddersfield Ben met an early death at only six years old when a carriage ran him over.

His popularity also piqued the interest of Royalty and the upper class.

Rising Popularity During the Victorian Era

Small dogs quickly became popular during the Victorian Era among Royalty and the upper class. So, it’s no surprise that Yorkies were quickly gaining popularity as pets and companions.

And, of course, when you see Royalty and the upper class owning these dogs, the middle and lower class naturally didn’t want to miss out on the growing trend.

As time passed, these hunters became companions and lapdogs to many families. It wasn’t long before America took notice.

The Yorkie’s Journey to America

With the growing popularity of Yorkies and the reputation of Huddersfield Ben, there was an increasing interest in the Yorkshire Terrier in the United States.

The Yorkie first started to become popular in the United States in 1872. It wasn’t long before the American Kennel Club (AKC) took notice. Despite their strict guidelines, the Yorkshire Terrier was officially accepted as a registered breed of the AKC in 1878.

The Yorkie has a proud history through the years, and today is one of the most popular breeds in America.

Key Origin Dates in the 1800s of the Yorkshire Terrier

There are certainly some key dates that had an impact on the Yorkie becoming what it is today.

  • The mid-1800s – The Industrial Revolution is at its peak, and Scottish migraters to Northern England begin to breed small, fearless dogs to rid them of their problems with mice, rats, and other vermin.
  • 1861 – The Broken Haired Scotch Terrier (now known as the Yorkshire Terrier) begins to show.
  • 1865 – The 74-time award-winning show dog, Huddersfield Ben, is born.
  • 1871 – Huddersfield Ben passes away, but not before he sired what is now known to be the majority of Yorkshire Terriers.
  • 1872 – The Yorkie begins to make its way to the United States
  • 1874 – The new breed became first known and registered in shows as a Yorkshire Terrier.
  • 1878 – The AKC officially registers the Yorkshire Terrier.

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