Yorkshire Terriers have long been labeled as the preferred companions of well-heeled, older women who wouldn’t deign to live in a building without a doorman, and who can’t bear to be late for the local arts fundraiser. Yet there aren’t enough society dames out there to account for the Yorkie’s popularity. Truth is, he appeals to a wide range of dog-lovers, thanks to his shoe-button eyes and soft-to-the-touch, silky coat.
The Yorkie is alert, trainable, and insatiably curious, making him a quintessential “big dog in a little dog’s body.” Typically weighing less than seven pounds, Yorkies are the darlings of the purse-dog set, but they also need ample time on the ground. He’ll happily take long walks, and he can be quite a determined — and boisterous — watchdog, as well.
His tough-minded personality aside, the Yorkie isn’t a good choice for families with small children because his own small size puts him at risk of injury. He can also be nippy with overzealous kids, aggressive with other dogs, and obstinate about house-training. Consistent and structured training is a must for the Yorkie, who needs to learn that he can’t challenge every dog that crosses his path. The other obstacle: This naturally yappy guy can never be fully silenced.
The Yorkshire Terrier’s bold nature descends directly from his ancestors, which include the long-extinct Clydesdale Terrier and the Black-and-Tan Terrier. Scottish weavers who migrated south to England during tough economic times took their terriers with them to York, Manchester, and Leeds. The weavers ultimately crossbred their little terriers with local dogs, creating the small but feisty terrier known today for its shimmering cloak of blue and gold.
Yorkies proved to be fine ratters in the English woolen mills, a skill they retain to this day. As they became more and more of a companion dog, breeders began to select for smaller size. The dog considered to be the foundation sire of the modern Yorkie, Huddersfield Ben, was born in 1865. At the time, the dogs were called Broken Haired Scotch Terriers or Toy Terriers, but by 1870, they were known as Yorkshire Terriers, after the region where they were first produced. It wasn’t long before these tough ratters morphed into domestic sidekicks for fashionable ladies, and began appearing at dog shows as “fancy terriers.”
By 1872, Yorkshire Terriers had made their way to the U.S., where they quickly became upper-crust favorites and even political mascots. The Nixon family shared the White House with their beloved Yorkie, Pasha. The Yorkshire Terrier currently holds third place among the breeds registered by the American Kennel Club.