Some 6,000 years ago on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs, hunting dogs were depicted and some of the pictures of the short-legged dogs could well be the ancestors of Terriers. King Henry VIII is known to have kept small, silky, long-haired terriers and these particular dogs were actually mentioned in the first ever published book on dogs “Of Englishe Dogges”. This book was written by Henry VIII’s physician, Johannes Cains. The Yorkie also has links to the Highland Terrier of Scotland.
At the time of the Industrial Revolution, Scottish workers came down to the Midlands in search of work and many brought their Clydesdale/Paisley Terriers, amongst other terriers, with them. These dogs became known as Skye Terriers. The Clydesdale, a breed now extinct, was a much larger dog than the current Yorkie, but still had the steel grey, long silky coat and a golden tan head.
The Yorkies’ line can be traced to a mating between a Clydesdale and a skye-type terrier, in the mid 19th Century. This produced a dog known as “Huddersfield Ben” and is considered to be the father of the breed, although his offspring were not the small size Yorkshire Terrier we know and love today; these were being bred in parallel by another breeder. However, we do know the Yorkie’s heritage basically stems from the industrial heartland of northern England, and were bred by Miners to eliminate the rats that infested the mine shafts.
In the mid to late 19th Century, there was still a tendency to crop the dog’s ears, but thankfully this became illegal by the beginning of the 20th Century. The first Yorkie Club was started in 1898 and this club put together what is considered to be the breed standard. Also, in the late 19th Century a mating between the Australian Terrier and the Yorkie resulted in a dog that looks very similar to today’s Yorkie, and is known as the Australian Silky Terrier. This Australian version is slightly heavier and can weigh up to 9lb although the height is the same (up to 23cm or 9” in height).