Yorkshire Terrier Breed History

 
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Coronado Yorkies

Yorkshire Terrier Breed History

 

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How the breed was created in England
The Yorkshire Terrier Breed History

 

HOW THE YORKSHIRE TERRIER BREED WAS FORMED
Picture from Hutchinson's (England, circa 1935)

Picture from Hutchinson's (England, circa 1935)

Today's Yorkshire Terrier is very different from the early Yorkshire Terriers of the North of England. There are varying accounts of the origins of this breed and its development. I have tried to give the most accurate, and most widely agreed upon history of the Yorkshire Terrier assembled from books and publications written be reliable and experienced fanciers of the breed in the UK.

Before 1750, most British people worked in agriculture. The onset of the Industrial Revolution brought great changes to family life. In Yorkshire, small communities grew up around coal mines, textile mills and factories. People were drawn to these areas to seek work from as far away as Scotland. They brought with them a breed known as the Clydesdale Terrier, or Paisley Terrier. These were primarily working dogs, much larger than today's Yorkies, and were used for catching rats and other small mammals.

Clydesdale Terrier

One breed being largely responsible for the Yorkie is the Clydesdale terrier. This dog is a version of the Skye terrier, a dog with a long, straight, silky coat. While the Skye can also be considered a relative of the Yorkie, the Clydesdale is more specific in that it had many of the traits necessary to help create the Yorkshire terrier. They had the same coat texture and colors as the dog we know today. It was a rare breed in its day, and was extinct by the 1920s.

Waterside Terrier

The waterside terrier, also known as the otter terrier, had the Yorkie's signature black and tan colors, but unlike the Clydesdale, it sported a shorter, rough coat. It is a breed with history dating back to the 1500s. This breed evolved into what we know today as the Airedale terrier, a much bigger dog with a short, wavy coat.

Old English Terrier

The Old English terrier is another old breed. The variety that contributed to the Yorkie breed is the toy rough and broken-haired. Yorkies were originally shown under the name of this variety until they were given their own name. Today, the only variety that exists under AKC standards is known as an excellent hunting companion.

These terriers were inevitably crossed and it is also thought that at some stage the Maltese Terrier was crossed with these breeds to help produce long coats. As the outline of the Maltese resembles that of many of today's Yorkies, this is very likely. Unfortunately, no records in the form of Pedigrees exist to confirm these crosses (possibly because of the poor level of literacy in these times), but a great deal is known about the type of people who bred them, and there can be no doubt that early breeders had a very clear idea of the type of dogs they were attempting to produce. We can see in today's Yorkies how strongly the terrier temperament has been retained.

Early Yorkshire Terriers and Breeders

One of the most famous early Yorkies was Huddersfield Ben, bred by a Mr. Eastwood and owned by Mr. M.A. Foster. Huddersfield Ben was born in 1865 and died in 1871, and can be said to be the father of the modern Yorkie. In his day "Ben" was a very popular stud dog who won many prizes in the show ring, and had tremendous influence in setting breed type.
 

Huddersfield Ben was born in 1865Huddersfield Ben pedigree

 

In 1874 the first Yorkies were registered in the British Kennel Club stud book. They were referred to as "Broken Haired Scottish Terriers" or "Yorkshire Terriers", until 1886, when the Kennel Club recognised the Yorkshire Terrier as an individual breed. The first Yorkshire Terrier breed club was formed in 1898. During these early years, one who greatly influenced the breed was Lady Edith Wyndham-Dawson. Lady Edith was secretary of the Yorkshire Terrier Club for some time and did much early work for the improvement of the breed. Later, a Miss Palmer, who was Lady Edith's kennel maid, started her own Yorkie kennel under the "Winpal" prefix. When Lady Edith returned to Ireland at the start of World War I, Miss Palmer went to work for Mrs. Crookshank of the famous Johnstounburn prefix, a name with a long list of champions, which is now in the care of Daphne Hillman, who was entrusted with this prefix, and still uses it along with her own Yorkfold prefix.



Many others have worked very hard since these early years to improve this breed, and to these breeders much is owed. Many of their early dogs became the foundation stock of kennels in North America and elsewhere.

Yorkies Today:

The Yorkshire Terrier now flourishes throughout the world and the early breeders who were instrumental in producing the diminutive toy terrier of today would surely be astounded at the success of this delightful breed. In 1932 only 300 Yorkies were registered with the British Kennel Club, in 1957 the number was 2313, and in the 1970's Yorkies were the most popular breed in Britain. This trend continued until 1990 with a record of 25,665 Yorkies registered. However, this figure has now begun to drop, and in 1994 there were 12343 registrations, with the Yorkie being recorded as the 7th most popular breed.

The most famous Yorkshire Terrier of modern times in the UK was CH Blairsville Royal Seal. He was by CH Beechrise Surprise and his dam was CH Blairsville Most Royale. "Tosha" to his friends (of whom he had many) was bred, owned and handled by Mr. Brian Lister and his wife, Rita. Tosha was definitely a 'King' among dogs and no one who saw him flowing around the ring could ever forget him. His prescence could be felt, even by a complete novice, and many say that just thinking of him brings a lump to the throat. During his show career Tosha won 50 CCs, all under different judges. He was 12 times Best In Show at all breed CH shows, and 16 times Reserve Best In Show. He took 33 Group wins, and went Reserve Best In Show at Cruft's in 1978, just as his dam had done before him. Tosha was Top Dog, all breeds, for two consecutive years. He became the sire of many prolific Champions and still features in the pedigree of many of today's Yorkies.

Ironically, when Royal Seal died, aged 15, in 1988, that year his breed record for the highest number of CCs in the breed was broken by Osman Sameja's CH Ozmilion Dedication "Jamie", who finished his show career with 52 CCs, although a few of these were duplicated under the same judges. Jamie also has two all breed CH show wins, and his many Toy group wins helped him to win the Top Dog title in 1987. The Ozmilion kennel is the top Yorkshire Terrier kennel of all time, and holds the record for the number of Champions produced.

Following on from this, Jamie's grandson, Ch. Ozmilion Mystification broke another record in 1997 by being the first Yorkie ever to win the coveted Best In Show award at the most prestigious dog show, Cruft's. "Justin" was retired after this event, having to his credit a total 51 CCs, 48 with Best of Breed, 22 Group wins, 9 Club BIS, and at All Breed Shows, 7 RBIS and 3 BIS awards. He was Top Yorkie from 1994-1997, Top Dog All Breeds 1996, Crufts Supreme Champion 1997, and Pedigree Chum Champion overall Stakes winner 1997.

Some record of achievement! In this same year, the great "Jamie" died.

Yorkies in North America:

The first Yorkie to become an American Champion was Bradford Harry, who gained his title in 1889. He was the great-great-grandson of Huddersfield Ben, and was imported from England by P.H. Coombs of Bangor, Maine. Some of the most notable early American kennels are Janet Bennet and Joan Gordon (Wildweir) who imported many English Yorkies, including lines from Johnstounburn, Haringay and Buranthea. The Mayfield-Barban kennels owned by Anne Seranne and Barbara Wolferman have also done much to improve the breed.

Whilst CH Blairsville Royal Seal dominated the British show scene, his American counterpart, CH Cede Higgens was making his mark in the USA. These two dogs were both shown during the same era, and were inevitably, constantly being compared. However, although they were both outstanding specimens of the breed, those who had seen them both, agreed that they were totally different in type. Bred by C.D. Lawrence, Cede Higgens was closely line-bred to the Clarkwyns and Wildweir lines, by CH. Wildweir Pomp 'N Circumstance.

Another dog who had significant influence on the North American Yorkies was CH Finstal Royal Icing, bred by Sybil Pritchard in the UK and exported to the Jentre kennels after Sybil died. He is by CH Finstal Johnathan, who still has winning progeny in the UK today. Johnathan was looked after by Wendy White (Wenwytes) after Sybil's death, until he died in 1994 aged about 17.

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