The Yorkshire Terrier is one of the best-known lap dogs in the Western world, and she is coveted by royalty, carried by celebrities and pampered as if she's both. It wasn't so long ago that she was none of this, however, for she didn't exist until the middle of the 19th century. Nevertheless, the Yorkshire Terrier history is a short but action-packed one. While the name may make you think it's silly to wonder where Yorkies are from, it's not so simple as Yorkshire, England.
This dog and her forebears were used by miners, millers and factory workers in England for the grubby gig of rat-catching — a dirty job but one that was absolutely required in the early, dirty and disease-ridden days of the Industrial Revolution. She was neither the first nor the only dog to be put to this task. There were a number of breeds that were crossed to produce the Yorkshire Terrier, and most of these breeds came from Scotland. As factories in England opened en masse, they needed workers. As those workers moved from rural areas to cities such as Yorkshire, they took with them dogs that were small, manageable and could fulfill a number of roles. From this plethora of Terriers there were thought to have been three that were primarily used to produce the Yorkie: Clydesdale, Paisley and Skye Terriers. To be sure, the Yorkshire Terrier origin was a multifaceted one, and many of the above dogs may have had a part in the Yorkie being born.
While it's unknown who, how and exactly where all of this cross-breeding took place to create the basic breed we now dotingly call the Yorkie, it is said that the father of the breed was established by a "broken-haired Scotch Terrier" named Huddersfield Ben, born in 1865. Although "Ben" quickly became a popular show dog, the name "Yorkshire Terrier" wasn't coined until 1870. That year, after the Westmoreland Dog Show, a magazine titled The Field ran a piece by Angus Sutherland wherein he wrote, "They ought no longer to be called Scotch Terriers, but Yorkshire Terriers for having been so improved there." The name stuck, and the dog's popularity grew quickly and against great odds, for her humble beginnings ignited distaste in the very Victorian nobility that would soon enough adopt the breed. Four years later, in 1874, the Yorkie made it into the British Kennel Club stud book.
Across the pond, Yorkie history in the Yankee world was equally remarkable. The first recorded birth of a Yorkie in the U.S. occurred in 1872, and by 1878 the breed was in dog shows. A few years later, in 1885, the AKC formally recognized the Yorkshire Terrier. The popularity of the Yorkie exploded practically overnight when the dog was bred down in size to be approximately 5 pounds, give or take a pound or two. (The first Yorkshire Terriers, in the UK, were considerably larger at 12 to 14 pounds.) To this day, the Yorkie remains an extremely popular — and expensive — purebred dog.