These days, the general public associates the Yorkshire Terrier with the rich and pampered, so we have to snicker to ourselves as we wonder what coal miners, and factory and mill workers of 100 years ago would have made of this.
The Yorkshire Terrier was a byproduct of the Industrial Revolution in England, and for dogs in those days, it was “earn your keep,” or else. Yorkies were originally bred for hunting rats in mines by blue collar miners, and while those dogs were a slightly larger than they are now, it wasn’t by much.
Early Yorkies were kept by hard bitten men who relied on the tough little buggers to control vermin in the mines and textile mills in which they worked. We think we can imagine what life was like in those days, but honestly, we really can’t. The men who had left behind farm life to earn a living in towns and cities for the first time in their lives were met with a setting that was crowded and smelly, in large part because there was no sewage, garbage collection, or running water. And then there were the rats. These creatures infected food, chewed on goods (or your toes), and created a stink. The men needed help, and it came in the form of an easy-to-carry and cheap-to-feed dog, the Yorkie’s ancestor. Not to diss cats, but a good ratting dog in that environment was faster than a cat and had more drive for the work.
Up until 1861, the fact that Yorkies had been kept and bred by miners was a bit of a secret because it didn’t fit the narrative of a breed that appeared in its first dog show that same year. Thanks to the breed’s quick wit and appeal, it moved easily from rat dog to lady’s pet during the Victorian era. The breed’s environment may have changed from gritty mine to pretty parlor, but it never lost its tough terrier roots.
How tough is the Yorkie?
Back in 1993, a storm snatched the roofs off four houses in Saginaw, Texas, and airlifted a 4-pound Yorkshire terrier named “Sadie,” clear out of her yard. “We knew she had been carried away,” said Jim Davis, the dog’s owner, “because a neighbor saw her flying about 15 or 20 feet in the air.” The following day, Davis got a call from a man who’d found Sadie running along a highway two miles north of where she’d been, um, airlifted. The man phoned Davis after reading a newspaper story about Sadie, and the two were reunited. Except for a few ant bites, Sadie seemed unfazed by her adventure.
In 1992, an eight year old Yorkie named “Torver” fell 600 feet down a sheer, rocky hillside in England’s Lake District. He’s been hiking with his owners when he slipped and fell, and though they searched and searched, it was in vain. Five days later, Rocky was spotted under an RV four miles from where he’d fallen. Thanks to the “lost dog” posters and radio alerts, someone recognized the bedraggled dog as the now famous Torver. He had a limp, but incredibly, he was otherwise unharmed.
Never underestimate a Yorkie.
“Its Warm In Here But So Much More Interesting Out There” by Gael Keevil