CHAPTER XLII. THE YORKSHIRE TERRIER

The most devout lover of this charming and beautiful terrier would fail if he were to attempt to claim for him the distinction of descent from antiquity. Bradford, and not Babylon, was his earliest home, and he must be candidly acknowledged to be a very modern manufactured variety of the dog. Yet it is important to remember that it was in Yorkshire that he was made—Yorkshire, where live the cleverest breeders of dogs that the world has known.

One can roughly reconstitute the process. What the Yorkshiremen desired to make for themselves was a pigmy, prick-eared terrier with a long, silky, silvery grey and tan coat. They already possessed the foundation in the old English Black and Tan wire-haired Terrier. To lengthen the coat of this working breed they might very well have had recourse to a cross with the prick-eared Skye, and to eliminate the wiry texture of the hair a further cross with the Maltese dog would impart softness and silkiness without reducing the length. Again, a cross with the Clydesdale, which was then assuming a fixed type, would bring the variety yet nearer to the ideal, and a return to the black and tan would tend to conserve the desired colour. In all probability the Dandie Dinmont had some share in the process. Evidence of origin is often to be found more distinctly in puppies than in the mature dog, and it is to be noted that the puppies of both the Dandie and the Yorkshire are born with decided black and tan colouring.

The original broken-haired Yorkshire Terrier of thirty years ago was often called a Scottish Terrier, or even a Skye, and there are many persons who still confound him with the Clydesdale, whom he somewhat closely resembles. At the present time he is classified as a toy dog and exhibited almost solely as such. It is to be regretted that until very lately the terrier character was being gradually bred out of him, and that the perkiness, the exuberance and gameness which once distinguished him as the companion of the Yorkshire operative, was in danger of being sacrificed to the desire for diminutive size and inordinate length of coat.

Perhaps it would be an error to blame the breeders of Yorkshire Terriers for this departure from the original type as it appeared, say, about 1870. It is necessary to take into consideration the probability that what is now called the old-fashioned working variety was never regarded by the Yorkshiremen who made him as a complete and finished achievement. It was possibly their idea at the very beginning to produce just such a diminutive dog as is now to be seen in its perfection at exhibitions, glorying in its flowing tresses of steel blue silk and ruddy gold; and one must give them full credit for the patience and care with which during the past forty years they have been steadily working to the fixed design of producing a dwarfed breed which should excel all other breeds in the length and silkiness of its robe. The extreme of cultivation in this particular quality was reached some years ago by Mrs. Troughear, whose little dog Conqueror, weighing 5-1/2 lb., had a beautiful enveloping mantle of the uniform length of four-and-twenty inches.

Doubtless all successful breeders and exhibitors of the Yorkshire Terrier have their little secrets and their peculiar methods of inducing the growth of hair. They regulate the diet with extreme particularity, keeping the dog lean rather than fat, and giving him nothing that they would not themselves eat. Bread, mixed with green vegetables, a little meat and gravy, or fresh fish, varied with milk puddings and Spratt's “Toy Pet” biscuits, should be the staple food. Bones ought not to be given, as the act of gnawing them is apt to mar the beard and moustache. For the same reason it is well when possible to serve the food from the fingers. But many owners use a sort of mask or hood of elastic material which they tie over the dog's head at meal-times to hold back the long face-fall and whiskers, that would otherwise be smeared and sullied. Similarly as a protection for the coat, when there is any skin irritation and an inclination to scratch, linen or cotton stockings are worn upon the hind feet.

Many exhibitors pretend that they use no dressing, or very little, and this only occasionally, for the jackets of their Yorkshire Terriers; but it is quite certain that continuous use of grease of some sort is not only advisable but even necessary. Opinions differ as to which is the best cosmetic, but Hairmero, the dressing prepared for the purpose by Miss D. Wilmer, of Yoxford, Suffolk, could not easily be improved upon for this or any other long-coated breed.

For the full display of their beauty, Yorkshire Terriers depend very much upon careful grooming. It is only by grooming that the silvery cascade of hair down the dog's sides and the beautiful tan face-fall that flows like a rain of gold from his head can be kept perfectly straight and free from curl or wrinkle; and no grease or pomade, even if their use were officially permitted, could impart to the coat the glistening sheen that is given by the dexterous application of the brush. The gentle art of grooming is not to be taught by theory. Practice is the best teacher. But the novice may learn much by observing the deft methods employed by an expert exhibitor.