A Silky or A Yorkie — What’s the Difference?

We’ve all walked down the street and complemented someone’s small, silver-coated dog as a Silky Terrier, only to be told, “This is a Yorkshire!” Then trying to be politically correct, we call the next one we see we call a Yorkie only to be told –“Can’t you tell the difference?

This is a Silky!”

So – what is the difference?

First a bit of history for both breeds. The famous 19th century dog writer Ash mentions “bonnie wee Skyes with long silky hair.” The idea is that in the early 1800s, enterprising Skye breeders produced a miniature and soft-coated version of their 50 to 60 lb. breed.

Denied recognition by the parent club, they went on to produce the now extinct Paisleys and Clydesdales, which looked like miniature Skyes.

In the 1840′s and 50′s, the northern English pub owners latched on to these “mini Skyes”. They needed small scrappy terriers for their rat pits (where dogs would be thrown into a pit full of rats and bets laid as to how fast they could kill).

The smaller the dog, the greater the betting. Perhaps these small but tough dogs were bred together with the equally scrappy but slightly bigger Black and Tans (progenitor of the Manchester Terrier), to produce the blue, tan and fawn of the Silky Terrier and the blue and tan coloring of the Yorkshire we see today.

The father of the Yorkshire Terrier is Huddersfield Ben who lived in the 1860’s. The Yorkshire then developed from Ben, but what about the Silky? Ben’s granddam, Katie immigrated with her owners to Australia, where the Silky Terrier (also known as the Australian Silky Terrier) was developed.
The facts as we know them are these. Yorkshire Terriers and Silky Terriers are genetically just about the same.

But the Yorkie developed in an industrialized society — northern England — where tiny size, long flowing coats and the ability to hide in milady’s sleeve were prized.

Silkys were also developed as companion dogs, but their owners were mostly pioneers who prized the Silkys’ joy of life, independent thinking and scrappy, terrier qualities, resulting in a somewhat larger, hardier breed. Take a look at the two different headpieces:

Yorkie head:


Silky Head:


Silkys tend to be a larger dog than the Yorkie – Yorkies up to 7 lbs and Silkys roughly 8 to 12 lbs. Silkys have a longer muzzle and a longer back. Both breeds can have a distinctly terrier temperaments and can take over their owners households – so both breeds require owners who can be very kind, but very firm.

But there is one difference between the two breeds that is perhaps the most helpful to the casual passerby. Yorkies are the second most popular breed in the US, according to the AKC. Silkys rank 75th. So if you see a small silver-coated dog walking down the street, chances are – it’s a Yorkie.

15 Responses to “A Silky or A Yorkie — What’s the Difference?”

  1. Sue Harter says:

    I found this article very helpful. I use to have Irish Setters. About 5 years ago I lost my last setter to old age. A friend of mine was a foster home to a Yorkie group. They said they had a young female about 1 year old and I should just take her home to see what I thought. Well, she stayed. I named her Martha Stewart because she is a very good thing. I had never had a terrier before, so the learning began. She is terriffic, not a terrorist. She came from a Miami Animal Shelter. I was told she was found and was placed in the back with the “Bad” dogs. Judging from her actions I think she had been abused by a young man – late teens to early twenties. She is doing well now.
    But I digress. My question is: If I sent a photo or two of her could you tell me if you think she is a Yorkie or a Silky?
    I’ve heard both, but I tend to think more Silky. Then again she could be a combination. She is about 12 lbs and doesn’t have a real long coat. She is quite bossy and helps with the horses and loves to run along with the carriage. I would be interested in your opinion as I’ve considered getting another one, but really don’t want a little teacup Yorkie type.
    Sue

    • admin says:

      Sorry it took me a bit to get back to you. Yes you are very welcome to send me a picture. But you know, there is a company that can do a DNA test for what breed of dog you have, it’s called BioPet. They should be able to tell you for sure.

  2. -`” I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives useful information ,,:

  3. WES says:

    READ THE ABOVE ARTICLE AND FOUND IT INTERESTING, HOWEVER I HAVE READ ARTICLES INDICATING THAT THE YORKI AND THE AUSSI TERRIER WERE CONSIDERED PART OF THE EARLY FOR- RUNER OF THE SILKEY BREED. WHAT SAY YOU ON THIS MATTER.

    • admin says:

      The grandmother of Huddersfield Ben emigrated to Tasmania. Huddersfield Ben himself looks far more like a modern day Silk than a Yorkie. Those are facts, and undisputed. However it’s important to look at the very different environments that fostered the Yorkie and the Silky.
      In England, pedigrees were kept and cherished. In Australia, the pioneers were one generation removed from a convict ship. When a family wanted to breed their cute bitch, they found a cute, similar-looking male and celebrated the results. Pedigrees were not that important. So the background of the Silky, while undisputedly from the same genetic roots as the Yorkie, is not as clear-cut.
      One interesting example of this: until WWII, litter-mates were often registered as either Silky Terriers or Australian Terriers, depending on their coat length. Isn’t that wild?
      But that’s my point. It was wild times.

      • WES says:

        THANKS FOR THE ADDITIONAL INFO ON THE 2 BREEDS. MY 4 YEAR OLD AUSSIE HAS MANY OF THE CHARACTERISTICS OF MY FORMER E SILKY.INCLUDING THE LOVING TEMPERAMENT, ENERGY AND COLORATION. BIG DIFFERANCE IS SIZE,20 LB’S AND A HARD TOP COAT. CONGRAT’S ON ALL OF THE WINS AT BROOKSVILLE

  4. Just desire to say your article is as amazing. The clarity on your submit is simply excellent and that i could suppose you are a professional in this subject. Fine together with your permission let me to clutch your feed to stay updated with impending post. Thank you 1,000,000 and please continue the gratifying work.

  5. SilkyMomLover says:

    Thanks for this article. Very insighful. I believe I have a silky even though we were told he was a yorkie. He looks like a Silky. I sent the owner of this blog an email about your dogs and mine. Please respond when you get a chance. we are interested in a new silky.
    thanks for the information.

  6. Thought we had a yorkie says:

    Same as the above person, we bought and paid for a Yorkie(more $$) now have a 10 lb puppy at 8 mos. We love her, don’t get me wrong she is amazing, so smart and lovable. We would never trade her for anything but should have been given the truth and not the over price amt when we bought her. I have contacted the CKC and Ebay classified so no one else pays the Yorkie $$.
    Thank you

    • admin says:

      Part of the problem is the registry you got your dog from. The only registries that even remotely make sure your puppy is actually the breed your breeder says he is is the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club. I’m sure you love your puppy, no matter what — but now you know!

  7. Aussie says:

    Like your website. We live in Australia and the Silkys are usually a lot bigger than the Yorkies here. The Silkys are a lot more hardier, and tend to be more silver in colour. They even divide the breed further, depending on who you talk to here – into Sydney Silkys (more silver with finer hair) and Aust Silkys. My first silky was extremely intelligent and incredibly hardy she could walk 5+ kms every day and had amazing road sense (was never on the lead even in heavy traffic). Because she was so exceptional, several years after she died we have gotten a second silky. This new silky is nearly 8 months and will be trained as an assistance dog for my 6 year old diabetic daughter. They are perfect because they don’t shed, are very affectionate/loyal (good guard dogs) and intelligent enough to let you know when you are sick. She will go into service training at 18months. Currently we reward her every time my daughter has a hypo. This breed is truly like having another loved family member in your house.

  8. Trudi says:

    I’d like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this site.
    I’m hoping to view the same high-grade blog posts from you in the future as well.
    In truth, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own blog now ;)

    Here is my website; cost – Trudi -

  9. CRISTAL GUZMAN says:

    CAN SOME ONE PLEASE TELL ME IF MY YORKIE IS FULL BREED OR WHAT KIND OF YORKIE IF I SEND THEM A PIC? PLEEEAAASE!!!

    • admin says:

      I can’t tell you by looking at a picture. The post gives you the basic differences. There are DNA companies that can give the genetic breakdown of your dog. A good one to start your search is Bio Pet Vet Labs.

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