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.

24 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.

    • 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:


    • 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:


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  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.

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    • 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.

  10. Sandra Roberts says:

    My Mom had a silky when I was young it amazed me how intuitive it was, back then they didn’t know animals could tell when someone was about to have a diabetic incident, heart attack or a seizure but Babe always knew she would head butt my Mom over and over tell Mom took her pills or shot out of her pocket and took one, my Mom suffered from Graves disease and she had Diabetes which the combination caused her to have seizures.
    Over the years I have had many dogs of different breeds and apart from my English Boxers I don’t think I have ever had a dog that was a better companion or was so loving and I’d say they are equal on those levels along with intelligence but at my age a Boxer is just to much dog so am considering a Silky
    Recently I stated having seizure (same health issues) and my husband suggested a silky (we grew up next door to each other he knew Babe too) Even if the dog can’t foretell the seizures and he said it would keep me company and give me another life to focus on. Besides I always loved training my dogs for agility.

  11. Eileen says:

    I looked up Bio Pet Vet Labs and they only offer proof of parentage. The DNA Proof of Parentage Test doesn’t provide breed-specific or health information. Parentage certification for each offspring is done by comparing the DNA of three dogs: a dam, a potential sire, and the offspring. I did not see any reference to a test to determine the breed of the dog.

    • admin says:

      Eileen you are absolutely right. When I wrote the comment for the post above, they did have breed ID genetic tests — they no longer do so.

  12. Cheri Mahoney says:

    How much does a silky cost in comparison to a Yorkie? I believe my puppy’s mother was part silky and the father was a yorkie.

    • admin says:

      Quality Silkys are generally about $1000.00. Quality Yorkies are considerably more — they are harder to breed than their larger and sturdier cousin.

  13. GERALDINE says:

    My Silky I just love him . Benjamin Michael is brave, and my heart and soul alone with being my therapy dog with out him I would be lost .Benji even caught a mouse for me .He weights 11 lbs 9 inches tall but he thinks he a MT/Lion and he can drive lol.

  14. Kathe Saccenti says:

    I have 3 Yorkies and a Silky Terrier. I fell in love with this little silky terrier puppy from the moment I set eyes on him.. The first differences we noted were his almond shaped eyes vs. the Yorkie round eyes and, the cute little snout minus the yorkie beard. Our Silky is very sturdily built a difference from the Yorkie more delicate build, he is heavier, about 11.5 lbs, has a longer back than the Yorkies. Although he is very loving he is not the lapdog that the Yorkies tend to be. He wants to go go go. He’ll make a love “pit” stop to get a few kisses and then off he goes. He is very expressive, and very smart. He is a Beautiful and loving companion and gets along with his fellow Yorkie litter mates. I don’t know if this is a difference in the breeds but he has the highest pitched bark that we’d ever heard which was quite startling to us, the first time we heard that sound come out of this little fat puppy. .

  15. hossein alizadeh says:

    I have a lovely 2 year old female dog that looks like a silky and some how a yorkie.she weights under 4 lbs. Is it possible for a silky to be under 4 lbs?
    I also have a male 5 lbs yorkie yorkie . how would be their puppies?

    • admin says:

      I have never seen a Silky that small. Don’t forget that the Yorkie and Silky are cousin breeds, and just like human cousins, they can sometimes look very similar. If both your dogs have American Kennel Club paperwork as Yorkshire Terriers you can breed them. Should you? That’s another story. Have you had your dogs Health tested? In Silkys, we do eyes and knees. Another one I like to do is PCRD PRA with Optigen. Then, remember that just because your dogs look a certain way doesn’t mean the puppies will. Do you know the parents of your dogs? Can you find out? That will give you a better picture. Also, your Yorkie bitch sounds small for a breeding dog. Yorkie people have told me that they don’t like to breed a bitch under 4 lbs.

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