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Get to Know the Silky Terrier: One of the Original Designer Dogs

Breeders in Australia created these dogs to hunt rats but also to sit in lady's laps.

Caroline Coile  |  Jun 13th 2016


Modern “designer dogs” may be controversial, but if you ask Silky Terrier fans, what’s not to like? The Silky is one of the original designer dog breeds, and certainly one of the most successful.

The breed descends from a cross between the Yorkshire Terrier and Australian Terrier in the last 1800s. Skye Terriers may also be in the mix. Of course, these two breeds, and the Skye, were already closely related. Skyes had been bred down in size to create a more competitive dog for the rat pits in the early and mid 1800s. These in turn were bred with black and tan terriers to produce the blue and tan Yorkshire Terrier — mostly from the influence of a single dog named Huddersfield Ben. Ben’s grandmother, Katie, went to Australian and was instrumental in creating the Australian Terrier. So these two breeds were also closely related before they were crossed.

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Undocked Silky Terrier by Shutterstock

More interesting things about Silky Terriers

  • The resulting dogs had silkier hair compared to Australian Terriers, and were a bit larger and tougher than Yorkshire Terriers. They were a dog who could hunt vermin, including rats and snakes, when needed and just as readily sit in a lady’s lap when needed. In fact, they became more of an urban pet than a working dog.
  • Australian terriers, Yorkshire Terriers, and Silky Terriers were interbred until 1929, and dogs of all three breeds could be born in the same litter. Shortly after crossbreeding was discouraged.
  • American soldiers stationed in Australian during World War II brought Silky Terriers home with them.
  • They were initially called Sydney Silky Terriers, since they were mostly found in the city of Sydney. They were later called Australian Silky Terriers in 1955.
  • In 1954, a newspaper photo of Silky Terriers brought attention to the breed, and hundreds were brought from Australia to America.
  • The AKC recognized them as the Silky Terrier in 1959.
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Silky Terrier by Shutterstock

  • They are a member of the AKC Toy Group.
  • They are in many ways intermediate in looks between the two breeds. Compared to the Yorkshire Terrier, the Silky is slightly larger, has shorter hair, is slightly longer bodied, and has a longer muzzle. Compared to the Australian Terrier, the Silky has a silkier coat, is smaller, and is not as long bodied.
  • They are born with a black and tan coat. Because they are homozygous for a gene that causes progressive graying, as adults the black fades to a silver blue.
  • They are currently the 102nd most popular AKC breed, down slightly from several years ago.
  • They have competed at the Westminster dog show since 1960 but none has yet to win the Toy Group there. In fact, only two have even placed in it.
  • Owners include former talk show host Mike Douglas.