Australian Silky Terrier

Australian Silky TerrierAustralian Silky Terrier

The Australian Silky Terrier evolved over half a century as two separate breeds in two separate cities situated hundreds of kilometres apart. This explains how political attitudes of the time affected its development, and charts the journey of how this beautiful little dog became the only toy breed Australia claims as its own.

One excellent description is:

"Its sire was Australian; component parts were many -
Yorkshire, black and tan, and Scotch - it proved much worse than any.
Another dash of Yorkshire; the result was far more pretty;
They called it 'Sydney' Silky but quarrelled o'er the city"[4a] 

History of the Australian Silky Terrier

Australian Silky TerrierAustralian Silky Terrier

By 1896, it was evident that two different types of the Rough-Coated Black and Tan Terriers had developed in Australia from a mixture the Scotch, Dandie Dinmont, and Yorkshire Terriers. These two types were differentiated by their coats. The first type was a household pet and playmate for the children. So, a soft, silky coat was developed that was easy to wash and dry. The second type, suitable for field work had a coarse thick, rough-haired coat and it became the Australian Terrier.

Australian Rough Coated Terrier 1897Australian Rough Coated Terrier 1897

In 1897 when the crosses producing these two types first began, it was written that the Rough coated Black and Tan Terrier was an 'unmitigated mongrel only fit to use where snakes were too numerous to risk a dog of any value'[8] . In 1907 the name "Australian Terrier' was finally accepted. Today, its untrimmed double coat can come in either blue and tan, or sandy or red. He is affectionately known as 'the Aussie'.

The Australian Silky Terrier becomes a Pure Breed

Australian Silky TerriersAustralian Silky Terriers

The Australian Silky Terrier we know today is a bi-product of matings between the rough-coated black and tan Terrier and the Yorkshire Terrier. To cope with the harsh Australian environment the tough, courageous temperament of the Rough-Coated Black and Tan Terrier had to be retained. But because the Shows of the late 1800s had no Breed Standards to guide them, there was much confusion. Some judges disregarded the texture of the coat while others seemed to consider it of the utmost importance. So, when the same dogs met under different judges, there were ludicrously different results.

Australian Silky TerrierAustralian Silky Terrier

Additionally, the Australian Silky Terrier we know today evolved in the two, separately governed Australian States, Victoria, and New South Wales. The State's capital cities, Melbourne and Sydney are situated 700 odd kilometres apart, connected only by rough bush tracks. Because  the Australian Silky Terrier we know today was born in isolation in two separate cities, it could well be called:

"A Tale of Two Cities"

Australian Silky TerrierAustralian Silky Terrier

During the late 1800s Australia was fragmented due to each of its States being governed independently. 1900 saw Federation, the first attempt to politically co-ordinate Australia.

However, the rivalry between the two most populated cities, Sydney and Melbourne was evident in every field across the country. This included the governance of the pedigree dog world. Unfortunately, it took over half a century, for Australia to create a dog controlling body to co-ordinate our Stud Books and Breed Standards. That is how and why today's Australian Silky Terrier was developed separately in two different capital cities situated in two different Australian States.

Silky Terriers in Victoria

Victorian Silky 1904Victorian Silky 1904

The first Breed Standard of 'the Silky Terrier' was approved by the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club in 1904. Written by the Victorian Silky and Yorkshire Club, it followed the example set by the English Yorkshire Terrier Club. There were two weight divisions, one for under 6 pounds and those from 6 and up to 12 pounds. Both pricked and dropped ears were allowable. In 1909 the Victorian Silky and Yorkshire Club held its first Show. In 1912, Tyzack's Annual published by the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club, listed 22 Silky Terriers (Victorian) without designating the weight of any of them[4a]. These were simply called 'Silky Terriers' in Victorian Shows until 1958.

The Sydney Silky

Australian Silky Terriers c 1930Australian Silky Terriers c 1930

Simultaneously, in New South Wales, the Royal Agricultural Show had classes for 'Terrier, any other Variety' from 1891. From 1901-1906 the name of these classes was 'Terrier Soft and Silky'. When the NSW Breed Standard was set up by the precursor of the Kennel Association around 1907, the breed was named 'Terrier, Sydney Silky'. In contrast to Victoria, the Sydney Silky had only one allowable weight - from 6 to under 12 pounds. They also only allowed pricked ears[9]. In the 1930's the 'Sydney Silky' also made its identity known overseas, particularly in India where it resided with British diplomats[7].

The Australian Silky Terrier becomes a Pure Breed

Australian Silky Terrier 1972Australian Silky Terrier 1972

In 1934 the registration of pups obtained from crosses between Australian, Silky and Yorkshire crosses became prohibited. In 1950 the Victorian Kennel Control Council (KCC) produced a Breed Standard for the Australian Silky Terrier encompassing all the salient features of both the Sydney and Victorian Breed Standards. In March 1959 after the ANKC was formed, this revised Breed Standard was adopted and the breed name adopted. In every State, a panel of judges physically examined every pup from any crossed breed litters before registration as an Australian Silky Terrier was accepted[2].

By 1972 the Australian Silky Terrier was taking its rightful place alongside other recognised ANKC breeds. This was demonstrated when Ch Dulcannina Kansas owned and bred by Mrs Sybil Camac of South Australia and handled by her son James, won Best Exhibit in Show at the Royal Melbourne Show, Australia's largest dog show at that time. Please click on the accompanying video clip.

Yorkshire and Australian Silky Terrier Comparison

The Yorkie is a neat compact spirited Toy Terrier, and although he conveys an important air, his straight silky distinctive coat is his most defining characteristic. In comparison, the Australian Silky Terrier should definitely display Terrier characteristics, embodying keen alertness, activity and soundness, appearing capable of killing vermin such as rats and mice.

Yorkshire Terrier Australian Silky Terrier
Country of Origin England Australia
Size Weight up to 7 pounds (3.2 kilos) with no specified height. Dogs - Height 23 to 26 cms (9 to 10 ins) at the withers, bitches slightly less, weight proportionate.
Colour The body coat from occiput to root of tail is dark steel blue (not silver blue), and should never be intermingled with fawn, bronze or dark hairs. The rich golden tan hair of the head is called a 'fall' because of its length about the ear roots and muzzle. Any shade of blue and tan with a silver blue or fawn top-knot desirable. The blue body colour should be free from tan or bronzing while the tan markings must be free from smuttiness
Coat The hair on the body is moderately long, glossy, perfectly straight, with a fine silky texture but never wavy or woolly. The length of coat should be shorter than that of the Yorkie, allowing daylight to be seen underneath the dog.

Yorkshire TerrierYorkshire Terrier

Australian Silky Australian Silky
Head The head is rather small with a flat skull, small erect ears and medium dark eyes that look straight ahead. The strong head of the Silky is of moderate length in contrast to the rather smaller head of the Yorkie.
Ears Small, V-shaped and erect, covered with short hair Small V-shaped and erect but entirely free from hair
Mouth Normal scissors bite Normal scissors bite
Forequarters Legs straight, well covered with hair of rich golden tan a few shades lighter at ends than at roots. The straight forelegs have refined, round bone and are set well under the body with no weakness in the pasterns.
Feet Round with black nails Small and cat-like with black or very dark toenails
Body Compact with level topline Longer than its height at withers, with a level topline

Yorkshire TerrierYorkshire Terrier

Australian Silky TerrierAustralian Silky Terrier
Hindquarters The legs should be straight when viewed from behind with a  moderate turn of stifle. They should be well covered with rich golden tan hair, a few shades lighter at ends than at roots. The well developed thighs and well bent stifles should accompany well let down hocks that are parallel with each other.
Tail Carried a little higher than the level of the back. The tail should be free of feathering, set on high and carried erect but not over-gay.
Gait Free with a straight action fore and aft Free with drive from behind, retaining a level topline.

References and Further Reading

[1] Rawdon B. Lee, "Modern Dogs (Terriers)" published by London: Horace Cox, "Field" Office, Windsor House, Bream's Buildings, E.C 1903.  Pages 382 - 384

[2] W.A.(Fred) Wheatland, "The Australian Terrier and The Australian Silky Terrier", Published by The Hawthorn Press, Melbourne January 1964, Chapter 8 Pages 30 - 31.

[4] "Tyzack's Annual" Compiled by T.W.Tyzack and C.S. Turner published by the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club 1912, printed by Bellmaine Bros., Printers 66 - 70 Flinders Lane Melbourne Australia. Yorkshire Terrier Importations P. 99 - 101

[4a] ibid., "Tyzack's Annual" Silky Terriers Stud Book Page P.75, Yorkshire Terriers Stud Book P. 75

[4c] ibid., "Tyzack's Annual" 'The Book of Chronicles' P 135

[5] 'The History of Purebred Dogs in Australia' published by OzDog Newspaper 1997 , Yorkshire Terrier by Bill Zaal Page 309

[7] Hutchinson's Dog Encyclopedia" Published by Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers) LTD., 34 - 36 Paternoster Row, London, E.C.4 1933, 'The Silky Terrier' Page Page 1801

[8] W. Beilby 'The Dog in Australasia' published George Robertson & Company in 1897 Chapter on Rough or Broken Coated Terriers Page 398

[9] W.A.(Fred) Wheatland 'The Australian Terrier' (and the)  Australian Silky Terrier Self-Published 1964 Printed by the Hawthorn Press, Melbourne Chapter 9 'The Standard of The Australian Silky Terrier Pages 35 - 40