The American Kennel Club upholds strict standards governing the attributes of the Yorkie dog breed. Included in this list of attributes are the four official Yorkie colors: black, tan, blue, and gold.
White is nowhere on that list.
However, many people have heard of the rare white Yorkshire Terrier. So what’s the deal? Are white Yorkies real or a myth? And if they exist, where do they come from, and what does it take to keep them healthy and clean? We’ll tell you everything you need to know in this guide.
In this guide:
- What is a white Yorkie?
- Can a purebred white Yorkshire Terrier really exist?
- How do white Yorkshire Terriers behave?
- What to consider when you see white Yorkie puppies for sale
What is a white Yorkie?
As the name implies, white Yorkies are just that—Yorkshire Terriers with white fur. However, purebred Yorkies come in specific color combinations: black and tan when they’re puppies and blue and gold when they’re adults. It’s also possible for Yorkies to fall somewhere between those two color schemes, with black-and-gold or blue-and-tan coats.
If you come across a white Yorkshire Terrier, there’s a very good chance that dog is a white Yorkie mix—the product of cross-breeding a Yorkshire Terrier and another dog breed, such as a West Highland Terrier or a Maltise (also known as a Morkie).
If that’s the case with your dog, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. We love puppies of all shapes, sizes, and bloodlines. But it’s important for institutions such as the AKC to track and maintain strict breed standards to ensure the purity of diverse dog breeds.
All that said, there are at least two ways in which you might come across a true Yorkshire Terrier with white hair. Keep reading to learn more.
Can a purebred white Yorkshire Terrier really exist?
Many people will say no, purebred white Yorkies do not exist. But it helps to clarify your question. Are you asking about all-white Yorkies or Yorkies with a mixture of tan, blue, back, and white hair? The question will dictate the answer, and it all comes down to genetics.
An albino Yorkie would be all-white
One of the only ways a purebred Yorkshire Terrier could appear entirely white is if it suffers from albinism. An Albino Yorkie would lack the ability to produce any pigment in its skin and fur due to a mutation of the SLC45A2 gene.4 This means the skin, nose, and footpads would appear pink, the irises would appear pink or red, and the hair would appear entirely white.1, 4
There are a few other genetic mutations that could also lead to an irregular white coat in a canine.3 However, there aren’t any documented cases of albino Yorkies or these other mutations in the Yorkie breed, so if you’ve heard of or seen a white Yorkie, these probably weren’t the cause.
A Parti Yorkie would have some white fur
There is a nonstandard form of the Yorkshire Terrier called the Parti Yorkie, which naturally produces some white fur. This strand of purebred Yorkie was formed from the repeated breeding of Yorkies bearing the recessive “piebald gene” or S-Locus, a variation of the Microphthalmia Associated Transcription Factor (MITF) gene.2
The piebald gene causes white spotting across the body, but both parents must bear it to produce a Parti Yorkie, so they are relatively rare.
Parti Yorkies are not entirely white—they will also have black and blue or tan and gold mixed in, and all dogs bear three colors on the body. But it’s possible to find a parti Yorkie with a very large portion of white fur, since the amount of white hair will vary from one piebald spotted dog to another.
This is likely why you hear people describing black and white or white and tan Yorkies. If this constitutes a white Yorkie in your mind, then a Parti Yorkie is probably what you’re looking for.
How do white Yorkshire Terriers behave?
A mostly white Yorkie will behave just like any other Yorkshire Terrier, which is to say that most behavioral traits will be driven by the genetic makeup of the pup’s parents, the socialization it goes through during its formative dog developmental stages, and the training it receives at home.
If your dog is a white Yorkie mix, you’ll also need to take into account common attributes of the breed the pup’s other parent belongs to.
What to consider when you see white Yorkie puppies for sale
Breeders of white Yorkies may not have their health at heart
Breeders who focus on certain cosmetic traits, such as coloring or size, often put these traits before a dog’s general health because they want to charge you more for these “rare” attributes.
That doesn’t mean all nonstandard Yorkies are unhealthy, but breeders of purebred Yorkies will look for healthy parents who don’t pose a risk of combining certain recessive genes that will predispose the litter to certain health risks.
Beware of breeders who advertise “rare white Yorkies” and opt for reputable breeders of Parti Yorkies instead. And in all cases, always ask to see documentation of the pup’s parents’ health, and ask for references from the breeder’s past customers.
Your Yorkie may not be purebred
If having a purebred Yorkie is important to you, be aware that there’s a high likelihood the “purebred white Yorkie” you’re considering is not what it seems. Parti Yorkies are recognized as purebred, if nonstandard, by the AKC, but they can’t perform in shows. And an entirely white dog that has some semblance to the Yorkie breed is probably a mix.
Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a white Yorkie mix. We love mutts as much as purebred dogs. But some people will be disappointed if they were led to believe their pup had pure bloodlines.
Grooming will take more work
Grooming a Yorkie is already a lot of work, thanks to their unique hair-like coats. But grooming a Yorkie with white fur will make it that much more difficult. If your pup’s white hair is concentrated around the belly, the dirt and debris it picks up outside will be more apparent—especially if you let the hair grow long.
And if the white is concentrated around the mouth and eyes, you will also have to address discoloration, such as Yorkie tear stains, more frequently.
What do you think of the white Yorkie?
People have strong opinions about white Yorkies. What do you think? We’d love to hear in the comments below.
- Buzhardt, L. “Genetics Basics – Coat Color Genetics in Dogs” VCAhospitals. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/genetics-basics-coat-color-genetics-in-dogs
- UCDavis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory. “Dog Coat Color Piebald, Parti or Random White Spotting” https://vgl.ucdavis.edu/services/dog/Piebald-Parti.php
- Schmutz, Sheila M. “White Coat Color in Dogs” http://munster.sasktelwebsite.net/DogColor/white.html
- Wijesena, Hiruni R., Schmutz, Sheila M. Journal of Heredity, Volume 106, Issue 3, May-June 2015, Pages 285–288, https://doi.org/10.1093/jhered/esv008