Written By: Ben Cosgrove

In November 1964, LIFE magazine noted that “a small dog with a sweeping hairdo and a peppery disposition” was pushing the poodle aside as the elegant canine accessory-of-the-moment. LIFE also noted that the small, dynamic Yorkie — for it was none other than the Yorkshire Terrier to which the magazine devoted a multi-page feature — “is no lap dog. It has the dash and spirit of all terriers and is a better ratter than most cats.”

The image of a fearless rat-killer is hardly the first that comes to mind, of course, when one thinks of the Yorkie — and the Nina Leen photos in that LIFE feature focused on the breed’s cute, lively nature rather than its innate (if rarely exercised) ferocity. But the point was clear: while small in stature, the Yorkie has huge appeal.

Here, LIFE presents some of Leen’s pictures from 50 years ago — photos celebrating a rare and singularly winning breed.

Liz Ronk edited this gallery. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

Champion Yorkie Wildweir Moon Rose.

Yorkshire Terriers

Nina Leen / LIFE Picture Collection

Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkshire Terriers

Nina Leen / LIFE Picture Collection

Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkshire Terriers

Nina Leen / LIFE Picture Collection

Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkshire Terriers

Nina Leen / LIFE Picture Collection

Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkshire Terriers

Nina Leen / LIFE Picture Collection

Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkshire Terriers

Nina Leen / LIFE Picture Collection

Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkshire Terriers

Nina Leen / LIFE Picture Collection

Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkshire Terriers

Nina Leen / LIFE Picture Collection

Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkshire Terriers

Nina Leen / LIFE Picture Collection

Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkshire Terriers

Nina Leen / LIFE Picture Collection

Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkshire Terriers

Nina Leen / LIFE Picture Collection

Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkshire Terriers

Nina Leen / LIFE Picture Collection

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