Good question. After all, since time immemorial they had always been – and to many fans they still are and always will be – ‘The Town’. The simple answer is that it was a marketing ploy by Club Promotion Officer Bill Brook. In late 1969 Town were riding high near the top of the Second Division with promotion a distinct possibility and Brook felt the time was ripe to project a new image and inject a bit of modernity into what was effectively a fusty old football club. Beginning with a new nickname, further innovations would include the ‘Terrier Pool’ which was a sort of raffle system whereby people effectively won cash prizes in return for injecting the club with some much needed cash.
The first reference that I can find to Town being called ‘The Terriers’ was in the Huddersfield Daily Examiner report of the home game against Bolton Wanderers on 27th September 1969: “One wag in the crowd, just before the winning goal was scored, shouted out, “Why don’t they bring on the dog?” He couldn’t resist the dig for, to be frank, there wasn’t a great deal for the newly nicknamed Terriers to wag their tails about.”
But it wasn’t ever really a popular nickname. In the official Town book ‘100 Years: All That’s Worth Knowing’ I found this on page 290: “Two events took place on 8th July  … The second thing of note, for some Town fans at least, was the official removal of the term ‘Terriers’. This was a nickname given to the Club in 1970*, which did not curry favour with diehard fans. For many it had always been ‘Town’. At the meeting of Directors held to appoint the new manager [Collins], it was also agreed, on the suggestion of new Director, Eric Simpson, that as far as the Club itself was concerned, it should discontinue use of the term ‘Terriers’.” So officially at least, the club has not been calling itself ‘The Terriers’ since 1974; try telling that to the current club officials…
*This is wrong; as I have explained, the nickname was first used in 1969.
“And when did they wear the Terrier on the shirts?”
As intimated earlier, I have scrapbooks covering seasons 1969-70 and 1970-71 which contain newspaper photographs that can be used to date the cloth badge shown at right, which is – I believe – an original shirt-worn example. From these, it would seem that up to and including 15th November 1969, Town wore plain striped shirts with no badges meaning that, as far as I can ascertain, the Blackpool ‘away’ game on 13th December 1969 would seem to be the first time that the Terrier appeared and it was then present for the remainder of that season.
It was also present on the ‘away’ red and black striped shirts during this same period.
For the first game back in the First Division – Blackpool at home on 15th of August 1970 – Town wore the short-sleeved darker blue striped shirts with a blue collar and ‘V’ (see card at left) – but no Terrier. For the Nottingham Forest League Cup game of 24th October 1970 Town were back into long-sleeved home shirts, with white rounded ‘crew’ collars… and no Terrier. Thereafter it was a mixture of those two different striped shirts, but the Terrier did not make an appearance on ‘home’ shirts.
Away from home Town wore three kits in 1970-71: the blue and white; the red and black; and – later in the season – an orange shirt (right). As a rule, there was NO Terrier, but for the game at Elland Road on 3rd October 1970 Town wore – old? – shirts which featured it. And the Terrier went on to make at least two further appearances at Manchester City on Boxing Day 1970 and the Birmingham FAC replay on 5th January 1971. Oddly enough in the home game of three days previously – when both teams wore their away kit – Town’s shirt had NO Terrier, and neither did the FAC R4 shirt at Stoke on 23rd January 1971, nor the replay on the 26th, nor the second replay on 8th February.
During the following 1971-72 season the ‘home’ shirts most definitely did not have a Terrier badge but for the Tottenham ‘away’ game on 21st August 1971 (at least) Town wore the red and black shirts… with a Terrier! My guess is that this was most definitely a case of using ‘old kit’.
So, with the anomalies of the red and black ‘away’ shirts in 1970-71 (and at least once in 1971-72) and the various types of blue and white striped ‘home’ shirts, we can safely say that Town did not wear the Terrier on ‘home’ shirts in the First Division in 1970-71. In fact it seems that they only ever wore it for a short period between December 1969 and the season’s end in May 1970.
“And what of the dog itself?”
In 1969 with Bill Brook casting around, looking for something to both symbolise and exemplify that true Yorkshire grit and determination, he happened upon Skippy, a Yorkshire Terrier owned by Colin Fisher of Honley. As well as incorporating the keyword ‘Yorkshire’ in its name and in spite of its small stature, the Yorkie is renowned for being naturally aggressive and, some would say, yappy. BINGO! A perfect fit and the rest, as they say, is history.
And in 2017, Town’s maiden season in the English Premier League, charismatic German Head Coach David Wagner would frequently remind critics of the club’s underdog status by referencing the statement, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
Footnote: On 22nd May 2018 Graham Clark contacted me with the following information: “I was interested in your article “Why ‘The Terriers?'” and the comment about the first time the Terriers was mentioned was in the Examiner report for the Bolton Wanderers home game. In fact the announcement that Town were going to be called the Terriers was in the programme for that Bolton match. The centre spread had chairman Frank Drabble making the announcement and there was a black and white photo of a 6 year old Yorkshire Terrier called Skippy, who was Town’s first mascot.”
Thank you for the confirmation, Graham 🙂