Description: The vivacious little Cairn Terrier is an active, hardy, small working terrier. They are able to prove their worth as a dispeller of vermin. Cairn Terriers are free in movement, strong, but not heavily built. Their head is shorter and wider than any other terriers and well furnished with hair giving a general foxy expression. Cairn Terriers are a wonderful family dog, but will always remember their ancestry as a “sporting terrier”. Their original use was for digging out vermin from the “cairns” of Scotland, which are piles of stones used for graves. They make a very active, inquisitive and “ready to go” dog. Cairns will be willing to go whenever you please. They are a great dog for the house, plus Cairn Terriers are good with children. Energetic and always on the watch, they will alert you to the presence of strangers by growling. They remain lively and friendly, and generally described as more mellow than the other terriers. They crave affection, are eager to please, and make a good family pet. They are plucky and bold, unafraid of what small animals may lurk in the underbrush. Excellent for ratting and ridding the house and yard of all kinds of pests, the Cairn Terrier is clever, curious and independent. Having the mind of a terrier, they can be scrappy with other dogs and stubborn with their owners, but generally have little problems with training.
Height: Females: 9.5 – 10 inches; Males: 10 – 12 inches.
Weight: Females: 13 – 14 lbs.; Males:14 – 16 lbs.
Colors: Cairns are any color except for white. They can be cream, wheaten, red, gray or nearly black. Brindling is acceptable in all colors. Never solid black, solid white, or black and tan. Typically there are dark points on the ears, tip of tail and muzzle.
Coat: Hard, rough, straight, short – medium length. Longer outer coat, with an abundant soft undercoat. Weather resistant. The hair is softer on the head. Their fur is profuse, and always has the shaggy look, even if trimmed.
Temperament: Cairn Terriers are bold, alert, intelligent, and independent. They can be self-willed and stubborn, but they love attention and will do what they can to get it. They are willing to please, excited and plucky pets. They are friendly and hard workers. They have a tendency to dig a lot, and if they are not trained, one will find holes in their backyard, especially around fences. They have a lot of energy and pizzazz. They are usually fine with children and other pets, although males should be monitored at the first meeting. Males can be aggressive with other dogs. They also have quite a bark for such a little dog.
With Children: Yes. They enjoy children’s playful activity. The first meeting of these two, however, should be supervised to ensure there is no aggression.
With Pets: Yes, but males of this breed may tend to fight with other males of the same breed. Supervision and/or training for the first few introductions is necessary.
Special Skills: Vermin destroyer and family pet.
Watch-dog: High. These little watchdogs will alert their owner to anything coming near with a bark.
Guard-dog: Low. They are mostly friendly dogs.
Care and Training: Never scissors trim the Cairn Terriers coat, except for the shaping of their feet. Weekly brushing or rubbing with a damp towel is needed. Minimal bathing. Pay special attention to their teeth and nails. Their coat can require some tidying up before a show, but minimal care is required due to their shaggy look overpowering any haircut. Cairn Terriers exercise should consist of free roaming in a fenced yard or daily walks. As an earth dog and digger, a Cairn Terrier will leave holes in your backyard and should be trained not to. Training should also be taken to secure unwanted barking.
Special Needs: Grooming, some exercise and training.
Learning Rate: Very High. Obedience – Medium. Cairns are intelligent and willing to please, but can be stubborn and independent. Problem Solving – High.
Activity: Indoors – Medium. Outdoors – High. Cairns are very inquisitive and will seek out vermin.
Living Environment: House with a yard or an apartment. Country or city environment, the Cairn Terrier will thrive in any environment as long as they receive attention and exercise. The best owner for this breed would be a family.
Health Issues: Glaucoma, liver shunt, luxating patellas, and hereditary eye diseases. Other health concerns include: skin allergies, globoid cell leukodystrophy, and Legg-Perthes.
Life Span: 12 – 15 years.
Litter Size: 3 – 5 puppies.
Country of Origin: Great Britain
History: Originating in the Western Highlands of Scotland from as far back as the 1500s, the Cairn Terrier was used for getting vermin out of cairns. “Cairn” was the Scottish word for a pile of stones or rocks used on graves. The Cairns would go into the little holes and catch vermin, or force the vermin out, usually being foxes, otters, rats, and even badgers. Cairns also originated on the Isle of Skye, in which the Skye Terrier came about. Cairns were born of Skye Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, and Scottish Terriers, all of which were grouped into the category of “Scotch Terriers” until 1873. In the past Cairns they were bred with Westies, but in 1920 this practice was banned to preserve the West Highland White Terrier breed. In 1909 the Cairn was cut from the Scotch Terrier group into a subgroup, called the Short-haired Skye Terrier. Soon Skye fanciers were up in arms about it because the dog was obviously not the same as a Skye Terrier, and the Cairn was named its current name in 1912. Cairn Terriers were introduced in the world of dog shows in the early 1900s. Today the breed is better known in Northern England and Scotland, but the Cairn remains a popular breed elsewhere as well. They are best known for the role of “Toto” in The Wizard of Oz.
First Registered by the AKC: 1913
AKC Group: Terrier
Registries: AKC, CKC, FCI (Group 3), KC (GB)