Cairn Terrier

Group 2: Terriers
Height: 28 – 31cm

Energy Level:  Moderate to high
Original Function: Hunting
Lifespan: 10  – 14 yrs

Recommended for: Most people/families.

Cairn Terrier

About This Breed

Cairn Terriers originated on the Isle of Skye, and in the Scottish Highlands as a vermin killing dog. They excelled at removing rats and other rodents, as well as badgers and even foxes from the stone cairns commonly found on Scottish farms – thus their name, Cairn Terriers. (Terra is Latin for earth, and all of the Terrier breeds are dogs that can ‘go to earth’ to chase their prey, either in a den or tunnel, or by digging them out.)

These dogs were bred for their working ability and practicality. Gradually, separate strains of this terrier became the Scottish, the West Highland White and the Skye Terriers, with the original Terrier defined as the Cairn. The Cairn is closest to its original ancestors and still excels in flushing out vermin.

General Characteristics

Appearance: Compact, sturdy body, dark eyes, broad head, pricked ears, medium length tail. The most famous example of a Cairn is Dorothy’s dog “Toto” from the movie “The Wizard of Oz”.

Temperament – Today, the Cairn is more of a companion animal. Like all terriers, they are agile, alert, outgoing and friendly, however the Cairn is not as hyper as some terrier breeds, nor as stubborn. They are usually fairly easy to train, especially if you use food as a motivator. Positive reinforcement methods work best and not being too repetitive in your training, or your cairn will become bored and lose interest.

Temperament: Alert, people oriented, friendly, outgoing, very food oriented, eager to please, independent and adaptable.

Characteristics: Should impress as being active, game and hardy.

Coat: Very important. Weather-resistant. Must be double-coated, with profuse, harsh, but not coarse, outer coat; undercoat short, soft and close. Open coats objectionable. Slight wave permissible.

Colour: Cream, Wheaten, Red, Grey, Brindle and Brindling in any of these colours. Pure White or Black not allowed. Dark points very desirable.

Grooming: The cairns double coat does not shed and consists of a harsh weatherproof outer coat and a short soft undercoat, which is groomed with a steel pin brush. Weekly brushing and use of a coat king tool that will strip out the dead coat is recommended. Cairns do not require frequent bathing, and an annual full strip out of their coat in late Spring to early Summer will keep it, and their skin, healthy and clean.

Exercise: Daily walk or good run/chase in the yard in needed to keep them fit and healthy. They can adjust to a small yard area, but will need throw toys, bones and chew toys to keep them amused while they are in it.

Health: Cairns are generally long lived dogs, with few health problems, and many live well into their late teens. Ask your breeder if there are any specific problems that may occur in their bloodlines, such as kneecap (patella) problems or temperament issues.