Cairn Terrier

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13-17 lbs

This breed is one of Scotland’s original Terriers, and was used in fox and badger hunting. A cairn is a rock den used by foxes and badgers in which they lived. The Cairn Terrier could squeeze into the entrance and bark until the farmer arrived for the kill. The Cairn Terrier has a foxy expression and is a hardy little canine. They are full of life, animated and alert. They make a loveable family member who enjoys playing with children and will be a starter for any game going. They do like to dig (which comes from their instinct for hunting) and need to have mental and physical exercise. This dog can become a handful without proper leadership, becoming destructive and exhibiting excessive barking without a strong pack leader. The Cairn Terrier is intelligent and can be taught all sorts of tricks, they love to please, and if they are rewarded with praise and treats will respond well to training and discipline. Left to manage themselves they can become stubborn, snappy and will be anxious.

Date of Origin
scottish terrier, west highland white terrier, skye terrier

Cairn Terrier Health

Average Size
Height: 10-13 inches Weight: 13-18 lbs
Height: 9-12 inches Weight: 13-17 lbs
Major Concerns
  • Flea Allergy
Minor Concerns
  • Weight Gain
Occasional Diagnoses
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease
Occasional Tests
  • Eye Examination
  • Physical Examination
  • Allergy Tests

Cairn Terrier Breed History

The history of the name for the Cairn Terrier comes from their occupation earlier on where they were used to trap prey in their rocky holes or cairns; the Terrier would squeeze into the cairn and bark for the owner to come and finish off the hunt. Hence the name Cairn (as in fox or badger holes) Terrier. At one point in their early history they were considered the same breed as the Scottish Terrier and the West Highland Terrier, which continued up to the 1900’s when the breeds began to be bred separately. The Cairn Terrier was first publicly presented in the 1909, but its real popularity came in the 1930’s after a Cairn Terrier played Toto in The Wizard of Oz. It was in 1913 that the AKC first recognised the breed. They are ideal dogs for hunting, tracking, go-to-ground trials, agility, competitive obedience and performing tricks as they learn quickly and love to be actively involved in doing something.

Cairn Terrier Breed Appearance

The Cairn Terrier is work like in appearance; this small dog is not just a lapdog, they mean business. They have a small head, but in proportion to their body with sufficient breadth of skull to support its strong muzzle. The teeth meet in a scissors or level bite. There is a definite indentation or stop between the eyes, which are of medium size and hazel in color and are tucked  under their distinctive shaggy eyebrows. The erect ears are small and set apart, the nose is small and black, and they have a longish neck which allows proper carriage of the head. With a medium length body showing well sprung ribs, the Cairn Terrier has very strong muscular thighs with a normal turn of stifle and hocks. Their tail is short and carried high while their coat is rough, double coated and occasionally showing a slight wave. The Cairn Terrier comes in a wide range of colors, except for white. They are a small active dog with a big attitude; they love action and people and make excellent pets.

Eye Color Possibilities
Nose Color Possibilities
Coat Color Possibilities
Coat Length
Short Medium Long
Coat Density
Sparse Normal Dense
Coat Texture
Straight Wiry Wavy Curly Corded

Cairn Terrier Breed Maintenance

The coat of the Cairn Terrier is quite distinctive and has a shaggy natural look to it. This thick coat can be deceiving as without regular care can become a sorry matted mess. Get your dog used to being brushed several times a week, being gentle with the soft undercoat. If your terrier is trained as a young dog to be groomed, they will enjoy the attention and love the special time with their human. Once a month give your dog a bath and brush the coat while it dries. The beauty of this coat is that it doesn’t shed much at all, which is ideal for house care. Occasionally, the Cairn Terrier will need the hair trimmed around the eyes and ears with a blunt nosed pair of scissor (they move quickly so for safety, don’t use pointed sharp scissors). All that remains to be done is to clip the nails regularly and your little Terrier will be dressed to impress.

Brushes for Cairn Terrier
Slicker Brush
Nail Clipper
Brushing Frequency
Daily Weekly Monthly

Cairn Terrier Temperament

The Cairn Terrier is an alert, lively, hardy little dog who will show undying loyalty to his family. They enjoy playing with children but do need to be supervised as they can be a bit wilful and may not respond well to ear and tail pulling. These dogs were bred to be fearless working dogs, and they love to be active. They need a firm but not harsh leadership and training. The owner must be the pack leader; they must gain the dog’s respect. Meek owners will find these little dogs can become a handful, demonstrating destructive behavior and excessive barking if not controlled. The Cairn Terrier is quick to learn and can be taught to do tricks. They will also take off after a rabbit or small animal if they spot it, chasing it regardless of your frantic calls. It is advisable to walk them on a leash, and have an escape proof fence for these little characters.

Activity Level
Low Medium High
Rec. Walk Mileage Per Week
9 miles
Minutes of Activity Per Day
60 minutes

Cairn Terrier Popularity

Popularity ranking
Popular Hybrids
Cairn Terrier
Cairn Terrier
Cocker Spaniel
Cairn Terrier
Bushland Terrier
Cairn Terrier
Scottish Terrier
Bushland Terrier

Cairn Terrier Food Consumption

Cups Per Day
1.3 cups
Daily Cost
$1 - $1.3
Monthly Cost
$25 - $30

Cairn Terrier Height & Weight

6 Months
Height: 7 inches Weight: 7 lbs
Height: 5 inches Weight: 7 lbs
12 Months
Height: 11 inches Weight: 12 lbs
Height: 10 inches Weight: 12 lbs
18 Months
Height: 11 inches Weight: 15 lbs
Height: 10 inches Weight: 15 lbs

Top Cairn Terrier Breeders

Check out who made our list for the most reputable Cairn Terrier breeders of 2017.
DanBar Ranch
Goldendale, Washington
Stoneridge Show dogs
Shell Knob, Missouri
June Bug's Puppies
Minatare, Nebraska
Alpine, California
Cloverleaf Kennel
Park Rapids, Minnesota
Underwood Ranch
Valera, Texas
Shady Lane Family Farm
Free Union, Virginia
DeRan Cairns
Milan, Illinois
Woodwynd Cairn Terriers
Woodstock, Illinois
Double J Kennels
Canton, Georgia

Cairn Terrier Owner Experiences