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
  • Usually A Very Healthy Breed
  • Flea Allergy
Minor Concerns
  • Weight Gain
Occasional Tests
  • 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.

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.

Cairn Terrier Breed Activity Requirements