Cairn Terrier

The Cairn Terrier is a gutsy, lively little terrier that has retained its rather shaggy and unkempt look. The harsh, weather-resistant outer coat that can be anything from cream, through red or grey to almost black or brindled protects a soft dense undercoat. A distinguishing characteristic of Cairn Terriers is that they frequently change color for many years throughout their lifetime. It is not unusual for a Cairn to become progressively blacker or silver as it ages, making the color of a fully grown Cairn's coat virtually unpredicatble. A well-groomed Cairn Terrier should end up looking shaggy. The muzzle often is darker in color than the rest of its coat. The Cairn Terrier has a short wide head, with a powerful jaw and large teeth. A keen terrier expression is enhanced by wide set prick ears and a straight tail, carried up but not curled over the back. The Cairn Terrier's small stature belies its big dog attitude, and this breed is just as comfortable in its owner's lap as it is playing in the yard.

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Fast Facts

Terrier
12 - 15 years
Scotland
16th century
14 lb
13 lb
10"
9.5"
Kairn Terrier, Carn Terrier, or Cayrn Terrier
None

Cairn Terrier Temperament

An intelligent, loyal, long-lived busybody, the Cairn Terrier tends to remain active and playful well into his teen years, endearing him to children....

Though generally affectionate, the breed is fairly independent and will struggle to get free if held too long. The dog's intelligence and curiosity make it a great student; however, if the owner fails to establish dominance, the Cairn can get the idea that it is in charge. Like most terriers, the Cairn is stubborn, strong-willed, likes to bark, and loves to dig after real or imagined prey — do not leave this dog alone in your garden, as flowerbeds are hard to resist. Cairns are surprisingly sensitive, and harsh punishment is not necessary or desirable. A good relationship with your Cairn Terrier is built on firm, loving and consistent discipline.

Caring For a Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terriers should be kept active and trim....

They tend to become overweight, partly because they are so engaging when they beg for treats. They require quite a bit of exercise; these are working dogs and are still used as such in parts of Scotland. A brisk daily walk is ideal exercise. Cairns must be leashed when not fenced, as it is impossible to train away their instinct to give chase to cats, rodents and other dogs — don't forget this dog was designed to hunt. Inclement weather should never prevent a Cairn Terrier from getting its daily exercise, as the dog is perfectly capable of burning off excess energy by chasing a ball around the house. Maintaining a Cairn’s shaggy coat requires an hour of grooming each week and infrequent baths – shedding is minimal.

Cairn Terrier History

A Brief History of the Cairn Terrier

The Cairn Terrier is one of Scotland’s original Terriers, and has been known since the 16th century....

In the Scottish Highlands and on the Isle of Skye, the Cairn's forebears worked for centuries driving pests from the piles of small stones, called cairns, that commonly marked Scottish farm borders and graves. In this line of work, the dog's scrappy attitude and deadly jaws were of utmost importance, and ensured that the dog always had a place on Scottish farms for hundreds of years. Other terriers from the region, including the Skye and West Highland White Terrier, were gradually recognized by breeding organizations and named. The Cairn Terrier, on the other hand, continued in its role as an unnamed and untitled working dog into the 20th century, when it was finally given the name Cairn Terrier in 1912 and recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1913. The most famous Cairn Terrier was Toto, from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. The identification of the state of Kansas with the original story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz recently led a resident of Wichita, Kansas to start a movement to make the Cairn Terrier the official dog of the State of Kansas. Cairns have also appeared regularly in other movies beginning with Bright Eyes in 1934 and as recently as Lost and Found in 1999.