History of the Cairn Terrier Breed
The cairn terrier is one member from a family of short-legged terriers that hail from Scotland's Isle of Skye. It is thought that the cairn probably more closely resembles the ancestral form than other terriers developed from the same stock. It is said that the cairn we know today is the result of the attempt to maintain the original form of the dog that served as a working terrier of the Isle of Skye. It appears that this breed existed since the 15th century, when they were used to hunt such animals as the fox, the badger, and the otter. It is believed that the name is derived from the fact that this dog was skilled at chasing otters from the cairns - which were piles of stone that served as landmarks or memorials at that time. The breed was available in many colors including, white to gray to red, and all colors were all considered to be Scotch terriers at the time they entered the show ring. It was in 1873, that the colors were divided into Dandie Dinmont and Skye terriers, and the cairn was part of the Skye group. Often, the Scottish, the West Highland, and the cairn were found within the same litter, the only distinguishing factor being the color of the puppy. Later, in 1881, the Skye group was divided again, this time into Skye and hard-haired terriers. Eventually, hard-haired terriers were separated into Scotch, West Highland white and the breed now known as the cairn. To add more confusion to the mix, the cairn was also known at one time as the shorthaired Skye, then it was called the cairn terrier or Skye, and finally, in about 1912, it simply became known as the cairn terrier. Many of the early cairns were all white, but this color was banned by the 1920s, as was crossing the cairn with the West Highland white. Most people would recognize the Cairn terrier as the little dog, Toto, in the movie, The Wizard of Oz. The Cairn terrier has enjoyed popularity in England and the United States.
Size and Appearance of the Cairn Terrier Breed
A short-legged but spunky dog, the cairn terrier is slightly longer than it is tall. The body of this breed is well-muscled and strong. The front legs are perfectly straight, and the front feet are larger than the hind feet. The pads of the feet are thick and strong, and the legs are covered with hard hair. The wide-set eyes of this breed feature shaggy eyebrows and offer a keen expression. The ears are small and pointed. The muzzle of the cairn is strong, but not heavy, and it has large teeth. The tail is carried gaily, and the gait is energetic. The coat of the cairn terrier is hard and weather-resistant, and consists of a profuse harsh outer coat and short, soft undercoat. This breed comes in a variety of colors - any color except white, and darker hair is sometimes found on the ears, muzzle, and tip of the tail.
Cairn Terrier Temperament
There are many colorful adjectives to describe the cairn terrier, including: plucky, scrappy, and spunky. But despite its strong but pleasant personality, this breed is surprisingly sensitive. It enjoys playing with children, but it may tend to be aggressive with other dogs. It is also known to chase small animals. It likes to dig, and some may bark excessively without proper training and attention. This breed is intelligent, and is therefore easily trained. It enjoys doing tricks and is naturally playful.
Cairn Terrier Recommended Maintenance
The wiry coat of the cairn terrier should be combed or brushed once a week. Stripping of dead hair is recommended at least twice a year. Bathing is minimal for this dog, but pay close attention to their teeth and nails. This breed should be trained not to bark excessively. While small in size, the cairn requires daily outdoor exercise, consisting of walks on a leash or games in the yard. While it can live outdoors in temperate climates, it enjoys spending time with its family and should sleep indoors. The cairn can do okay in an apartment dwelling as long as sufficient exercise is provided. It is quite active when indoors.
Cairn Terrier Health
Life span: 12 - 15 years
Major concerns: none
Minor concerns: globoid cell leukodystrophy
Occasionally seen: vWD, Legg-Perthes, patellar luxation
Suggested tests: none