Cairne Terrier looking inquisitive

Cairn Terrier: Scrappy and Bold

History Of The Cairn Terrier

Cairn terrier

The Cairn Terrier breed has been around since the Middle Ages, sometime during the 15th century. The name “Cairn” is said to have been coined because the dogs were good at running otters out of the cairns (piles of stones used as memorials or landmarks). They were used successfully to hunt down badgers, foxes, and otters.

One of Scotland’s first working dogs, the Cairn Terrier, is a terrier breed with Scottish Highlands origins. Because the breed was used for hunting and pursuing prey between cairns in the Scottish highlands, it was given the name Cairn.

These dogs have several coat colors that range from gray to red to white. All color variations were considered Scotch Terriers as they were entered into the show ring. Only two dogs were labeled as part of the breed in 1873 – the Skye Terriers and the Dandie Dinmont.

In 1881, the group was further divided into the Hard-haired Terriers and the Skye Terriers. Eventually, the hard-haired terriers were split into the West Highland White, the Scotch, and the breed known today as the Cairn Terrier.

Although the breed went through various names, it was officially known as the Cairn in the early 1900s and became a highly popular breed in England during that time. They slowly made headway in the United States and were even featured in the movie, The Wizard of Oz.

When given enough exercise, Cairn Terriers live nicely in apartments. They can survive without a yard because they are so active indoors. Cairn terriers benefit from daily walks to stay happy and healthy. For the dog’s protection and well-being, fenced-in yards are strongly advised, as is keeping the dog on a leash when outside the yard.

The Cairn Terrier Club of America is responsible for maintaining breed standards for the AKC.


The Cairn Terrier has all of the characteristics of a terrier as you would expect, but with extra sensitivity and affection. The Cairn is bold, inquisitive, scrappy, and a bit stubborn, while at the same time being responsive to the commands given and always looking to please its owners.

Cairn Terriers are wonderful around children and enjoy a little rough play now and again. They have such a feisty part of their personality that they will stand up to any aggressive dog, regardless of size. This makes them an excellent watchdog. Cairn dogs may also be reserved around strangers and other pets in the house due to their dominant personality.


Caring for the Cairn Terrier

Although this dog is small, it still needs a lot of daily exercise. A few long walks on the leash, in addition to vigorous games in the yard or around the house, will be plenty. They can tolerate moderate temperatures in both hot and cold climates, but not the extremes.

The ideal living situation for a Cairn Terrier is to play in a safe, fenced-in yard during the daytime and sleep inside with the family at night. Grooming requirements call for a weekly brushing to keep its wiry coat clean. A stripping is recommended once each year.

Health Concerns

Cute cairn terrier dog on green grass in the park on a sunny day. Terrier dog breedThe average lifespan for the Cairn Terrier is between twelve and fourteen years. There are no major health concerns with the breed. Minor health issues include CMO, glaucoma, and portacaval shunt. Rarely seen is GCL. Cairn Terriers get specifically tested for GCL.

Numerous severe health issues for Cairns have been noted by breeders, owners, and vets. Some of these illnesses run in families, while others are brought on by accidental causes such as infections, toxins, injuries, or advanced age.

To lessen the prevalence of hereditary disorders in the breed, the Cairn Terrier Club of America and the Institute for Genetic Disease Control in Animals currently run an open register for Cairn Terriers. Breeders freely provide the test findings of their dogs for use by researchers and those looking to make ethical breeding decisions.



In conclusion, the Cairn Terrier is a fascinating breed of dog with a rich history and a unique personality. Originally bred in Scotland for hunting small prey, they have since become popular family pets around the world. With their charming looks and playful demeanor, Cairn Terriers are sure to capture the hearts of anyone who meets them.

While they may be small in size, Cairn Terriers are big in personality and intelligence. They are loyal, energetic, and always eager to please their owners. They do well in a variety of living situations, from apartments to large homes with yards, as long as they receive plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.

Cairn Terriers are also known for their hardy constitution and generally good health. With proper care and attention, they can live long and happy lives.

If you’re considering bringing a Cairn Terrier into your life, it’s important to do your research and find a reputable breeder or rescue organization. With their unique needs and quirks, Cairn Terriers require an owner who is willing to invest time and energy into training and socializing them.

Overall, the Cairn Terrier is a wonderful breed of dog that brings joy and companionship to countless families around the world.


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