The Full Wiki

Cairn Terrier: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cairn Terrier
Two Cairn Terriers showing variations in coat color.
Country of origin Scotland

The Cairn Terrier is one of the oldest terrier breeds, originating in the Scottish Highlands and recognized as one of Scotland's earliest working dogs, used for hunting burrowing prey among the cairns.

Although the breed had existed long before, the name Cairn Terrier was a compromise suggestion after the breed was originally brought to official shows in the United Kingdom in 1909 under the name Short-haired Skye terriers. This name was not acceptable to The Kennel Club due to opposition from Skye Terrier breeders, and the name Cairn Terrier was suggested as an alternative. The Cairn Terrier quickly became popular and has remained so ever since. They are usually left-pawed. Cairn Terriers are ratters. In Ireland they would search the cairns (large rock piles) for rats and other rodents. Thus if one is kept as a house hold pet it will do the job of a cat, specifically catching and killing mice, rabbits, and squirrels.





A middle aged, brindle Cairn Terrier
Cairn Terrier physique

Weight: 14–18 pounds (6–8 kg)
Height: 10–13 inches (25–33 cm)
Coat: Abundant shaggy outer coat, soft downy undercoat
Litter size: 6-10
Life span: 12–15 years

The breed standard can be found Cairn Terrier Club of America website. The current standard was approved on May 10, 1938 and was adopted from the The Kennel Club of Great Britain. According to the American standard, dogs should weigh 14 pounds and stand 10" at the withers. Females should weigh 13 pounds and stand 9.5" at the withers. A Cairn's appearance may vary from this standard. It is common for a Cairn to stand between 9 and 13 inches (23–33 cm) at the withers and weigh 13 to 18 pounds (6 to 8 kg). European Cairns tend to be larger than American Cairns. Due to irresponsible breeding, many Cairns available today are much smaller or much larger than the breed standard. Cairns that have had puppy mill backgrounds can weigh as little as 7 pounds or as much as 27 pounds.

The Cairn Terrier has a harsh, weather-resistant outer coat that can be cream, wheaten, red, sandy, gray, or brindled in any of these colors. Pure black, black and tan, and white are not permitted by many kennel clubs. While registration of white Cairns was once permitted, after 1917 the American Kennel Club required them to be registered as West Highland White Terriers. A notable characteristic of Cairns is that brindled Cairns frequently change color throughout their lifetime. It is not uncommon for a brindled Cairn to become progressively more black or silver as it ages. The Cairn is double-coated, with a soft, dense undercoat and a harsh outer coat. A well-groomed Cairn has a rough-and-ready appearance, free of artifice or exaggeration.

Nine week old Cairn Terrier with Brindle coat enjoying the sun.


Cairn Terriers are adventurous, intelligent, strong, and loyal. Like most terriers, they love to dig after real or imagined prey. Cairn Terriers have a strong prey instinct and will need comprehensive training. However, they are intelligent and, although willful, can be trained. Training of the Cairn Terrier has the best results when training as a puppy, as they become unwillfully stubborn. Although it is often said that they are disobedient, this is not the case provided correct training is applied.

Cairns are working dogs and are still used as such in parts of Scotland. Cairn Terriers generally adapt well to children and are suitable family dogs.


Close up of a Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terriers should always be hand stripped. Using scissors or shears can ruin the dog's rugged outer coat after one grooming. Hand stripping involves pulling the old dead hair out by the roots. This does not harm the dog in any way. Removing the dead hair in this manner allows new growth to come in. This new growth helps protect the dog from water and dirt. Extra attention should be given to the grooming of the Cairn Terrier in order to help prevent bothersome skin conditions as they get older. Be sure to see that the dog's skin is all right before grooming. Keeping any dog routinely groomed leads to better health.


These dogs are generally healthy and live on average about fifteen years. Yet breeders, owners and veterinarians have identified several health problems that are significant for Cairns. Some of these diseases are hereditary while others occur as a result of nonspecific factors (i.e. infections, toxins, injuries, or advanced age).

13-year-old Cairn Terrier

Some of the more common hereditary health problems found in the Cairn are:[1]

Currently, the Cairn Terrier Club of America along with the Institute for Genetic Disease Control in Animals maintain an open registry for Cairn Terriers in hopes of reducing the occurrence of hereditary diseases within the breed. Breeders voluntarily submit their dogs' test results for research purpose, as well as for use by individuals who seek to make sound breeding decisions.


Famous Cairns

Terry, the dog who played Toto in the 1939 screen adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, was a Cairn Terrier. Due to the identification of the State of Kansas with the original story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a resident of Wichita, Kansas has begun a drive to make the Cairn Terrier the official dog of the State of Kansas. Cairn terriers have also appeared in other movies:

In media

In books

  • In the Maximum Ride book series Total the talking dog is a Cairn Terrier.



  • Beynon, J. W. H. & Fisher, A. (1969). The Cairn Terrier 4th ed. revised. London: Popular Dogs. ISBN 0090614526.
  • Beynon, J. W. H. & Fisher, A. [revised by Wilson, P.]. (1977). The Cairn Terrier 6th ed. London: Popular Dogs Pub. Co. ISBN 0091293405.
  • Beynon, J. W. H. & Hutchison, J. H. (1930). The Popular Cairn Terrier. London: Popular Dogs Pub. Co., Ltd. Accession No: OCLC: 10576671.
  • Beynon, J. W. H., Fisher, A., Wilson, P. & Proudlock, D. (1988). The Terrier. Place of Publication Unknown: Popular Dogs. ISBN 0091581508.
  • Birch, B. & Birch, R. (1999). Pet Owner's Guide to the Cairn Terrier. Sydney: Ringpress. ISBN 1860541119.
  • Camino E.E. & B. Co. Cairn Terrier Champions, 1952-1986. Camino, CA: Camino E.E. & B. Co. ISBN 0940808471.
  • Carter, C. (1995). The Cairn Terrier. Neptune, NJ: T.F.H. Accession No: OCLC: 34877430.
  • Caspersz, T. W. L. (1957). The Cairn Terrier Handbook: Giving the Origin and History of the Breed, Its Show Career, Its Points and Breeding. London: Nicholson & Watson. Accession No: OCLC: 6756006.
  • Cooke, R. & Cooke, C. (1997). The Cairn Terrier in Canada. East St. Paul, MB: R. & C. Cooke. : ISBN 096831760X (v. 1).
  • Gordon, J. F. (1988). All About the Cairn Terrier. London: Pelham Books ISBN 0720717868.
  • Jacobi, G. A. (1976). Your Cairn Terrier. Fairfax, VA: Denlinger's. ISBN 0877140391.
  • Jamieson, R. (2000). Cairn Terrier. Dorking: Interpet. ISBN 1902389344.
  • Lehman, P. F. (1999). Cairn Terriers. Hauppauge, NY : Barron's Educational Series. ISBN 0764106384.
  • Marcum, B. E. (1995). The New Cairn Terrier. New York : Howell Book House. ISBN 0876050739.
  • Marvin, J. T. (1986). The New Complete Cairn Terrier 2nd ed. New York: Howell Book House. ISBN 0876050976.
  • McCormack, E. (1983). How to Raise and Train a Cairn Terrier. Neptune, N.J.: T.F.H. Publications. ISBN 0876662629.
  • Patten, B. J. (1996). The Terrier Breeds. Vero Beach, FL: Rourke Corp. ISBN 0865934584.
  • Ross, F. M., Burton, N. L. & others. (1932). The Cairn Terrier. Manchester, England: "Our Dogs" Pub. Co. Accession No: OCLC: 19603882.
  • Schneider, E. (1967). Know Your Cairn Terrier. New York: Pet Library. Accession No: OCLC: 2579232.
  • Walin, D. (1983). The Cairn Terrier and West Highland White: Breed Standards, History, Care and Grooming. Oster Professional Products Department. Accession No: OCLC: 14081415.
  • Whitehead, H. F. [edited & revised by Macdonald, A.] (1976; 1975). Cairn Terriers. New York: Arco Pub. ISBN 0668039671.
  • Willis, J. R. (1993). Genetic Anomalies of the Cairn Terrier: A Reference Manual for Conscientious Breeders. Howell, MI: The Cairn Terrier Club of America. Accession No: OCLC: 41363972.

Scientific articles

  • Gorke, B. ; Rentmeister, K. ; Peters, M. ; Siegert, F. ; Tipold, A. ; Hewicker-Trautwein, M. German. Title: Progressive neuronopathy in the Cairn terrier: two cases in Germany. Source: Wiener tierärztliche Monatsschrift. 88, Part 7 (2001): 183-186. Issue Id: Part 7. Alt Journal: Key Title: Wiener Tierärztliche Monatsschrift. Preceding Title: Tierärztliche zeitschrift. Succeeding Title: Deutsche tierharztliche Wochenschrift Berliner und Münchener tierärztliche Wochenschrift Tierärztliche rundschau Tierärztliche zeitschrift. Standard No: ISSN: 0043-535X CODEN: WTMOA3. OCLC No: 1696180. BL Shelfmark: 9316.000000
  • Schaer, Michael ; Harvey, John W. ; Calderwood-Mays, Maron ; Giger, Urs. Title: Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency Causing Hemolytic Anemia with Secondary Hemochromatosis in a Cairn Terrier. Diagnosis is made from a liver biopsy and confirmed with electrophoretic and immunoprecipitation studies. Source: The Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association. 28, no. 3, (May 1992): 233-240. Alt Journal: Key Title: The Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association. Preceding Title: Animal hospital. Standard No: ISSN: 0587-2871 CODEN: JAAHBL
  • Zaal, M D ; Ingh, T S G A M van den ; Goedegebuure, S & A ; Nes, J J van. Title: Progressive neuronopathy in two cairn terrier littermates; Source: The Veterinary quarterly. 19, no. 1, (1997): 34 (3 pages). Additional Info: Published for the Royal Netherlands Veterinary Association by Nijhoff. Alt Journal: Key Title: The Veterinary quarterly. Preceding Title: Tijdschrift voor diergeneeskunde. Standard No: ISSN: 0165-2176 CODEN: VEQUDU. OCLC No: 5393794

External links

Clubs, associations, and societies


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address