It is an indisputable fact that the Cairn Terrier is one of the oldest, if not the oldest pure British terrier. There is some question whether the first Cairn came from the mainland of Scotland or from the Isle of Skye.
History of the Cairn precedes record-keeping. In the 15th Century Bishop Lesley of Ross describes a “dog of low height which, creeping into underground holes, routs out foxes, badgers and wild cats from their hiding places and dens; and if he at any time finds the passage too narrow, opens himself a way with his feet, and that with so great labor that he frequently perishes through his own exertions.”
The original use of the Cairn Terrier was to hunt and kill foxes, otters and other vermin in his native land. These little dogs had to be stout of heart and hard as nails or they would not go into the holes in the rocks to find their natural prey.
The word cairn means a heap of stones; therefore it is natural that Cairn Terriers were found in the western coastal district of Scotland, where the sea left many rocks, and in the areas where farmers piled rocks in clearing the land, and vermin hid after destroying the farmers’ crops. this working dog of the Highland crofter was as necessary to his master as cattle and ponies. He was a worker first, rarely a pet, rather homely” in appearance. It didn’t matter what the dog looked like, as long as he could do his work. Color was unimportant, except that the reds were not popular because they too closely resembled the fox. If the dog bolted the fox, it would be hard to tell which one to shoot.
In 1909 these shaggy little fellows went to the Crufts Dog Show under the name “Short-haired Skye Terriers.” Imagine how this name upset the Skye Terrier fanciers, an already established breed. Soon the Kennel Club designated them as Cairn Terriers.
From this early show career the Cairn has remained a hardy, sporting little fellow, full of life and energy, requiring no artificial trimming or chalk. He is a working dog and should not be stylized, powdered, etc. To bring any breed to perfection for the show ring, rules are essential. A standard for the breed evolves. A breed standard expresses the ideal. Since there is a divergence of opinion on many finer points of the standard, this publication attempts to clarify and amplify the areas of the standard which particularly need more attention from judges, breeders and exhibitors. It is hoped that this standard and amplification will better inform judges, and owners of Cairns, and aid in the better breeding of Cairn Terriers.
The rules set down in the standard are based on the dog’s fundamental purpose in life. The final test should be to look at each specimen and ask, “Can it do what it was bred to do?”
Cairn Terrier Club of Southern California