Meet the Cairn Terrier

Over 200 years ago, on the ancient Isle of Skye and in the Scottish Highlands, the ancestors of today’s Cairn Terrier earned their keep routing vermin from the rock piles (called cairns) commonly found on Scottish farmland.

These early terriers were highly prized and bred for their working ability, not appearance. Such characteristics as courage, tenacity and intelligence, housed in a sturdy body clad in a weatherproof coat, armed with big teeth in strong jaws, were sought generation after generation. Gradually the breeds known as the Scottish Terrier and the West Highland White evolved and were named. The Cairn (the last to be formally named) remained the closest to the original small working terrier, bolting the fox, otter and weasel, sharing the meager fare of the crofter’s household.

Today the Cairn Terrier in America is a sensible, confident little dog, independent but friendly with everyone he meets. He may be found in an apartment, suburban home, or on a farm.

The immediate impression should be that of a small, shaggy, alert dog, head, tail and ears up, eyes shining with intelligence, poised and ready for anything. The Cairn comes in a variety of colors. All are attractive. It can be difficult if not impossible to predict adult color based on the puppy coat. Color changes in many Cairns continue for years.

Alert, intelligent and long-lived, the Cairn tends to remain active and playful well into his teen years, endearing him to children. True to his heritage, the breed still has very large teeth, large feet with thick pads and strong nails (the better to dig with!), strong, muscular shoulders and rears, and a fearless tenacity that will lead him into trouble if his owners are irresponsible.

Standing 9 1/2 to 10 inches tall and weighing about 14 pounds, the Cairn is truly a big dog in a small package … small enough to carry easily and to fit comfortably on your lap, but tough enough to enjoy romping with children. Their sturdy appearance makes them especially appropriate as a man’s pet; no man who has ever owned one was embarrassed by his “little” dog.

Cairn Terrier Club of Southern California