The Cairn Terrier is one of the five breeds of terrier that originated in Scotland. The other four are Skye, Dandie Dinmont, Scottish, and West Highland White Terriers.
Cairns were originally bred on the Scottish Highlands, as were all the terrier breeds from Scotland, to be vermin or small game hunters. Their small, muscular build was bred for digging and going to ground in order to hunt rabbit, fox, and badger to name a few. Smaller than the other breeds of terrier, the Cairn is extremely quick and agile.
The Cairn was the first offshoot of the oldest of the terrier breeds, the Skye, and was often classified as a "short haired Skye Terrier" up until the early 1900s. This nomenclature was used by The Kennel Club of England starting in 1910, but the official designation was changed to Cairn Terrier in 1912.
The Cairn is an active, intelligent, and hard working member of the terrier clan, and out of all of them, is probably the one to whom digging comes most naturally. For this reason, Cairns are best suited to country life, or a reasonably large back yard area of its own (with no prized shrubs or flowers, to be sure!). In addition, they are hale and hardy dogs, averaging a lifespan of sixteen years, suffering remarkably few health problems in older age, though arthritis is common.
Cairns are eager to please, but do need at least minimal obedience training in order to prevent destructive behavior. They are not recommended for families with children of toddler age, due to their rambunctious nature, though they socialize into a new home very easily, becoming fiercely loyal to their masters. They also bark quite a bit; some might consider them an annoyance due to their frequent vocalizations. However, they are not considered yappers like most other small dogs such as the Chihuahua.
Male Cairns quickly establish themselves as the alpha pet of the house, and resent other male dogs if they are not neutered, which may cause problems. They get along remarkably well with cats and other household pets, though it's probably not a good idea to have a Cairn in the same household as a rabbit or other rodent.
One of the world's most famous dogs was a Cairn. Dorothy Gale's companion throughout the motion picture "The Wizard of Oz" was a Cairn, through and through. Much to the chagrin of many Cairn owners, the exclamation, "Look! It's Toto!" is often heard.
Cairns are small dogs, averaging about 9 1/2 inches in height. They weigh on average 14 pounds. Their coloring may be any color except white, and always with dark muzzle, ears, and tip of the tail.
Adapted from The Cairn Terrier FAQ,
Copyright 1995 by Kathy Nicklas-Varraso, and used with
permission. Temperament and physical description
adapted from The American Kennel Club, www.akc.org