BBS Breed Spotlight: Cairn Terrier

If ever there were a dog trapped in the wrong body, it would be the Cairn Terrier. is amazed at how such a lively, energetic being could be such a small creature! Read more about the Cairn Terrier in the BBS Breed Spotlight!

History & Background: Originating in the islands and highlands of Scotland, the Cairn Terrier was once grouped into the Skye Terrier family that included breeds such as the West Highland White Terrier, Scottish Terrier and Skye Terrier. These dogs were bred as working dogs, to chase and corner otters, foxes and other critters. This terrier was even named after the work that it did; chasing animals into “cairns,” which were piles of rock serving as memorials, but small creatures used them as dens.

By the end of the 19th century, Scottish Terrier breeders started breeding separate lines of the Skye Terrier family. There was some confusion at confirmation showings among differentiations between “Short-haired Skyes.” So, “Cairn Terrier of Skye” was suggested, then later shortened to simply “Cairn Terrier.” The AKC recognized this breed in 1913. This breed has also had quite a career in movies and literature. The most notable Cairn in media might be the dog of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Though Baum didn’t specify Toto as a Cairn, the book’s illustrator drew him as one, and a Cairn named Terry was cast as Toto in the film adaptation. A Cairn was also Little Ricky’s dog in I Love Lucy.   

Height: 9 to 13 inches. The Cairn’s height—being low to the ground—differs from other terriers and gives the dog a distinctive looked called “Cairishness.”

Weight: 13 to 18 pounds

Coat: This terrier has a double coat that is highly weather resistant. Cairns have hard and dense outer coats and soft, short and furry undercoats. This dog has bushy eyebrows and a furry tail.

Color: Cairns can be any color but white. They sometimes sport dark muzzles, ears and tail tips. Eyes are usually hazel or dark hazel and the nose is black.

Appearance: For a small, short-legged dog, the Cairn Terrier is very sturdy. Well balanced, with strong hindquarters and a deep rib cage, this little dog gives the impression of overall strength and spirit. The head is wider and shorter than most other terriers and paired with their coat, gives this dog a “fox-like” look.

Temperament: Very animated and alert, the Cairn is a delightful family member. This dog is loyal, curious, intelligent and friendly and can be trained and taught many tricks if their owner is dedicated. Like many terriers, they like to chase prey—real or imaginary. Another terrier trait, Cairns have seemingly endless energy and playtime is never long enough. They get along great with kids and other dogs, but can sometimes hurt cats and smaller animals if not trained. This dog needs to be leash trained if not privy to a fenced in backyard and owners should be wary of letting this dog roam in open spaces. The tenaciousness of a Cairn has been to come out when encountering larger dogs or wildlife and the Cairn’s nature is to never back down.

Health & Grooming: Cairns can suffer from ailments such as cataracts, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, luxating patella and retinal atrophy to name a few. Weight gain and allergic reactions to fleas can also affect this terrier. This dog usually lives 12 to 15 years.

Cairns shed very little and are considered to be hypoallergenic. This dog should be hand stripped to remove fur to prevent matting. Brushing several times a week paired with a monthly bath is imperative to maintain the natural coat and comfort of the dog. Regularly trimming around the eyes and ears and trimming nails is important, as well.

Product Suggestions: For hours of fetching fun, the Cairn Terrier needs a Nite Ize Flashlight Dog Discuit! This durable, soft plastic flying discuit dog toy will take flight like no other flying disc. It features a LED light that shines bright red for exciting nighttime fun with your canine companion so playtime never has to end!

A crunchy, tasty dog treat will make training your Cairn a breeze. Try our Beef Lung Puffs! They have a pleasant and light aroma that dogs go crazy for. This delicious item has only one ingredient: Cow Lung!

Do you own or know a Cairn Terrier? Tell us your favorite Cairn story in the comments section!

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