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. The breed was given the name Cairn because the breed’s function was to hunt and chase quarry between the cairns in the Scottish highlands.
The Cairn Terrier dog breed is a small working terrier developed on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Farmers used them to rid their property of vermin, and they needed a dog with courage, tenacity, and intelligence—characteristics still found in today’s Cairn.
The Cairn’s unique qualities, called “Cairnishness,” include a short, wide head and a free-moving, short-legged body that exudes strength but not heaviness, topping out at about 10 inches high and about 15 inches long. The double coat is harsh and wiry on top and downy beneath. A Cairn presents as a small, shaggy, alert dog, with head, tail, and ears up, and eyes shining with intelligence.
A British breed club promotes Cairns as the “best little pal in the world.” Cairns are small enough for a lap-top snuggle and sturdy enough for a good romp on the lawn. They do best with lots of close family contact. For owners who cherish the terrier qualities of gameness, independent thinking, and true-blue loyalty, no other breed will do.
The cairn terrier is the energetic, brave and devoted little dog that most of us know as Toto in “The Wizard of Oz.” But his roots extend farther back in time than that, and his accomplishments, too, are far greater.
The Cairn terrier may have existed as long ago as the 16th century, helping to control vermin on the Isle of Skye. Their specialty was in bolting quarry, particularly otters, from heaps of stone known as cairns. The breed is related to the Scottish and West Highland white terriers, and crosses with Westies occurred as recently as the 1920s. Today, the Cairn terrier is an excellent all-around family pet and show dog.