Cairn Terrier


The Cairn Terrier is one of the smallest of the working terrier dog breeds. This hardy and active little terrier has short legs and a strong compact body. The Cairn’s outer coat is thick, harsh and weather resistant and the undercoat is short, soft and furry. Any coat colour except white is acceptable in this breed. Cairns stand 10 to 13 inches high at shoulder height and weigh from 13 to 17 pounds. Cairn Terriers belong to the American Kennel Club (AKC) Terrier Group. See additional information on
choosing a Cairn Terrier.


The development of this active small Terrier occurred on the Isle of Skye, Scotland approximately 500 years ago. The Cairn is probably one of Scotland’s original terriers, named for a pile of rocks that were used to mark the borders of farms. The Cairns were used to root out otters and other small nuisance animals from these rock piles. The breed became very popular in England and later in the U.S. gained a measure of fame as ‘Toto’ in the ‘Wizard of Oz’ movie. Lately the Cairn has become a valued companion pet while still being used for hunting and tracking and also as a watchdog. Cairns were ranked 43rd out of 154 dog breeds in 2004 AKC registrations.


These terriers are bold, spirited and inquisitive but are also somewhat independent-minded and stubborn. The Cairn is intelligent, affectionate and eager to please its master. This breed is easily trained and likes to do tricks although they may be the tricks that he – not you – wants to do. Cairns do well with older children and love to play games. These Terriers demand lots of attention but will provide you with hours of entertainment in return. Cairns are somewhat suspicious of strangers. This self-confident little dog makes a good watchdog. Cairn Terriers do well with novice or first-time dog owners.


Cairns can get lots of activity in a fenced back yard but need the attention, excitement and adventure of a daily walk. These Terriers can become destructive and bark excessively if left alone and ignored. Cairns can adapt to apartment living if exercised regularly.


The Cairns shaggy coat needs brushing several times per week and should be bathed monthly. The hair needs trimming around the eyes and the dead hair should be stripped twice a year. This breed is a very light shedding dog if properly groomed and is often referred to as ‘hypoallergenic’.

Health Considerations:

Cairn Terriers are a generally healthy breed with a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years. Cairn should not be overfed as they can easily put on weight.

Article type: xdogbreed