The Cairn Terriers

Scotland’s cute little Cairn Terrier, although rather untidy in coat, possesses an almost irresistible charm. Cairn Terriers, like the West Highland Whites, are claimed by their supporters to be the foundation stock of the terriers of Scotland.

They are certainly a very old breed and, as their name implies, have worked among the cairns of Scotland hunting small game.

They are built much on the lines of our native Australian Terrier and do not require the regular stripping so necessary in the case of other harsh-coated terriers.

Cairn Terriers have been known in the U.S. for very many years but made little progress. They have improved considerably both in numbers and quality since then and a keen demand exists for both show and puppies.

They are affectionate, sharp little dogs around the home and grand companions for children. They are natural ratters and will keep any property free from small game.

Show quality of the Cairn Terrier is very satisfactory at present. The type has been stabilized and local breeders have taken full advantage of the high-class imports which have arrived here in the past few years.

His adaptability for town or country and his gay attitude to life has won him many friends. While the majority of his supporters are of Caledonian ancestry, there are plenty of others who regard him as the dog.

While he appreciates exercise as much as any dog, the average Cairn can keep himself in good condition in an ordinary backyard.

The ideal Cairn Terrier is compact in build, hardy, game and shaggy in appearance and should impress with his fearless yet gay disposition. He should stand well forward on his forelegs and be very free in his movements.

The head is proportionate to the size of the body, with rather a foxy appearance and well clothed with longish hair.

The head is fairly broad at the skull and the fore face is short and strong. Eyes are set wide apart, rather sunken, dark in color, with lots of expressions.

The ears are erect, not set too closely together and free from long hair.

The term “cat faced” is used in describing a good-headed Cairn Terrier.

There should be plenty of length in the neck which fits into a nicely sloped shoulder.

The forelegs should be fairly well boned, but not overdone and should not turn out at elbows or feet.

The body is compact, with a straight back, well-sprung ribs of medium length overall, but well coupled to give an impression of sturdiness as well as activity.

Hindquarters must be strong, with nicely-turned stifles and feet should not turn in or outwards when moving.

The tail is a natural one, set on high and carried gaily. It is well clothed with hair but should not be feathered.

The coat is very important. It is a double coat as befits any dog required to work in extremely cold climates.

The outer coat is profuse and hard to the touch, but not coarse as in the case of the wire-haired terriers, and should be some two and a half inches long.

The undercoat resembles fur and is short, soft and close.

Color varies considerably, may be red, sandy, grey, brindle or nearly black.

Dark points (ears and muzzle) are typical and improve expression.

The Cairn Terrier stands about eight inches at the shoulder and weighs about 14 pounds in good, hard condition.


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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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