Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cairn Terrier small dog breed

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, used for hunting burrowing prey among the cairns.

Although the breed had existed long before, the name Cairn Terrier was a compromise suggestion after the breed was originally brought to official shows in the United Kingdom in 1909 under the name Short-haired Skye terriers. This name was not acceptable to The Kennel Club due to opposition from Skye Terrier breeders, and the name Cairn Terrier was suggested as an alternative. The Cairn Terrier quickly became popular and has remained so ever since. They are usually left-pawed. Cairn Terriers are ratters. In Ireland they would search the cairns (large rock piles) for rats and other rodents. Thus if one is kept as a house hold pet it will do the job of a cat, specifically catching and killing mice, rabbits, and squirrels.


Weight:     14–18 pounds (6–8 kg)    
Height:     10–13 inches (25–33 cm)    
Coat:     Abundant shaggy outer coat, soft downy undercoat
Litter size:     6-10
Life span:     12–15 years

The breed standard can be found Cairn Terrier Club of America website. The current standard was approved on May 10, 1938 and was adopted from the The Kennel Club of Great Britain. According to the American standard, dogs should weigh 14 pounds and stand 10" at the withers. Females should weigh 13 pounds and stand 9.5" at the withers. A Cairn's appearance may vary from this standard. It is common for a Cairn to stand between 9 and 13 inches (23–33 cm) at the withers and weigh 13 to 18 pounds (6 to 8 kg). European Cairns tend to be larger than American Cairns. Due to irresponsible breeding, many Cairns available today are much smaller or much larger than the breed standard. Cairns that have had puppy mill

backgrounds can weigh as little as 7 pounds or as much as 27 pounds.
The Cairn Terrier has a harsh, weather-resistant outer coat that can be cream, wheaten, red, sandy, gray, or brindled in any of these colors. Pure black, black and tan, and white are not permitted by many kennel clubs. While registration of white Cairns was once permitted, after 1917 the American Kennel Club required them to be registered as West Highland White Terriers. A notable characteristic of Cairns is that brindled Cairns frequently change color throughout their lifetime. It is not uncommon for a brindled Cairn to become progressively more black or silver as it ages. The Cairn is double-coated, with a soft, dense undercoat and a harsh outer coat. A well-groomed Cairn has a rough-and-ready appearance, free of artifice or exaggeration.

Temperament 1

Cairn Terriers are adventurous, intelligent, strong, and loyal. Like most terriers, they love to dig after real or imagined prey. Cairn Terriers have a strong prey instinct and will need comprehensive training. However, they are intelligent and, although willful, can be trained. Training of the Cairn Terrier has the best results when training as a puppy, as they become unwillfully stubborn. Although it is often said that they are disobedient, this is not the case provided correct training is applied.
Cairns are working dogs and are still used as such in parts of Scotland. Cairn Terriers generally adapt well to children and are suitable family dogs.


Cairn Terriers should always be hand stripped. Using scissors or shears can ruin the dog's rugged outer coat after one grooming. Hand stripping involves pulling the old dead hair out by the roots. This does not harm the dog in any way. Removing the dead hair in this manner allows new growth to come in. This new growth helps protect the dog from water and dirt. Extra attention should be given to the grooming of the Cairn Terrier in order to help prevent bothersome skin conditions as they get older. Be sure to see that the dog's skin is all right before grooming. Keeping any dog routinely groomed leads to better health.



These dogs are generally healthy and live on average about fifteen years. Yet breeders, owners and veterinarians have identified several health problems that are significant for Cairns. Some of these diseases are hereditary while others occur as a result of nonspecific factors (i.e. infections, toxins, injuries, or advanced age).

Some of the more common hereditary health problems found in the Cairn are:
    * Cataracts
    * Ocular Melanosis
    * Progressive retinal atrophy
    * Corneal dystrophy
    * Krabbe disease (Globoid cell leukodystrophy)
    * Hip dysplasia
    * Legg-Calvé-Perthes syndrome
    * Craniomandibular osteopathy (Lion Jaw)
    * Von Willebrand disease
    * Hypothyroidism
    * Portosystemic shunt
    * Luxating patella
    * Entropion
Currently, the Cairn Terrier Club of America along with the Institute for Genetic Disease Control in Animals maintain an open registry for Cairn Terriers in hopes of reducing the occurrence of hereditary diseases within the breed. Breeders voluntarily submit their dogs' test results for research purpose, as well as for use by individuals who seek to make sound breeding decisions.

Famous Cairns

Terry, the dog who played Toto in the 1939 screen adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, was a Cairn Terrier. Due to the identification of the State of Kansas with the original story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a resident of Wichita, Kansas has begun a drive to make the Cairn Terrier the official dog of the State of Kansas. Cairn terriers have also appeared in other movies:

    * Bright Eyes, 1934 (Terry)
    * The Wizard of Oz (1939) (Toto)
    * Calling Philo Vance 1940 (Terry)
    * Reap the Wild Wind, 1942
    * George Washington Slept Here, 1942 (Terry)
    * The Uninvited, 1944
    * Without Love, 1945
    * The Valley of Decision, 1945
    * The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, 1947
    * Saturn 3, 1980
    * Graveyard Shift, 1990
    * Hocus Pocus, 1993
    * 2 Days in the Valley, 1996
    * Twister, 1996
    * Dunston Checks In, 1996
    * Portrait of a Lady, 1996
    * My Summer Vacation, 1996
    * Lost and Found, 1999
    * Children of Men, 2006 (Appears at about 1 hour 6 minutes)
    * Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog, 1961

In media

    * I Love Lucy - Little Ricky had a Cairn Terrier named Fred
    * UK TV Presenter Paul O'Grady often features a Cairn Terrier called Olga on his prime time chat show; dark in colour, Olga was a rescue dog.
    * Also in the UK, Pauline Fowler actress Wendy Richards in the BBC TV show EastEnders had a Cairn she fondly named "Betty".*Australian television soap series Neighbours had a Cairn Terrier named Audrey who belonged to the character Libby Kennedy
    * National Treasure 2
    * Jiminy - Prized showdog in Ontario, Canada[citation needed]
    * Twister - opening scene

In books
    * In the Maximum Ride book series Total the talking dog is a Cairn Terrier.


The Cairn Terrier is a hardy little terrier, with a fox-like expression. The head is broad in proportion to the length. The strong muzzle is of medium length with a defined stop. The teeth meet in a scissors or level bite. The nose is black. The deep, wide-set eyes are hazel in color with shaggy eyebrows and topknot. The erect ears are small and set wide apart covered in short hairs. The tail is in proportion to the head with short hairs. The shaggy, double, weather-resistant coat has a harsh outer coat with a soft undercoat. The coat comes in any color accept for white, including red, brindle, blackish, sand and various shades of gray, often with dark ears, muzzle and tail tip. The final coat color of a Cairn is hard to predict as the coat changes many times for several years.

Temperament 2

The Cairn Terrier is an alert, animated, hardy, little dog. Loyal, curious, cheerful, lovable and friendly, they enjoy playing with children. Independent, but will listen if they see the human is stronger minded than themselves. Meek and/or passive owners will find the dog to be willful. This breed can be taught to do tricks. A fearless, bold vermin hunter, Cairns like to dig. With enough mental and physical exercise along with consistent leadership they will be calm and easy-going. Cairns adapt well to their new homes. They need firm, but not harsh, training and discipline. Without the proper leadership, the Cairn can become destructive and/or bark excessively. If they spot a rabbit or other small animal they may take off chasing it. Do not allow this little dog to develop Small Dog Syndrome, human induced behaviors, where they believe they are pack leader to humans. Cairns with this syndrome will develop all types of varying degrees of behavior problems, including, but not limited to separation anxiety, stubbornness, snapping, growling and guarding.

Height, Weight

Height: Dogs 10-13 inches (25-33 cm)     Bitches 9-12 inches (23-30 cm)
Weight: Dogs 14-18 pounds (6-8 kg)       Bitches 13-17 pounds (6-8 kg)

Health Problems

Often allergic to fleas. Gains weight easily.

Living Conditions

The Cairn Terrier will do okay in an apartment if it is sufficiently exercised. It is very active indoors and will do okay without a yard.


These are active little dogs, who need a daily walk.  Play will take care of a lot of their exercise needs, however, as with all breeds, play will not fulfill their primal instinct to walk. Dogs who do not get to go on daily walks are more likely to display behavior problems. They will also enjoy a good romp in a safe open area off lead, such as a large fenced in yard.

Life Expectancy

About 12-15 years.


That shaggy "natural" looking coat actually takes quite a bit of maintenance and a neglected coat soon becomes a sorry, matted mess. Brush several times a week, being gentle with the soft undercoat. Once a month, bathe the dog and brush the coat while it dries. Trim around the eyes and ears with blunt-nosed scissors and clip the nails regularly. The Cairn sheds little to no hair.


The Cairn Terrier originated in the 1500s, in Highlands of Scotland and the Isle of Skye and is one of Scotland's original terriers. At one point it was considered the same breed as the Scottish Terrier and the West Highland White Terrier up until the 1900s when the breeds began to be bred separately. The Cairn is also said to be related to the Skye Terrier. The Cairn was named for the way it would squeeze down into "cairns" and bark at fox and badger until the farmer could arrive to kill it. "Cairns" were rock dens where badgers and fox lived, usually in piles of small stones used to mark Scottish farm borders and graves. The breed was first publicly presented in 1909 and became popular after the 1930s. It was first recognized by the AKC in 1913. It was a Cairn Terrier who played "Toto" in the Wizzard of Oz. Some of the Cairn's talents are hunting, tracking, go-to-ground trials, watchdog, agility, competitive obedience, and performing tricks.