The Cairn Terrier: A Good-Natured and Affectionate Dog


Captain Martin MacLeod is praised for being able to develop one of the oldest strains of breed – the Cairn Terrier. The whole event happened over 200 years ago on the Isle of Skye, situated in the Highlands off the West Coast of Scotland.

The Cairn Terrier was named for the way it would squeeze down into ‘cairns’ (rock dens where badgers and fox lived, usually in piles of small stones used to mark Scottish farm borders and graves).

These dogs would bark at foxes and badgers for the farmers to be alerted and kill those vermin right after.

Before, all terrier breeds in Scotland were originally classified under the name ‘Scotch Terriers’. In 1873, the whole system was revised. Scotch Terriers were separated into two classes: Dandie Dinmont Terriers and Skye Terriers.

The Skye Terrier classification included Cairns as well as dogs that are now known as Scottish Terriers, West Highland White Terriers.

These breeds were only recognized by color, as all three could come from the same litter. A club for Hard-Haired Scotch Terriers was formed for the three breeds in 1881; a standard was approved in 1882.

In the year 1912, the Cairn Terrier became a separate breed. The first Cairn Terriers were imported to the United States by Mrs. Henry F. Price and Mrs. Byron Rodgers one year after. Four years later (1917), the Cairn Terrier Club of America was granted AKC membership.

Traits and Behavior

The Cairn terriers are among those dogs that are very gentle. They are very loving as well as reliable and they are also gentle with the children. However, these dogs are also recognized for their bravery and their outstanding guarding skills. They are determined, wilful and controlled thus, they won’t surrender easily.

In addition, the Cairn terriers are people-loving dogs, which means that they always seek human attention as well as love every single moment that they can. Because of this, they should be given lots of attention and care for them to be happy.

Also, several bulldogs may get a little dominating, so they require a master who can display solid leadership and those who knows the behavior of an alpha canine.


Cairn terriers can be good to people as well as reliable if they understand their role when living with humans. They can be also nice to the other pets of the family but a number of them can be aggressive to new dogs when they can’t go along with their pack. The young Cairn terriers are filled with energy though they tend to be slower when they are already old.

Those Cairn terriers who show guarding manners like watching over the toys, foods, furniture, as well as the other parts of the house and those that are hostile, don’t have masters that demonstrate as the leader of the pack.


This dog’s behavior simply occurs if they are being permitted to take control. However, this can also be fixed if their owners will begin to show appropriate guidance and leadership. Proper control is needed to keep them satisfied and happy as well as to keep them from feeling that they are just followers.

Pet Care and Diseases

The Cairn terriers can thrive even in an apartment as long as they are constantly provided with physical exercises and mental stimulation to stay active.

Additionally, they should have an everyday walk to fulfil their primitive canine nature to migrate. They tend to acquire behavior problems if this need is deprived.

When having a walk, they must be behind or beside the person who holds the leash to remind them that the leader will be the one who will direct the path.

They will not be fine in a temperate climate because they will definitely have chills when the weather is cold and they can also have cooled off problems in extremely hot weather.


Cairn terriers are also susceptible to breathing problems since some of them have little windpipes.

They are likely to have heatstroke during hot weather and in hot cars or rooms. They can have cherry eyes and poor eyesight as well.

Also, they are disposed to have cell tumors, knee and hip issues and skin infections. Some can live a lot longer but others may have shorter lives.

They can live a long fruitful life but that will depend on the dog owner’s care towards his pet.


The Cairn Terrier is a hardy little terrier with a facial expression comparable to a fox. The modern American Kennel Club standard for the Cairn specifies a size of 9.5-10 inches and a weight of 13-14 pounds.

The head is broad in proportion to the length. The strong muzzle is of medium length with a defined stop. The teeth meet in 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 scruffy-looking Cairn Terrier has a double coat: a wiry outer coat and soft undercoat. The coat comes in many colors, including red, brindle, blackish, sand and various shades of gray (except white).


General Information

The estimated life of a Cairn Terrier is 12-15 years. The maximum litter size is about 2-10 puppies. This breed is also known as simply Cairn.

Breed Club

Visit these dog club websites dedicated to Cairn Terriers. Click this link:

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