top of page

Origin of Cairn Terriers


The Cairn terrier breed originated in the Scottish Highlands and is recognized as one of the earliest working dogs.  These little dogs love to hunt and chase burrowing prey.  This breed was originally known as the Skye terrier.  The Cairn terrier was registered into the American kennel club in 1903.  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.
Description (Wikipedia)

The Cairn terrier has a harsh weather-resistant outer coat that can be black, wheaten, red, sandy, gray, or brindled in any of these colors. 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.  Cairns live on average 12 to 17 years.  Their weight runs between 14 and 17 pounds.


Cairn terriers love older children and they will enjoy their company very much.  Cairns are great fun and will happily become a member of your family.  The Cairn terrier is not a particularly cuddly dog and won’t willingly cuddle up on your lap.  These little dogs prefer to be on the move with you rather than sitting still.  This is one dog temperament that remains playful and active until he is quite mature.  They are very intelligent, sturdy, playful, and energetic and have great stamina.
Cairns can be stubborn and independent and try to be the boss.  This aspect of their temperament means that you need to show them that you are in charge.  Cairns are afraid of nothing and if he thinks he rules your home, he can get into trouble.  Early and regular training throughout his life is the key to owning a well behaved Cairn terrier.  This little breed will often bark at the slightest sound.  This is typical of the terrier dog temperaments.   Cairns can have a very bossy nature and typically don’t get along well with cats.
The Cairn terrier has large feet and strong claws, which serves him well for the purpose of digging.  Cairns love to dig holes, which can make them a little unpopular at times. You won’t be able to consistently train them out of digging; it is just too embedded in their nature.  They are extremely adaptable to apartment, backyard, or country living.

Exercise (very important)

Cairns are very active little dogs, and thus will need a daily walk.  Play time will take care of a lot of their exercise needs; however, as with all breeds, play time will not satisfy their primal instinct to walk.  Dogs that 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 leash, such as a large fenced in yard.  Please remember these little dogs originated as hunting dogs.  They will chase vermin on sight.  And all the commands for them to stop pursuit will go unheard.  So, a fenced yard or some kind of containment is absolutely necessary to keep them safe.


The Cairn is double-coated, with a soft, thick undercoat and a harsh outer coat.  The Cairn terrier breed sheds very little.  The wire outer coat repels water and keeps the dog dry even in rainy or damp climates.  For proper care, their coats should be hand stripped for removal of dead hair. This will allow new growth to come in which helps protect the dog from water and dirt.  You should never shear these little dogs.  It can ruin their outer coat and change the texture and growth of their hair.  I comb my cairns every day which helps keep their coats in tip top shape.

bottom of page