Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terrier picture


The Cairn Terrier originated in the Highlands of Scotland and the Isle of Skye - origins lost in the mists of time - but is generally considered to be the progenitor of the other Scottish native terriers - Scottie and West Highland White.

Cairns were originally used for vermin control and to flush out foxes and otters, the latter from boulders and rocks, hence the name 'Cairn' Terrier as the word 'cairn' refers to a pile of rocks.

They have been known in Scotland for hundreds of years but didn't appear in the showring until 1909 introduced by Mrs Alastair Campbell, whose family had owned them for many years. A bitter dispute between the Skye Terrier aficionados and Mrs Campbell over the name - she wanted to call them 'short-haired or prick-eared Skyes' led eventually to the name 'Cairn Terrier' being accepted.

Since then the popularity of the Cairn has spread worldwide both in the showring and as a pet. Not for nothing is the motto of the Cairn Terrier Club (the parent Club founded in 1910) "The Best Little Pal in the World."


The Cairn is basically a healthy little dog, active, game and hardy. Inside every little Cairn is a big dog trying to get out!. Like most terriers, Cairns can be strong-willed but it is possible to train them with firmness and kindness (and the occasional bribe!) They are not one-man dogs and are very sociable. They can be greedy so care must be taken not to let them get overweight.

They are not high-maintenance when it comes to grooming. A once-weekly brush and comb should suffice but to keep the coat at its best they should be professionally hand-stripped when necessary. This is done with finger and thumb plucking - no blades of any kind. Cairns should not be bathed in shampoo unless they get smelly, as it ruins the hard coat. If necessary a wash with water only should be enough.


Health problems are few but breed clubs recommend bile-acid testing for portosystemic liver shunt which is present in the breed although not a big problem. Eye testing sessions for ocular melanosis are carried out at breed shows and breeders are advised to have puppies checked for heart murmurs.