The Cairn Terrier is one of the oldest of the terrier breeds, originating in the Scottish Highlands and recognized as one of Scotland’s earliest working dogs.
Illustration courtesy of the Swedish Kennel Club
About this Breed
Cairn Terriers are lovable and feisty little dogs from Scotland. They are easily recognizable because Toto in “The Wizard of Oz” was played by one. Their name derives from the word “cairn,” which is a pile of stones. These little dogs were adept at navigating the cairns in the Scottish Highlands, and that’s how they got their name. They were originally going to be called “Short-Haired Skye Terriers”, but Skye Terrier breeders weren’t too thrilled by the prospect.
Cairn Terriers are thought to be one of the oldest breeds to originate in Scotland. They were given their name in the very beginning of the 20th century, but they have definitely been around for much longer. Used primarily as hunters of small game, their tenacious personalities made them very effective. Cairn Terriers are extremely intelligent and are easily trained. While they have a stubborn streak—not surprising because they are Terriers—they are extremely intelligent and will catch on very quickly. This intelligence also makes them prime candidates for dog sports, whether it be agility or obedience—and they definitely have the energy for it, too.
Despite their frisky energy and exercise needs, Cairn Terriers are small and compact and, thus, make very good apartment dogs. As long as people take them out for multiple walks a day, they will thrive in the city or in a small apartment. Without proper exercise, they may become bored and fidgety. They’d also do very well in the suburbs or the country—Cairn Terriers are adaptable little guys.
Cairn Terriers may or may not get along well with other dogs. It really depends on the individual dog involved. As a general rule, though, Cairn Terriers have a tendency to be territorial and persnickety, so owners will need to introduce them to other dogs cautiously and as early as possible. They also aren’t the ideal breed for families with young children, as Cairns don’t have a whole lot of patience with very small children. If prospective owners have older and well-behaved children, their Cairn will surely love them. However, if they have toddlers or babies in the home, Cairn Terriers might not be the right choice for them.
Cairn Terriers, despite originating in the United Kingdom, are very popular in the United States. This may be in part because of the success of the movie “The Wizard of Oz.” Toto, the little brindle Cairn Terrier, was beloved by the whole country. As a result, prospective owners likely won’t have a hard time finding a Cairn if they decide that they are the right breed for their family.
Cairn Terriers on Embark
Explore some Embark dogs that share Cairn Terrier ancestry.