Cairn Terrier


A small Cairn Terrier
Cairn Terrier Quick Summary
Also Known As
Height (at withers)9-11in (23-28cm)
Weight12-14lbs (5-6kg)
Hair Colour(s)Varies
Lifespan13-15 years
Energy LevelHigh
Litter size4-6
Barking TendencyHigh
Exercise requirementsHigh
Ease of trainingMedium
Suitability for kidsMedium
Animal compatabilityHigh
Aggression levelsLow
Distress if leftLow

The Cairn Terrier is a shaggy-looking little terrier with a very compact body. The head is broad with a bushy topknot and the face has a fox-like appearance with small eyes and eyebrows, topped by small, erect ears. The tail is short but hairy. The coat is a weather resistant double coat, with a doft, dense undercoat and a longer and quite harsh outer coat. The colourring of can vary and includes wheaten, red, gray, brindle, and charcoal gray. The Cairn Terrier is probably best known for its appearance as Toto, Dorothy's little dog, in the film The Wizard of Oz (1939).


Cairn Terriers are feisty little dogs that are full of personality. These little characters are active, hardy, intelligent and alert, and they make great family pets and companions. They can also have a very assertive and stubborn nature, and so may be best suited to those with some level of experience of owning dogs. Cairn Terriers get along well with older, more considerate children (say over 6 years), and will usually be fine with other pets too, although they can be a little bossy and may be aggressive towards males of the same breed. As for strangers, their reactions can vary: some will be reserved, while others will be friendly. These dogs make good watchdogs because they have a tendency to bark and raise the alarm, or will simply alert owners to the presence of strangers by growling.

History & Skills

Cairn Terriers originate from the Isle of Skye near Scotland, where they were bred as hunting dogs for foxes, badgers and otters. They are just one of a family of short-legged terriers hailing from this region, but they are probably closer to the ancestral form than the others, which has been around since the 1400s. Their name is believed to come from the fact theyy were skilled at chasing otters from cairns, which are piles of stone that serve as landmarks or memorials. These days Cairn Terriers make great companions, family pets, and also therapy dogs.

Breed Specific Ailments

Cairn Terriers tend to live beteen 13-15 years and are hearty little dogs but there are some health problems linked to this breed. These include cataracts, glaucoma, Legg-Perthes, luxating patella, blood disorders, kidney disorders, PRA, CMO, seizures, allergies, and thyroid problems.


Cairn Terriers are low shedders generally but they are also seasonal shedders too. Grooming is moderate and usually the coat needs brushing twice a week (more during heavier shedding), and an occasional rub down with a damp cloth suffices. Note it is only the undercoat that sheds and the outer coat should not be clipped, as this will only promote the continuation of dead coat growth. Some ownersmaintain the old, dead coat should be stripped (pulled) out once a year. The nails should be kept trimmed.

Exercise & Environment

Cairn Terriers tend to live indoors but are very active little dogs, and so they do need access to a yard or garden to run around in. And as these dogs love to dig, these areas must be secure. These high energy animals also need two or three half hour walks on the lead to keep them happy.


FCIFCI - Federation Cynologique Internationale
KCThe Kennel Club (UK)
AKCAKC - American Kennel Club

Breed Clubs

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