About Cairn Terriers

"Winchester and Shelagh at 10 weeks"

Description: Cairn Terriers are by nature, happy, playful, cheeky little souls who love people and other dogs and want to be part of everything we do.  They make you laugh at their antics but can be quite naughty and we must never forget they are terriers bred to hunt and therefore do require discipline as well as affection.  They are highly intelligent, however, don't always think it necessary to do as they are told if there is something more exciting happening. They have weather proof coats that don't shed and, therefore, need to be stripped once or twice a year, but are otherwise a very easy care, sound, healthy breed.  They make the most wonderful pets for children as well as adults, but do need the company of their human friends and do require a terrier proof fence to curb their hunting instincts. See Breed Standard below as printed by ANKC

History in Brief: Cairn Terriers are one of the oldest of the Scottish terriers being bred in the Highlands and Western Isles for hundreds of years.  For further information please refer to the UK Cairn Terrier Club Sites. They were bred to hunt vermin by both the Lairds and the Crofters and judging by the "stock sense" still apparent in mine, they were clearly used for stock work as well.

Cairn Colours: Cairn Terriers are unusual in that they can change colour as they mature, therefore, it is not possible to reliably predict what colour they will end up.  Mostly the plain coloured ones remain the same and the brindle ones go darker, but sometimes creams, wheatens and reds will darken up too, without having had any sign of brindling to start with. Dark masks and ear tips are desirable and can be encouraged by stripping the top of the ears regularly. To see cairn colours click here

Grooming: Cairns are fairly easy to care for as long as they have a clean place to live and no parasites.  A good brisk brush and comb once a week and an occassional hose down with tap water (no soap or shampoo) when necessary (perhaps your tastes differ in what smells pleasant) is mostly all that is required.  They look much more cairnlike if the top third of their ears are kept free of hair and once or twice a year their coats can be stripped out to let a new fresh coat grow or alternatively their coats can be "rolled" all year, this is where old hair is continually pulled out so there is always some new coat.  They are easier to keep looking tidy if you don't let their coats get too long and old as new hair is harsher and better conditioned so it sheds dirt and water very readily compared to the older softer coats.  Do not cut hair as the tip is where the weatherproofing is the most effective.  They have no "doggie" odour if treated in this manner.  Obesity can lead to a smelly dog with skin problems.

Hunting: Cairns being hunting terriers take every opportunity to seek out prey.  In Australia this is a great worry if you live where snakes or cane toads are found.  Living here, right on the river in a hot fairly dry climate and a quite large comparatively lush garden, snakes are a constant worry.  The tropical north also has cane toads which can easily kill a dog who bites them. Also be aware of the dangers of poisoning mice etc near dogs as they often catch and eat mice/rats if they are able.  Terriers will also catch spiders and other poisonous insects that can give them a nasty bite, so please take precautions to keep your canine friends safe.

Health: Cairns in general are a very natural, healthy little breed who have few problems.  It is not unusual for cairns to live 14 to 16 years and remain quite playful and active well into double figures.  However there are, very occassionally, things that can go wrong, including  Portal Systemic (Liver) Shunt , often referred to as PSS, that is why responsible breeders Bile Acid Test their puppies prior to sale,  this is a relatively inexpensive blood test which can eliminate the possibility of ever selling a puppy with this problem. 

By far the greatest health risk to Cairns, and in fact all pet dogs, is obesity, so please only feed the correct amount of quality dog food.  Remember to include all the treats given throughout the day when determining the amount of food that is being eaten by your pet.  Not only does obesity stress the internal organs and bodily functions but it can also cause skin problems.



 Kennel Club, London 1994.
F.C.I. Standard No. 4


GENERAL APPEARANCE - Agile, alert, of workmanlike, natural appearance.  Standing well forward on forepaws.  Strong quarters.  Deep in rib, very free in movement.  Weather-resistant coat. 

CHARACTERISTICS - Should impress as being active, game and hardy. 

TEMPERAMENT - Fearless and gay disposition; assertive but not aggressive. 

HEAD AND SKULL - Head small, but in proportion to body.  Skull broad; a decided indentation between the eyes with a definite stop.  Muzzle powerful, jaw strong but not long or heavy.  Nose black.  Head well furnished. 

EYES - Wide apart, medium in size, dark hazel.  Slightly sunk with shaggy eyebrows. 

EARS - Small, pointed, well carried and erect, not too closely set nor heavily coated. 

MOUTH - Large teeth.  Jaws strong with perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws. 

NECK - Well set on, not short. 

FOREQUARTERS - Sloping shoulders, medium length of leg, good but not too heavy bone.  Forelegs never out at elbow.  Legs covered with harsh hair. 

BODY - Back level, medium length.  Well sprung deep ribs; strong supple loin. 

HINDQUARTERS - Very strong muscular thighs.  Good, but not excessive, bend of stifle.  Hocks well let down, inclining neither in nor out when viewed from the rear. 

FEET - Forefeet, larger than hind, may be slightly turned out.  Pads thick and strong.  Thin, narrow or spreading feet and long nails objectionable. 

TAIL - Short, balanced, well furnished with hair but not feathery.  Neither high nor low set, carried gaily but not turned down towards back. 

GAIT/MOVEMENT - Very free-flowing stride.  Forelegs reaching well forward.  Hindlegs giving strong propulsion.  Hocks neither too close nor too wide. 

COAT - Very important.  Weather-resistant.  Must be double-coated, with profuse, harsh, but not coarse, outer coat; undercoat short, soft and close.  Open coats objectionable.  Slight wave permissible. 

COLOUR - Cream, wheaten, red, grey or nearly black.  Brindling in all these colours acceptable.  Not solid black, or white, or black and tan.  Dark points, such as ears and muzzle, very typical. 

Height: approx. 28-31 cms (11-12 ins) at withers, but in proportion to weight.
Weight: ideally 6-7.5 kg (14-16 lbs). 

FAULTS - Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree. 

NOTE - Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

Terrier Group     A.N.K.C.  ©   January 1998


Last Updated: 8/8/01