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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Cairn Terrier


Cairn Terrier Facts

  • Group
  • Terrier
  • Affiliations
  • Height
  • 9" - 10"
  • Weight
  • 13-14 lbs.
  • Lifespan
  • 14 years | Add yours

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  • Exercise Requirement
  • High - This breed requires vigorous daily activity
  • Training Requirement
  • Average Training Time
  • Grooming Requirement
  • Easy
  • Colors
    • Black
    • Cream
    • Red
    • Tan
    • Silver / Grey
  • Breed Characteristics
    • Adapted to city living
    • Hunting heritage
    • Should sleep indoors

True Cost Of Ownership

Alternate Names

none known


It is widely believed that this breed originated on the Scottish Isle of Skye, Great Britain.

Date Of Origin

The Cairn terrier was recognized as a unique breed in 1912 although it had been known since the 1500's.


The Cairn terrier is a descendant of the working terrier from the Isle of Skye that worked among the rocks and cliffs bolting otter, foxes, and vermin. The cairn terrier was grouped together with other Scottish terriers until 1873. In the late 1800's Scottish terrier breeders began to breed separate lines. In the early 1900's it was often bred with the West Highland white terrier.


This is a small, hardy, short-legged terrier that is longer than it is tall. The skull is broad, the muzzle is strong, and the nose is black.The hazel eyes are set wide apart and sunken with shaggy eye brows. It has small, pointed, erect ears that are set wide apart on the head. The short tail is carried high but not over the back. It has a profuse double coat. The outer coat is hard and weather resistant but softer on the head.


The cairn is lively and friendly. It is generally considered to be mellower than most terriers and some describe it as cat-like. It is a good family dog and is eager to please and it craves affection. It gets along with children and other animals.


A den burrower, it was used for centuries in the hunting of foxes, badgers, rabbits, and otter. Despite so many years of country living, the cairn adapted easily to apartment life and has become an excellent companion dog.

Health Concerns

Cataracts, CMO, globoid cell leukodystrophy, liver shunt, luxating patella, skin allergies, legg-perthes

Additional Information

This dog needs regular grooming by a professional.

Show Sources & Contributors +


The Howell Book Of Dogs

Publisher: Wiley Publishing Inc, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Author: Liz Palika

Dog Bible

Publisher: BowTie Press, 2005

Website: http://www.bowtiepress.com/bowtie/

Authors: Kristin Meuh-Roe, Jarelle S. Stein

Simon & Schusters Guide to Dogs

Publisher: Simon & Schuster inc, 1980

Website: http://www.simonandschuster.com

Author: Elizabeth Meriwether Schuler

The New Encyclopedia of the Dog

Publisher: Dorling Kindersley Publishing, 2000

Website: http://www.dk.com

Author: Bruce Fogle

The All Breed Dog Grooming Guide

Publisher: Aaronco, 2002

Website: http://www.aaroncopet.com

Author: Sam Kohl

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