Cairn Terrier

Stubborn as a Mule But Excellent as a Pet, Especially for Children

Cairn Terrier

Stubborn as a Mule But Excellent as a Pet, Especially for Children

Although not one of the fourteen oldest dog breeds, Cairn Terriers are still believed to be a very old breed, and were the last to be formally named within the Terrier family. According to the Cairn Terrier Club of America , it is believed that more than two centuries ago, the forerunners of today’s Cairn Terrier served to vanquish rodents from “cairns” or piles of rock on farms in Scotland on the isle of Skye and in the Scottish Highlands. One should expect the same kind of hunting instinct within the household. Used to seek the presence of mice, squirrels, etc., grafters, shepherds and fox hunters commonly used them to wriggle into the “cairns” and bark to hold the predator until it was captured and killed. (The word "cairn" also refers to the rock dens that foxes and badgers live in throughout the countryside.)


On sight, the Cairn Terrier appears small and short-legged. But it is a very active breed with a strong build and well-rooted ribs. Sharing the appearance of a fox, it comes in different colors and can be tolerant of any weather conditions due to its hairy undercoat. The male weighs about 14 pounds; the female, a little less. Measuring about ten inches, the male is about a half inch taller than the female. Very petite and well-proportioned size, its life span is between ten to fifteen years.


True to the saying you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, the Cairn Terrier is very independent and unique unto itself. Each possesses an individual personality making it different from all others. With an equally singular temperament, if not well curbed, this dog could become mutinous to its owner, attempting to claim the role of boss in the relationship. However, genuinely fun-loving, this dog adores children with a generous heart.

Cairn Terriers are very intelligent and willful by nature and require some rigorous training. This yields the best result, as they can be exceptionally stubborn. To combat their proclivity to disobedience which is merely their way of expressing their independence, it is important to train them as puppies.

They love toys and can be a bit exuberant at times. If an owner is pushed beyond his limit, the best strategy is to adopt a strong authoritative position to make the leadership role more evident to your pet. A new owner should not be surprised if Cairn Terriers dig holes in and around the house as a display of their natural instinct to seek rodents. Regular exercise such as daily walks and active brushing will aid the general fitness and behavior of this wonderful pet.


Cairn Terriers appear somewhat shaggy on first impression but a good brushing improves their tidiness. It’s very important to keep this breed of dog free of fleas, as they can be allergic to fleabites. Weekly, their old dead hair should be removed from their roots, which does not hurt the dog in any way.


Although the Cairn Terrier is very healthy and lives between twelve and fourteen years, like every other breed, it can have several associated health problems as reported by veterinarians , breeders, and owners. There can be diseases or infections from toxins, age, or injuries. Common hereditary health issues found in Cairn Terriers are: progressive retinal atrophy; cataracts; Entropion; Soft Tissue Sarcoma; Von Willebrand Disease; luxating patella and more.

Living Environment

The Cairn Terrier is an apartment-friendly pet but enjoys a larger home just as much. Very active indoors, it can survive even without a yard.

Cost of Ownership

The purchase price of a Cairn Terrier could be about $550 for a 13-week-old puppy, but a prospective owner should consider the additional expense of medical issues, feeding, vaccines, and toys as well.

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