Cairn Terriers

Final-Gracie-Deck

Gracie sunning on the deck

I have been proudly owned by two cairn terriers in my lifetime, over a span of 28 years, and fully expect to have the pleasure of loving at least one more.  Having recently lost our sweet girl Gracie I am still very tender-hearted, but wanted to write and expound on the attributes of these dogs, small in stature but so very big in heart.

Webster defines the cairn terrier as-

“One of the oldest of the terrier breeds, originating in the Scottish Highlands and recognized as one of Scotland’s earliest working dogs. The breed was given the name cairn, because the breed’s function was to hunt and chase quarry between the cairns in the Scottish highlands.”

Indeed, they are known for their ability to catch rats and small rodents.  I think one of my cairns’ favorite pastimes was chasing squirrels.  Thankfully they never quite succeeded in catching one, but came awfully close on more than one occasion!  We have always had cats, but cat chasing was reserved for the “outdoor” stray cats, and not our own.  The game was certainly in the chase, because our cairns were far too gentle to ever hurt any cat.  In fact they are perfect companions for other family pets.

And as you can imagine, going after quarry in the cairns would involve digging and a willingness to go underground.  For this reason cairns excel in earth dog trials, and are listed as one of the eligible breeds to compete in these AKC events.  While my girls never competed, my first cairn Tessa could turn dirt faster than I could with my best shovel.  If I could have just taught her how to dig where I needed a garden planted…

Cairns have a rough, weather-resistant coat that comes in a variety of colors, and can include any color except white.  Many are brindles, with a variety of colors in their coat.  They are one of the few dog breeds that are said to be good for folks that have pet allergies, registering on the “low” end of the allergic scale for most people.  I can attest also to their ease in grooming.  And hey, a little dog that I can bathe in the kitchen sink is the dog for me!  They average in size from about 12-17 pounds.

By far their greatest attribute, though, is their winning personality.  They are feisty, independent, extremely intelligent, and robustly active.  They are perfect as a child’s pet, because they can handle both the roughhousing and high energy level that children naturally have.  My first cairn played with the neighborhood children for hours, chasing a ball and going down the playhouse slide with the kids.  So cute!

Both of my cairns showed an absolute fascination with fetching.  Cairns learn quickly, and once taught will fetch a ball or toy for hours, so be prepared.  They do need to be actively played with and/or walked every day due to their high energy level.  They slow down a little when older, but not much.  That said, they rest as hard as they play, and are not nervous dogs that stay constantly underfoot.

Most famous cairn ever?  No doubt the dark cairn terrier that played Toto in the 1939 movie the Wizard of Oz.  And cairns have played in many movies.  In fact here is a list of just some of the movies they have played in.  See some of these movies and their adorable pups!

So, if you are looking for a small breed dog that’s easy to keep and has the most wonderful personality, think about getting a cairn terrier.  I promise they will win you over with their scruffy charm.  And if you have any questions about these great little dogs just ask.  I will be more than happy to respond!

“Remember, it is not how much you love, but how much you are loved by others.”-Wizard of Oz, 1939

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5 thoughts on “Cairn Terriers

  1. I’m glad you’re thinking about getting another Cairn at the right time. Having owned (or being owned by ) Cairns since 1972 I have to say that it is hard to lose our
    babies but I feel like I’m honoring my dear Cairn by adding a new one to the family. We bought our first Cairn at a pet store and she was *wonderful* but later we learned that she would have come from a nasty puppy mill. Since then we’ve fostered over 70 Cairns for Col. Potter Cairn Rescue and have adopted our new additions from the fosters. My precious fostering partner Gilly went to the Bridge a year ago in January and I’m trying to find a new kid to follow in his footsteps and be half the awesome lovebug and fostering assistant he was.

    • I so admire what you do!! And I hear that Col. Potter is a great organization. If I fostered 70 cairns over the years I would have tremendous difficulty letting them go. I love these little dogs so much, and do feel like we will definitely have at least one more in our lifetime. Looking forward to it in fact!

      • Fostering is awesome and we love doing it! The only hard part is the adopting them out part. Nearly every one takes a chunk of my heart with them. I sometimes talk to our first Cairn, Spice, who is buried in the yard and tell her that it’s all her fault, this fostering business, because she was such a wonderful little girl. But we foster in honor of Spice’s parents who lived in H*ll to produce her and many other puppies.

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