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Cairn Terrier

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Physical Characteristics


Breed Group:



This small breed grows to around 13 to 18 pounds, or 6 to 8 kilograms.


Cairn Terriers can be anywhere from 9 to 13 inches tall (23 to 33 cm).


Cairn Terriers come in a variety of colors, including cream, wheaten, red, sandy, gray, or brindled patterns. Solid white, solid black, and black-and-tan are less desirable and are not accepted in some kennel clubs.


Cairn Terriers have a hard, weather-resistant outer coat and a soft undercoat.



Alert, active, and intelligent, this small breed of dogs makes excellent family pets as they are playful and enjoy the company of children. Their ancestors were vermin hunters in the Scottish Highlands, and as such they have a high prey drive and have a tendency of digging and barking; however, these undesirable behaviors can be corrected through training and regular exercise. Despite their small built, Cairn Terriers have big personalities, a trait that makes them especially endearing as a member of the family.

Country of Origin:



Cairn Terriers are one of Scotland’s first working dog breeds, and were used in the Highlands to hunt small mammals and vermin. Because of their small size and endearing disposition, they quickly become popular pets. Cairn Terriers have also claimed a share of Hollywood fame - Toto, Dorothy’s canine companion in Wizard of Oz, was a Cairn Terrier.


Cairn Terriers are named after the characters of the land where they originated – stone piles, or cairns, that are often seen in the Scottish Highlands.


Cairn Terriers are energetic and can be feisty toward strangers, but are always loyal to their family. Their high energy level and gentle temper make them great playmates, as they are always alert and ready to go. Cairn Terriers’ hunting instinct may make them stubborn and prone to barking, but they also respond well to training and bond with their owners quickly. Always eager to please, a Cairn Terrier is a wonderful companion.



Comprehensive training is needed with this breed, since their instinct to seek out burrowing preys can lead to digging and other destructive behaviors. Cairn Terriers are also known to chase smaller animals, and be aggressive toward other dogs. However training is comparatively easy due to their high intelligence and loyalty to their owners.


The highly energetic Cairn Terriers enjoy regular exercise and daily walks. A bored Cairn Terrier with excess energy may become destructive as he is desperate for something to do!


Cairn Terriers can thrive in many environments, whether as a family pet, or as a companion of a single person. Their small size makes them good apartment pets, as long as they receive adequate amount of attention and exercise.


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