Photo by bitjungle

Cairn Terrier - Breed Profile:

Origin: Scotland
Any except white
Size: Small
Type of Owner:
Exercise: Moderate
Grooming: Regular
Trainability: Easy to train
Combativeness: Can be a bit dog-aggressive
Dominance: Moderate
Noise: Average barker

Physical characteristics

The Cairn Terrier is a hardy compact dog with a well-muscled body which is slightly longer than tall. The legs are relatively short. The front legs should be perfectly straight, but forefeet may be turned out a bit. The skull is broad, with a definite stop; the head is shorter and wider than in any other terrier. The strong muzzle is neither too long nor heavy. The sunken eyes are medium size and set wide apart. Their colour depends on the coat colour and can be hazel to dark hazel. The small pointed ears are erect. The tail is in good proportion to the body. It is carried gaily but should not curl over the back.
Cairn Terriers weigh around 13,5 pounds and their height averages 10 inches.


A big dog in a small dog's body. Cheerful, affectionate, loyal, friendly and mischievous. Cairn Terriers love playing with children. They are quite independent, but will obey to a more strongly-minded person. Be a good pack leader. Passive owners will find the dog stubborn. Very curious, fearless and bold. These dog are easily trainable and like to do tricks. It is important to remember that strong chasing instincts can take over, therefore the dog must not be let off leash in a non-fenced yard. One vigorous walk a day should be enough for the Cairn to burn off its surplus energy and to stay balanced. Adaptable to new homes. Without dog training, training, discipline and attention, these dogs can become destructive and very noisy.

Coat and grooming

Cairn Terrier have an abundant shaggy outer coat and a soft downy undercoat. The top of the head is well-furnished with hair which tends to be a bit softer than the body coat. The eyebrows are shaggy. The ears are free from long hair. The tail is furnished with hair as well, although it is not feathery. The hair on the legs is harder than that on the rest of the body. The naturally looking coat actually takes quite a bit of maintenance. A neglected coat becomes a sorry, matted mess pretty soon. It is recommended to brush the dog several times a week and to bathe it once a month.
Cairn Terriers may be any colour except white. The most common ones are red, brindle, blackish, sand, and shades of grey. Dark points on the ears, eyes and muzzle are preferred.


Cairn Terriers are naturally healthy dogs with no serious breed-specific health issues. They are, nonetheless, prone to obesity and can be allergic to fleas. The lifespan is 12 to 15 years.

Other interesting facts

The Cairn was named for the way it would squeeze down into "cairns" and bark at fox and badger until the farmer could arrive.