Pet Advisor Blog

Cairn Terrier – Dog Breed Guide

Breed summary

Size: Small
Weight: 13 to 17 pounds
Height: 9 to 13 inches
Longevity: 15
Bark Tendency: High
Aggression: Low
Compatibility to other pets: Low

Adopt a Cairn Terrier, Dog Breed Guide


Native to the Highlands of Scotland and the Isle of Skye, the Cairn Terrier is considered to be one of the oldest terrier breeds and Scotland’s original terriers.

Official Name

Cairn Terrier
Other Name – No other name


Date – 1500s / Country – Scotland
Family / Group – Terrier

Recognized By

America’s Pet Registry, Inc.
Continental Kennel Club
Fédération Cynologique Internationale
American Kennel Club
United Kennel Club
Kennel Club of Great Britain
Canadian Kennel Club
Australian National Kennel Club
National Kennel Club
New Zealand Kennel Club
Club Español de Terriers
American Canine Registry
Dog Registry of America, Inc.
North American Purebred Registry, Inc.


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. These Scottish dogs count the Dinmont, Scottish, Skye and West Highland White Terriers among its relations. The Cairn’s conformation is probably the closest to that of their common ancestor, the Scotch Terrier.

Cairn Terrier dogs were grouped together with other Scotch Terriers until 1873. In the late 1800s, Scottish Terrier Breeders began to breed separate lines. In the early 1900s, it was often bred with the West Highland White Terrier. Recognition of the breed as a distinct purebred came in 1912.


The Cairn Terrier is lively and friendly. It is generally considered to be mellower than most terriers and some describe it as catlike. This dog breed will be a good family dog that is eager to please and craves affection. It gets along with children and other animals.

Bred For

Foxy and badger hunting! They were developed to have a hunting dog little enough to squeeze down small game animals.


The Cairn Terrier will do okay in an apartment if it is sufficiently exercised.


These shaggy looking dogs can be quite demanding in the grooming department. Their coat is a big high maintenance and needs regular attention as well as occasional professional care. Cairns sheds little to no hair


They need firm, but not harsh, training and discipline


Cataracts, CMO, globoid cell leukodystrophy, live shunt, luxating patellas, skin allergies, Legg-Perthers are some health problems facing the breed today. One big problem for these dogs is their tendency to be allergic to fleas.


Cairn Terriers are active little dogs that need a daily walk. They will also enjoy a safe open area that is large and fenced for their play time.