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Cairn Terrier

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Cairn Terrier Books

Group: Terrier - Breed Standard


The Cairn Terrier is a breed of dog of the terrier category. It is one of the oldest terriers, originating in the Scottish Highlands and recognized as one of Scotland's earliest working dogs, used for hunting burrowing prey among the cairns.


Height approximately 28-31 cms (11-12 ins) at withers, but in proportion to weight, ideally 6-7.5 kgs (14-16 lbs).

The Cairn Terrier has a harsh, weather-resistant outer coat that can be cream, wheaten, red, sandy, gray, or brindled in any of these colors. Pure black, black and tan, and white are not permitted by many kennel clubs. While registration of white Cairns was once permitted, after 1917 the American Kennel Club required them to be registered as West Highland White Terriers. A notable characteristic of Cairns is that brindled Cairns frequently change color throughout their lifetime. It is not uncommon for a brindled Cairn to become progressively more black or silver as it ages. The Cairn is double-coated, with a soft, dense undercoat and a harsh outer coat. A well-groomed Cairn has a rough-and-ready appearance, free of artifice or exaggeration.


Cairn Terriers are intelligent, strong, and loyal. Like most terriers, they are stubborn and strong-willed, and love to dig after real or imagined prey. Cairn Terriers have a strong prey instinct and will need comprehensive training. However, they are highly intelligent and, although very willful, can be trained. Although it is often said that they are disobedient, this is not the case provided correct training is applied. They are excellent with children and make wonderful family dogs. These are working dogs and are still used as such in parts of Scotland. Like most terriers, they require large amounts of exercise. Cairn Terriers are very independent and do not make good "lap dogs". The image of Cairn Terriers being like "Toto" from the Wizard of Oz is a partial misconception. In reality, these dogs do not always like to snuggle and would heartily object to being kept in a basket. They like to do what they want, and will not make good pets for someone looking for a dog to cuddle with. However, they are extremely loyal and very amiable.

Breed Health

These dogs are generally healthy and live on average about 15 years. Yet, breeders, owners and veterinarians have identified several health problems that are significant for Cairns. Some of these diseases are hereditary while others occur as a result of nonspecific factors (i.e. infections, toxins, injuries, or advanced age). Some of the more common hereditary health problems found in the Cairn are: Cataracts, Ocular, Melanosis, Progressive retinal atrophy, Corneal dystrophy, Krabbe disease (Globoid cell leukodystrophy), Hip dysplasia, Leg-Calve-Perthes disease, Craniomandibular osteopathy (Lion Jaw), Von Willebrand disease, Hypothyroidism, Portosystemic shunt, Luxating patella and Entropion


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