Cairn Terrier.jpg
Breed Group Group 6: Terrier Breeds
Sub-group 6-C: Small Terriers
Origin Country Great Britain
Weight Males: 14-17 pounds. Females: 13-16 pounds.
Height Males: 10-12 inches. Females: 9-11 inches.
Breed Type Pure
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Cairn Terrier

Breed Group Group 6: Terrier Breeds
Sub-group 6-C: Small Terriers
Origin Country Great Britain
Weight Males: 14-17 pounds. Females: 13-16 pounds.
Height Males: 10-12 inches. Females: 9-11 inches.
Breed Type Pure
click here for FULL BREED STANDARD

Origins

The Cairn Terrier shares a history with Skye Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, and Scottish Terriers. Evidence of these rough-coated terriers has been recorded in Scotland for centuries. Originally, these terriers were used to eradicate vermin and hunt foxes and badgers.

The Hebrides archipelago north of Scotland was well-known for the rich cultural history of its islands. Many of the ancient and not-so-ancient cultures used rock piles to mark graves, conduct religious rituals, create a boundaries, and mark locations of special meaning, and these rocky structures were called cairns. The little dogs in these areas soon learned that the cairns were a favorite hiding spot of foxes, small animals, and other pests. Thus, the little dogs spent much of their time hunting the local cairns.

Because these terriers originated from the Isle of Skye in the Hebrides, they were originally lumped with all of the other Skye Terrier types, including the West Highland and Scottish Terriers. For a time, they were referred to as “Short-Haired Skye Terriers.” However, this distinction did not bode well with the Skye Terrier breeders, and, since the second decade of the twentieth century, the three breeds have remained divided into the three modern dogs we see today.


The Cairn Terrier experienced a steady growth in popularity after becoming his own breed. Much of the Cairn Terrier’s popularity can be attributed the breed’s success in cinema. In the film adaption of The Wizard of Oz, the role Toto was played by a Cairn Terrier named Terry. Over the course of her film career, Terry performed alongside a number of A-list actors and starred in a total of sixteen films.

Breed Characteristics

Head: Mesaticephalic skull-type, moderate in size, wedge-shaped beneath the furnishings, and in proportion to the rest of the body. The head is characteristically well-furnished, with somewhat softer hair than what is found on the body. The topskull is broad in proportion to the length of the head, being as wide (from one side to the other, measured in front of the ears) as it is long (from occiput to stop). The topskull may be just slightly (almost imperceptibly) arched from the front or in profile. A median furrow may be evident at the stop. The head is clean-cut, without excess skin or wrinkle.
Eyes: Moderate in size, set somewhat wide apart, and may be open-almond or oval in shape. They are dark brown in color. The eye rims are well-fitted and well-pigmented. The eyes are never bulging. There should be sufficient bone in the surrounding orbital sockets to protect the eyes.
Ears: Small in size, V-shaped, firmly erect, and set high on the skull, yet well apart at the outer edge of the skull. The ears are never long, with only the top 1/3 protruding through the coat. They should never appear overly large, narrow, or broken. Ears should be trimmed free of excess hair that obscures their small size.
Muzzle: Slightly shorter than the topskull, full, deep, and broad. Upper and lower jaws have good bone substance, appearing strong and well-developed while never appearing snipey or weak.
Nose: The nose is well-pigmented and black. The nostrils are well-opened.
Neck: Moderate length to allow for proud head carriage and strongly muscled, with a slight arch. The neck tapers smoothly from the deeper and broader body toward the head. The neck is clean-cut, without excess skin, throatiness, or dewlap.
Chest: Deep, broad, but never wider than deep. The brisket extends to the point of the elbows.
Body: Compact, solid, well-muscled, and good substance. The body is never racy or refined. Width at the forequarters is approximately equal to the width at the hindquarters. The build allows for strength, agility, endurance, and stamina.
Feet: Oval to round and compact, with well-arched toes and tough pads. Forefeet may be oriented outward just slightly and may be slightly larger than the hindfeet.
Tail: Set neither high nor low on the croup, thick at the base and tapering toward the tip. The tail is carried gaily (between the 12 and 2 o’clock position preferred) when the dog is alert or in motion, but may be carried downward in a neutral position when the dog is in repose. Tail may be left natural (preferred) or docked to a medium length. Natural tails are long, with the tip of the last vertebrae extending to the hock joints when held down. The tail may be straight or gently curved. Docked tails are cut to a medium length, with the tip being level with the head when held up.
Movement: The Cairn Terrier’s original purpose required that he be able to locate, track, hunt, dig, and dispatch a variety of different animals all throughout the day. This requires energetic, balanced, powerful, and agile movement. All of the characteristics of healthy structure are evident: when moving away, the forelegs and rear pasterns should remain parallel to one another. When viewing movement from the front, the forelegs should remain parallel, with elbows and paws moving neither in nor out. From the rear, the back pads should be visible when the rear legs are extended. As speed increases, the forelimbs and hindlimbs will converge to the center line of gravity. From the side, the topline should remain firm and level. Good reach of movement in the front allows the forepaw to extend out in a line with the nose. The width between the forefeet when extended should be approximately equal to the width between the hindfeet when extended, indicating balance, good reach, and good drive. Dogs that exhibit any sign of breathing or locomotive difficulty shall be disqualified from the show ring.
Temperament: The Cairn Terrier is known for his Terrier tenacity and his love of people. He is a busy, lively, and hardy dog. When necessary, he exhibits courage and game. Also, he can be quite devoted and tender with his people. As with most terriers, special care should be taken to ensure that he is introduced and socialized to other dogs and household pets. Many Cairns do not do well with smaller animals (such as rodents), since they may trigger the dog’s prey drive. The Cairn is an intelligent breed that takes on learning many tasks and disciplines with enthusiasm. Overall, they are assertive, yet friendly. Any unprovoked aggressive or fearful behavior toward people is incorrect for this breed.
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Breed Standard

BREED GROUP 6: Terrier Breeds

Proportions: Somewhat rectangular in body proportion, the ideal body length (measured from point of the forechest to the point of the rump) is approximately 15% greater than the body height (measured from ground to withers), or approximately 1/3 greater than the height at the withers. The Cairn is neither a leggy and square breed, nor a low-slung breed. Instead, he appears capable, athletic, and without extremes. The body is well-put together, with sturdy substance and medium bone. Males should appear masculine, being more substantial in size and mass, while females should appear more feminine and slightly less substantial. Neither should lack overall type.

Head

General Appearance: Mesaticephalic skull-type, moderate in size, wedge-shaped beneath the furnishings, and in proportion to the rest of the body. The head is characteristically well-furnished, with somewhat softer hair than what is found on the body. The topskull is broad in proportion to the length of the head, being as wide (from one side to the other, measured in front of the ears) as it is long (from occiput to stop). The topskull may be just slightly (almost imperceptibly) arched from the front or in profile. A median furrow may be evident at the stop. The head is clean-cut, without excess skin or wrinkle.
Expression: Plucky, confident, lively, watchful, busy, keen, and perhaps with a hint of mischievousness.
Stop: The stop is moderate to definite.
Skull: The ideal muzzle-to-skull ratio is 4:5, with the topskull being just longer than the muzzle.
The ideal muzzle-to-skull axis is parallel.
Muzzle: Slightly shorter than the topskull, full, deep, and broad. Upper and lower jaws have good bone substance, appearing strong and well-developed while never appearing snipey or weak.
Lips or Flews: Lips are clean and fit tightly over the teeth and jaws. They should never appear thick or pendulous.
Nose: The nose is well-pigmented and black. The nostrils are well-opened.
Cheeks: The cheeks are well-developed with some padding to denote powerful jaw strength. The cheeks should not appear chiseled or coarse.
Dentition and Bite: Forty-two strong, clean, white teeth. Bite may be level, scissor, or reverse-scissor. Contact must be made between the top and bottom incisors. Missing or broken teeth as a result of routine work is not to be penalized.
Eyes: Moderate in size, set somewhat wide apart, and may be open-almond or oval in shape. They are dark brown in color. The eye rims are well-fitted and well-pigmented. The eyes are never bulging. There should be sufficient bone in the surrounding orbital sockets to protect the eyes.
Ears: Small in size, V-shaped, firmly erect, and set high on the skull, yet well apart at the outer edge of the skull. The ears are never long, with only the top 1/3 protruding through the coat. They should never appear overly large, narrow, or broken. Ears should be trimmed free of excess hair that obscures their small size.

Body and Tail

General Description: Compact, solid, well-muscled, and good substance. The body is never racy or refined. Width at the forequarters is approximately equal to the width at the hindquarters. The build allows for strength, agility, endurance, and stamina.
Neck: Moderate length to allow for proud head carriage and strongly muscled, with a slight arch. The neck tapers smoothly from the deeper and broader body toward the head. The neck is clean-cut, without excess skin, throatiness, or dewlap.
Chest: Deep, broad, but never wider than deep. The brisket extends to the point of the elbows.
Topline: Level from slightly prominent withers to croup. The back is somewhat long, broad, strongly muscled, and straight, yet supple. The loin is rather short, taut, flat and level. The topline is never swayed or roached.
Croup: Flat and level with the back.
Underline: Slight tuck up may be present, or the underline may run parallel to the topline. The underline is taut and firm, without any indication of sagging or excess weight.
Ribs: Long, well-sprung, well-laid-back, oval-shaped, never barrel-chested or slab-sided.
Tail: Set neither high nor low on the croup, thick at the base and tapering toward the tip. The tail is carried gaily (between the 12 and 2 o’clock position preferred) when the dog is alert or in motion, but may be carried downward in a neutral position when the dog is in repose. Tail may be left natural (preferred) or docked to a medium length. Natural tails are long, with the tip of the last vertebrae extending to the hock joints when held down. The tail may be straight or gently curved. Docked tails are cut to a medium length, with the tip being level with the head when held up.

Forequarters and Hindquarters

Forequarters: Forequarters are always in balance with the hindquarters. Forequarters are well-angulated with well-laid-back shoulder blades. Shoulder blades are approximately equal in length to the upper arm and forearm.
Elbows: Elbows are close to the body. The point of the elbows is approximately half the dog’s height at the withers.
Forelegs: Frontal View: Straight, of good muscle and bone, and parallel to one another.
Side View: The forelimbs appear straight with strong pasterns.
Pasterns: Never weak or broken.
Hindquarters: Upper thigh and lower thigh are equal in length, strong, sturdy, of good bone, and well-muscled.
Rear View: When viewed from the rear, the rear pasterns are parallel to one another.
Side View: Good angulation will allow the rear toes to align with the point of the rump or within one to two paw-lengths behind the point of the rump, with the rear pasterns remaining perpendicular to the ground and parallel to one another.
Stifle Joint: Well-angulated with a good bend to well-let-down rear pasterns.
Angulations: Angulation of hindquarters is always in balance with angulation of forequarters.
Feet: Oval to round and compact, with well-arched toes and tough pads. Forefeet may be oriented outward just slightly and may be slightly larger than the hindfeet.

Coat

Skin: Well-fitted, yet supple. The skin should never obstruct the outline of the dog.
Coat Type: Harsh, weather-resistant outer coat with short, close, soft, abundant undercoat, slight wave permissible. The tail is well-furred, but not bushy or plumed. Cairns require only minimal grooming, including tidying of the head and ears, along with regular stripping. Otherwise, altering of the coat with scissors or clippers is to be penalized in the show ring.
Coat Color or Pattern: CKC recognizes two color varieties of the Cairn Terrier breed: standard color and non-standard color varieties.
Standard Coat Color Variety: Solid colors including cream, wheaten, red, grey, grey-black, and brindle, all with or without dark points (mask and mask extension).
Non-Standard Coat Color Variety: Black with or without tan points, any of the standard or non-standard colors with or without white markings (parti-colored), or solid white.

Movement

The Cairn Terrier’s original purpose required that he be able to locate, track, hunt, dig, and dispatch a variety of different animals all throughout the day. This requires energetic, balanced, powerful, and agile movement. All of the characteristics of healthy structure are evident: when moving away, the forelegs and rear pasterns should remain parallel to one another. When viewing movement from the front, the forelegs should remain parallel, with elbows and paws moving neither in nor out. From the rear, the back pads should be visible when the rear legs are extended. As speed increases, the forelimbs and hindlimbs will converge to the center line of gravity. From the side, the topline should remain firm and level. Good reach of movement in the front allows the forepaw to extend out in a line with the nose. The width between the forefeet when extended should be approximately equal to the width between the hindfeet when extended, indicating balance, good reach, and good drive. Dogs that exhibit any sign of breathing or locomotive difficulty shall be disqualified from the show ring.

Temperament

The Cairn Terrier is known for his Terrier tenacity and his love of people. He is a busy, lively, and hardy dog. When necessary, he exhibits courage and game. Also, he can be quite devoted and tender with his people. As with most terriers, special care should be taken to ensure that he is introduced and socialized to other dogs and household pets. Many Cairns do not do well with smaller animals (such as rodents), since they may trigger the dog’s prey drive. The Cairn is an intelligent breed that takes on learning many tasks and disciplines with enthusiasm. Overall, they are assertive, yet friendly. Any unprovoked aggressive or fearful behavior toward people is incorrect for this breed.

Faults

All dogs should be in proper healthy condition, free from disease or defect. Any departure from this description is considered a fault. Unless altered, all male dogs should have two fully descended testicles.