Cairn Terrier History
The Cairn Terrier is an ancient breed which many dog historians believe
to be the first true terrier. They come from the highlands and isles
of west Scotland where they spent their first days scouring the fields and
cairns (rock piles and rock fences) for badgers, fox and rats that stole
the grain and livestock off the Scots' hardscrabble farms and
Much of the known early history of the cairn terrier, like that of the
Skye terrier, centers on the island of Skye. In fact, the roots of both
breeds center on the same families and estates: Drynock, Mogstads,
Waternish Camusennary and Roseneath are all strains to which both breeds
can be traced. The Roseneath name is also prominent in early West Highland
It appears that certain families favored certain colors for their
cairns. The Macdonalds of Waternish preferred dark grays and brindles, but
the Macleods of Drynock favored silver grays. All of Scotland's terriers
were grouped together as Scotch terriers until 1873, when they were
separated into two classifications -Dandie Dinmont terriers and Skye
terriers. The Skye terrier class included the breeds now known as the
Scottish terrier, the West Highland terriers and the cairn terrier.
eveloped from the same basic stock, the three were often found in the same
litter and distinguished only by color.
Cairns were initially called short-haired Skyes, but Skye terrier
fanciers protested the use of the name. To avoid future confusion, it was
suggested that the name of the shorthaired Skyes be changed to the cairn
terrier of Skye. Cairns were piles of stones which served as the landmarks
or memorials. Common throughout much of Scotland, cairns were frequent
hiding places for the small mammals hunted by terriers. The shortened name
cairn terrier was agreed upon in 1912.
The breed made its official debut in America in 1913, when Mrs. Henry
Price of Connecticut imported Sandy Peter Out of the West from Scotland.
Sandy Peter became the first cairn registered by the American Kennel Club
(AKC) in that same year. In 1917 the Cairn Terrier Club of America was
granted membership in the American Kennel Club.
The cairn terrier has courage to spare, thanks to its heritage as an
earth dog. Preserving this lionhearted courage has long been a goal of
fanciers and is reflected in the breed standard, which describes the
cairn's general appearance as "that of an active, game, hardy, small
working terrier of the short-legged class; very free in its movements,
strongly but heavily built.
"This description reflects the fact the Cairn should have the
hardiness to meet the performance of his ancestors," continues the
AKC in The Complete Dog Book. "Utility should be the aim of the
fancier, since the express aim of the Cairn Terrier clubs is to preserve
the breed in its best old-working type."
Cairn owners are on intimate terms with the dog's ingrained, aggressive
characteristics. Cairns will vigorously and vocally guard home and yard
from all intruders, both friend and foe. They like to bark and can sound
quite ferocious, even when playing. They will enjoy the company of other
dogs, children and cats if socialized early, but the cairn's assertiveness
can backfire on the owner if the dog is not trained and managed properly.
The reward for teaching a cairn the proper dignity and respect for
other creatures is a dog that is almost eerily in tune with their owner's
moods. Remember the devotion of Toto, who never left Dorothy's side except
to chase something or save her life? That kind of steadfast loyalty is a
hallmark of the breed.
Redletter Mcjoe Ch. Caithness
Some quick Cairn Terrier Facts:
Ch. Caithness Rufus sired 32
champions and won Best of Breed at Westminster twice.
Cairnwood Quince sired 51 champions and is the all-time leader in
champions sired by a cairn terrier. He also was the CTCA National
Specialty winner 4 times. The best for any cairn terrier.
record for the most Best in Specialty (BISS) award winners was Ch.
Caledonian Berry of Wolfpit with 18.