A-z - Animals

cairn terrier

Cairn Terriers as Pets:

general health
energy level
chewing tendency
family and kid friendly

separation anxiety
preferred temperature
average climate
exercise needs
be friendly with other dogs
Thoroughbred Cost of Ownership
pack of dogs
male weight
14-14 lbs
female weight
13-13 lbs

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Toto in The Wizard of Oz was a female Cairn Terrier named Terry.

© AZ-Animals.com

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The Cairn Terrier has been around since 1909. It was that year that breeders brought them to England and named them Shorthaired Skye Terriers. The breed's original name was not accepted by the Kennel Club due to objections from Skye Terrier breeders. The Cairn Terrier was suggested and has stuck to it ever since.

The Cairn Terrier is a small dog with a weatherproof coat in red, black, cream, or brindle. This breed is hypoallergenic and sheds very little. They have a fearless and confident demeanor and can get along well with other dogs if properly trained. Cairn Terriers are usually left pawed. This unusual feature is also associated with superior performance on odor-related objectives such as scoring and tracking.

Cairn terrier standing on the grass
Transport dogs were bred in the Scottish Highlands to hunt rodents.

© Nick Chase 68/Shutterstock.com


The Cairn Terrier originated from a group of small dogs (Scottish Terriers) that were bred in the Scottish Highlands to hunt rodents. They are known to have lived and worked in Scotland since the 1600s. A "cairn" is a group of rocks used to mark a grave. Scottish terriers were bred to dig under rocks and root out rodents. The smallest of these dogs are known as Cairn Terriers. These lively little dogs were later trained in packs to hunt foxes and other small predators. By the 1900s, British terrier lovers began to divide the Scottish terrier into four different breeds—the Cairn, Skye, Scotch, and West Highland White.

Owning a Cairn Terrier: 3 Pros and Cons

advantage! shortcoming!
Hypoallergenic : These dogs don't shed much, so you don't have to worry about pet hair everywhere. Stubbornness : Getting a Cairn Terrier to behave is a job in itself. These are very stubborn dogs.
Pet Friendly : Unlike most terriers, Cairn Terriers prefer to be friendly with other pets. Barking : This terrier is very active and aggressive. Be prepared for lots of barking.
GREAT WATCH DOG : These dogs will alert you of any activity going on. Not that they will save you from intruders, but they will remind you. They call everything and nothing. Potential Health Issues : Joint problems, epilepsy, and cataracts are some of the health issues the Cairn Terrier is prone to.
Cairn Terrier standing in a field.
Cairn Terriers can make great family pets. They get along well with children and make excellent guard dogs.


Cairn Terrier Health and Recreation

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size and weight

The Cairn Terrier is a small breed of dog. According to breed standards, male retrievers reach an adult weight of 14 pounds, while females reach 13 pounds. There are several factors that can change the weight of the breed standard, such as:

  • disease
  • ADHD
  • underfeeding
  • overfeeding
  • lack of exercise
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Both males and females are 15 inches long from the chest to where the body meets the tail. Males are 10 inches tall and females are 9.5 inches tall.

Male height: 10 inches
Female height: 9 1/2 inches
Male weight: 14 lbs
Female weight: 13 lbs
cairn terrier
Cairn Terriers are generally healthy, but prone to cataracts and skin allergies.

© Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com

common health problems

Before contacting a breeder to buy a Cairn Terrier puppy, there are a few health issues you need to know about. Some diseases of this breed are hereditary. Not all diseases are high risk. Some are environmental diseases, and owners can prevent them with proper care and attention.

Cataracts are common in Cairn Terriers. Cataract means your dog's eye lens is not healthy enough to focus light onto the retina. Veterinarians recommend an annual CAER inspection.

Allergies came in second. The three forms of allergy are inhalation, contact and food. Most of these allergies are either seasonal or chronic. Due to side effects, corticosteroids should be used as a last resort in treating your terrier's condition.

Heart defects can occur in every purebred breed. An examination of your puppy by a veterinarian at six weeks can help detect any risk of congenital heart disease. While the primary illness has nothing to do with Cairns, murmurs do occur.

In summary, common health issues for Cairn Terriers are:

  • cataract
  • Allergy
  • heart defect
Types of Terriers
Cairn Terriers are outgoing and outgoing.

© iStock.com/Bigandt_Photography

Temperament and Behavior

Cairn Terriers are outgoing and happy dogs. They have good personalities and behave well. They are fearless and talented. Cairns are more independent than other breeds. Taking this dog hiking, camping, or on a journey where they can explore is heaven for them.

Although they are not aggressive with their family members, they are very stubborn. To avoid this behavior, training them early in their lives is essential.

How to Care for a Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terriers are cute as puppies but even cuter and fully grown. To ensure your pet is well cared for, meeting their basic needs and regular training are all part of caring for your Cairn.

Cairn terrier standing in the snow
Cairn Terriers don't mind snow. They love being outdoors.

© Eve Photography/Shutterstock.com

Best Dog Food for Cairn Terriers

Feeding your beagle is easy. These dogs only need a small portion of high-quality food to stay happy and healthy. This breed is prone to food allergies, so consider a limited-ingredient dog food optimized for allergy control.

Once you've selected a high-quality dog food for your beagle, know what food allergies your pup may develop next. Additives such as corn, wheat, and soy can trigger allergies.

Choose high-quality foods that have meat as one of the first ingredients. Avoid foods that contain BHA and BHT. These are synthetic preservatives.

1/2 to 2/3 cup of food is enough to feed your pet throughout the day. Feed your Kane twice a day. Also, change the water bowl daily. When Cairns are on an empty stomach, they may vomit. Feed your dog too much and he may become obese.

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Given the breed's individual nutritional needs, AZ Animals says the best dog food for Cairn Terriers is Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet | Small Adult Grain Free Dry Dog Food.

This dog food does not contain grains, which often cause allergies. Also, no legumes such as peas and lentils to avoid triggering any heart problems with this variety. Conversely, high-quality chicken, beef, salmon or duck contains taurine, which is good for heart health.

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best overall

Maintenance and Grooming

Cairn Terriers do not shed. Once a puppy's hair falls out, it remains in the follicles. If you decide to groom your beagle, curling will keep the coat healthy. Rolling up the coat can be done by hand or using a grooming tool.

It may be best to choose to let someone else do it. Contacting a professional beautician is a good idea to make sure the expert performs the technique correctly.

Curls should be done monthly unless your terrier is a show dog.


Training Cairn Terriers is easy because they are lively, intelligent, and loyal. Probably the most challenging training behavior is getting your pet not to bark. Some say Cairn Terriers are unreasonable, but with the right technique, it's easy.


Cairn Terriers need a lot of exercise to adapt to an active life. Let them walk for 20-30 minutes twice a day to keep them healthy.

This breed is curious by nature, so keep your puppy on a leash. If not, Cairns would run off to explore. Leashes should only be removed in enclosed areas where they cannot escape.

Catching, running, and long/short walks are all great ways to keep your Cairn Terrier active. Overall, try mixing up your exercise regimen to give your puppy new challenges.

Because Cairn Terriers are small, they adapt quickly to living in an apartment. The best environment for a Cairn Terrier is a loving home.

Cairn terrier puppy running on the road
Cairn Terrier puppies are energetic and love to play!



The development of a Cairn Terrier puppy spans one year and four months from birth to maturity. Don't over-exercise your puppy before eight months. A puppy's diet should include:

  • Omega Fatty Acids
  • animal protein
  • minerals
  • carbohydrate
  • vitamins

For long-term health, these are the nutrients your dog needs. At eight months, transition to adult food by mixing adult and puppy formula. It gives Kane a chance to get used to eating adult food when you mix the recipe.

Cairn Terrier and kids

Some say Cairn Terriers should not be kept in homes with young children, while some owners say Cairn Terriers are naturally fond of children. If your kids are well behaved, your pets will usually be well behaved too.

One piece of advice for the safety of your child and Cairn Terrier is to never leave them alone. You don't want to rescue your kid from your Cairn, or your Cairn from your kid. Overall, Cairn Terriers make excellent family pets.

dog similar to cairn terrier

  • Bedlington Terrier: Like the Cairn Terrier, the Bedlington Terrier has a bold and confident air. Because they are hyperactive, train your pets at an early age. These dogs are very active and intelligent.
  • Bologna: Like the Cairn Terrier, the Bologna is small in size. They are usually 10 to 12 inches tall and weigh between 5½ and 9 pounds. They are hypoallergenic and make great family dogs.
  • Chihuahua: In addition to being a small breed of dog, the Chihuahua has similar characteristics to the Cairn Terrier. Both possessing huge personalities, Chihuahuas love to be with family and loved ones. They are very loyal and aggressive like Cairns. Despite their small size, Chihuahuas make excellent guard dogs. Some breeders mix Caines and Chihuahuas together. A Cairn and Chihuahua mix is called Toxirn. The Caine-Chihuahua mix combines the characteristics of both types of dogs. A cute pug mixes with a working dog.
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Toto in The Wizard of Oz is played by the Cairn Terrier.

© John/Creative Commons

Popular names for the Cairn Terrier are:

  • Duncan
  • Ross
  • finley
  • Xue Na
  • Messi
  • Christine
  • Dexter
  • Jack
  • Noriko
  • Briscoe

famous cairn terrier

Throughout history, the breed has had some star power. The most famous Kane is Terry, who played Toto in The Wizard of Oz. Liza Minelli is probably the most famous owner of Kane. Growing up, Lisa had a Cairn Terrier named Lily. Her love for her dog comes from her mother, Judy Garland, who played Dorsey in The Wizard of Oz and gradually fell in love with Terry (Toto).

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about the author

Lisa Pace

After a career providing opportunities for local communities to experience and create art, I enjoy having time to write about two of my favorite things – nature and animals. I spend half my life outside, usually with my husband and adorable 14 year old puppy. We enjoyed walking around the lake and taking photos of the animals we encountered including: otters, osprey, Canada geese, ducks and nesting bald eagles. I also enjoy reading, discovering books to add to my library, collecting and playing vinyl records, and listening to my son's music.

Cairn Terrier FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is the Cairn Terrier a herbivore, carnivore or omnivore?

Cairn Terriers are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and other animals.

To which kingdom does the Cairn Terrier belong?

Cairn terriers belong to the animal kingdom.

What category does the Cairn Terrier belong to?

The Cairn Terrier belongs to the class Mammalia.

What phylum do Cairn Terriers belong to?

Cairn terriers belong to the phylum Chordate.

What family does the Cairn Terrier belong to?

The Cairn Terrier belongs to the canine family.

What order do Cairn Terriers belong to?

Cairn Terriers belong to the order Carnivora.

What genus is the Cairn Terrier?

The Cairn Terrier belongs to the genus Canis.

What type of mulch do Cairn Terriers have?

Cairn Terriers are covered in fur.

What are some fun facts about Cairn Terriers?

Cairn Terriers are smart, lively and strong!

What is the scientific name of the Cairn Terrier?

The scientific name of the Cairn Terrier is Canis Lupus.

How long do Cairn Terriers live?

Cairn Terriers can live up to 14 years.

How do you breed a Cairn Terrier?

Cairn Terriers are not shaved. Brush your pet's coat to remove tangles and dead hair. After brushing, use a technique called a rolling coat.

Are Cairn Terriers Good Pets?

Cairns are excellent family dogs. They are ideal for pet lovers. What makes this breed an excellent family dog is that they are child-friendly, great companions, and affectionate.

How much does a Cairn Terrier cost?

On average, a Cairn puppy costs between $350 and $800. Price depends on:
Geographical Breeder Cairn Quality Cairn Terriers over the year range from $100-$500. If the dog is show quality, it will cost $1000. If those prices are too high, try going to a less expensive rescue group.

Are Cairn Terriers cute?

Won't. Because they like to keep moving, Cairn Terriers aren't particularly cute.

Do Cairn Terriers Shed?

Yes, they do come off. All breeds do, but because the Cairn is hypoallergenic, she sheds very little.

Are Cairn Terriers good for kids?

Cairn Terriers are great for taking care of children. They love to play and are full of energy. These qualities make them excellent playmates for children.

What are the main differences between West Highland Terriers and Cairn Terriers?

The main differences between West Highland Terriers and Cairn Terriers are their weight, color and personality.

What are the main differences between the Cairn Terrier and the Norwich Terrier?

The main differences between the Cairn Terrier and the Norwich Terrier include size, color variations, coat texture, and body proportions.

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