Originating in Scotland around the 1600s, the Cairn Terrier's original purpose was to hunt burrowing animals that lived under cairns, a pile of stones usually used as landmarks or memorials, in the hills of the Scottish Highlands. The breed shares a lineage and history with the West Highland White Terrier, Skye Terrier, and Scottish Terrier. At one point, the Cairn was referred to as the Short-Haired Skye Terrier but eventually was declared a separate breed from the others in the early 1900s. They are also believed to be one of the oldest of the terrier breeds and are widely recognized as Dorothy's adorable dog, Toto, from the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, played by Terry, a Cairn Terrier.
Cairn Terriers are small, short-legged working terriers that are not heavily built but can be quite strong for their size. Their shaggy double-coat gives them their adorable "fox-like" appearance and consists of a hard, weather-resistant topcoat with a short, soft undercoat. Paired with their dark medium-sized eyes and pointed ears, the Cairn exudes intelligence. Another unique feature is that the size of the breed's head is shorter and wider than many other terriers. They have a strong muzzle with a black nose and the tail is furry, but not feathery.
The Cairn Terrier is known for being active, lively, and sturdy to make a great family companion for a variety of households from apartments to farms but he is no lap dog. Do not let their small size fool you, these spunky terriers are full of confidence and can be a pretty decent watchdog that always has things to do and places to go. This intelligent breed is very eager to learn new tasks and disciplines, responding best to kind, positive obedience training from a patient owner. Due to their terrier heritage, Cairns have a strong prey drive towards rodent-like animals, lots of energy, and the tendency to be a notorious digger when their humans are not watching. A properly trained and socialized Cairn Terrier can function as a great child's playmate, forgiving of accidental steps on the tail or paws but toddlers should be supervised until they understand how to handle small breeds. Although active indoors, this playful terrier would still appreciate regular exercise outside ranging from walks to short hikes. With a cheerful and spirited temperament, the Cairn Terrier can be a devoted lifelong companion for any type of family; there is a reason why Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz picked the Cairn to be her best friend!