Cairn Terriers: One of the Happy Go Lucky Terrier Breeds

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Cairn Terriers- One of the Happy Go Lucky Terrier BreedsEver wondered what kind of dog Toto from the Wizard of Oz was? While the book never specified the breed, the dog who played Toto in the original movie was a Cairn Terrier named Terry.

Since that movie, Cairn Terriers have gained popularity for being the iconic “Toto” breed. Cairns are spunky and active dogs with a huge personality despite being so tiny. These pups make great family pets as they are curious, athletic, and loving companions who enjoy cuddling their families.

A Brief History of Cairn Terriers 

The Cairn dog breed was bred to hunt small animals like rats on farms in the Scottish highlands. These tough pups were even used as pack dogs to hunt larger prey like otters and foxes.

There were many different working terriers bred to hunt rodents and other small animals in Scotland which weren’t classified into different breed groups until the late 1800s. They were all just known as Scottish Terriers.

Cairns have been around since the 1600s in Scotland. The first documentation of a “Cairn Terrier” was in 1887 according to the American Kennel Club.

What’s in a Name? Cairn Definition

Before people could go to Home Depot and buy a fence or purchase a tombstone online, they had to use rocks. In Scotland, rocks were used to create boundaries around properties and to mark graves. These rock piles were called Cairns.

Cairn Terriers were used to hunt rats and other rodents liked to hide in these rocks. The breed gained tremendous popularity in 1939 after the release of the Wizard of Oz. Toto became a sensation and many dog lovers wanted their own Toto.

Are They Scottish, Irish or English Terriers?

There are many types of terriers, bred for different purposes. The Cairn Terrier breed is small and meant to be able to dig and crawl into the rock piles to hunt rats and mice.

Scottish Terriers were bred to hunt larger prey than little Toto, like foxes and badgers on their own, without a pack.  Irish Terriers are even larger and have shorter hair. These dogs were bred to be an all-around farm dog in Ireland, watching over both their farm and their family.

There is no AKC breed called the English Terrier, but there are many terriers that originated in England such as the Manchester Terrier and the Norwich Terrier.

What Sets This Breed Apart from Other Types of Terriers?

The Cairn Terrier silhouette is very distinctive. They have a long body with short legs, small pointed ears, and a short upright tail. It is smaller than other terriers that originated in Scotland.

These Toto dogs have unique fur that has a double coat, with wiry hair on the top and a softer downy coat underneath. Cairns have a naturally shaggy look about them.

The Appearance of These Doggos! 

Cairns are short and sturdy and always look like puppies. They have short legs and a longer body. Their tails are naturally short and stick upright.  They have slightly wider heads than other terriers, which tend to be shorter and more narrow.

Their wiry coats are medium-length and made for the harsh climate of Scotland.  Their double coats are more unique and need hand stripping to get rid of dead hair and keep the coat healthy.

cairn terrier puppies sitting in grass

Average Size and Weight of Cairn Terrier Dogs! 

Cairns are a smaller dog breed, only standing 10 inches tall as males (females are typically a half inch shorter). Males weigh around 14 pounds as adults, and females are a little lighter, typically weighing around 13 pounds.

Cairn Coat and Colors Explained! 

Cairns can be any color other than white. Their coats are naturally shaggy and have a top coat of hair that is weatherproof and wiry. The bottom coat is soft and keeps them warm.  Cairns can be black, cream, tan, and brindle, like the dog who played Toto.

Are They Wirehaired Dogs? 

There are many wirehaired dog breeds. No matter what shampoo and conditioner you use, their hair will be shaggy and rougher compared to a silky and soft breed like the Yorkie.

Wirehaired dogs typically do not shed and are hypoallergenic, making them a favorite for those with allergies.

White, Brown, Black Terriers and More! 

Terriers come in all different shapes and sizes depending on the breed. The AKC recognizes Cairns in any color other than white.

White cairns were bred to create the breed the West Highland White Terrier, also known as the Westie, which is recognized as a different breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Temperament and Personality of These Fluff Kids! 

These dogs love to exercise both their bodies and their minds. Cairn Terrier dogs were bred to work, specifically to hurt small rodents. You can safely test your pups hunting instincts through the Earthdog Trial. You can find Earthdog tests through your local AKC Cairn Terrier Clubs.

Cairn Terrier training is easy thanks to their high level of intelligence. They may suffer from separation anxiety, as they enjoy spending as much time possible with their humans.

This breed is very active and needs daily walks or fenced in yards to run around. Cairns are friendly with people and other dogs, but small animals may cause physiological triggers, activating their hunting instincts.

How Long do These Terrier Breeds Live? 

The life expectancy of these dogs is 13 to 15 years.

What About Cairn Terrier Mixes?

There are lots of great Cairn Terrier mixes. Cairns are frequently mixed with other hypoallergenic dog breeds. Cairn mixes can bring out the best of both breeds.

If you’re looking for a cute Cairn mix, try a Cairn x Cocker Spaniel or a Cairn x Poodle.

There are as Many Terrier Types as There are Mixes! 

The terrier group is filled with feisty dogs that were bred to hunt rats and other vermin or to guard families and farms. Terriers can be small like the Cairn and Scotch Terrier or larger like the American Staffordshire Terrier.

cairn terrier mixes playing

6 Potential Health Issues for Small Terrier Breeds 

Smaller terriers can be prone to certain health issues because of certain breeding practices to preserve bloodlines. Finding a reputable breeder and feeding your dog a healthy and nutritious diet can help make sure your puppy is healthy.

  1. Small terriers may be prone to a blood clotting disease called Von Willebrands, which can screen for in DNA tests.
  2. Ocular Melanosis, a hereditary eye condition that can lead to glaucoma.
  3. Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy is a rare neurological disorder that is fatal in dogs; it may be more common in terriers.
  4. Patellar Luxation is when the patella on the knee become detached and can be caused by genetics or injury. It is commonly seen in terriers and is treatable through surgery.
  5. Craniomandibular Osteopathy is a rare bone disease that is more common in Westie and Scottie puppies can be treatable.
  6. Diabetes Mellitus (diabetes) is more common in Cairns and other small terriers.

Cairn Terrier Puppy for Sale!

You can find Cairn Terrier puppies through local breeders. Try to find reputable breeders through the American Kennel Club.

You may also be able to find Cairn puppies through local Cairn Rescue groups or even your local shelter. Why not search on Petfinder and receive alerts when new puppies are available?

Cairn Terrier Breeders: What to Look Out for! 

Breeders all the same. Inhumane breeders overbreed their dogs and sometimes even inbreed to create “purebred” dogs that have more desirable (and therefore expensive) traits.

Breeders keep these dogs in cruel conditions. These dogs often suffer from more health problems than puppies from reputable breeders.

Pet stores often get their puppies from puppy mills. Be wary of breeders that do not let you look around their home and meet the parents of your new puppy!

Adopt, Don’t Shop! Ask an Animal Shelter About Cairn Terrier Rescues! 

There are many rescue groups for Cairns that work hard to make sure Cairn dogs and puppies find the best home possible. These rescues match the right dogs with the right new homes.  You can find these local rescue groups online.

Common Questions 

Is Toto from the Wizard of Oz a Cairn Terrier?

Do Cairns shed?

Do Cairns need professionally grooming?

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