The Cairn terrier is one of the oldest of the terrier breeds, originally known as the Short Haired Skye terrier. After opposition from other Skye terrier breeders, the Kennel club refused to acknowledge it, until 1909 when the name Cairn terrier was suggested as an alternative. The name comes from the Cairns in the Scottish Highlands, where it was first bred as a hunting dog.
Cairn terriers have a weather resistant outer coat, which can be black, sandy, red, grey, wheaten, cream or brindle, pure black, black and tan and pure white are not recognised by some Kennel clubs, Registration of pure white Cairns was permitted until 1917, after which they were required to be registered as West Highland White terriers.
A characteristic of brindle Cairn terriers is that they can frequently change colour during their lifetime, it is common for a brindle Cairn terrier to become progressively blacker or silver as it ages. The Cairn terrier is double coated with a harsh outer coat over a soft dense under coat, giving it a rough and ready appearance.
Breeders, veterinarians and owners have identified a number of health problems which are common in the Cairns terrier, a lot of which are hereditary, the Institute for Genetic Disease Control in Animals maintains an open registry for Cairn terriers in the hope of reducing hereditary diseases in the breed. Some of the most common hereditary health problems Cairn terriers suffer from are, Cataracts, Corneal dystrophy, Diabetes, Hip dysplasia, Luxating patella, Progressive retinal atrophy and Soft tissue sarcoma.
The Cain terriers shed very little, any loose hair should be removed by hand, removing dead hair allows new hair to grow in, helping to protect the dog from water and dirt. Keeping the Cairn terriers coat in good condition will also help to prevent skin irritations.
Exercise is important, daily walks will keep Cairn terriers happy and healthy, if it is allowed to take control of the household, behaviour problems may occur.
In the 1939 screen adaption of the Wizard of Oz, the part of Dorothy’s (Judy Garland) dog Toto was played by a brindle Cairn terrier called Terry, who also appeared in thirteen other films.