Search 1000s of Fact Sheets




Exact matches only



Exact matches only


Backyard Blitz Factsheets
In the Magazine

Cairn Terrier

Pet Road Tests > Dogs

Breed:Cairn Terrier
Temperament: bold and alert
Lifespan: 12-14 years
Maintenance: medium
Recommended for: families and the active elderly  


A Cairn is a Scottish word for a formation of rocks piled on top of each other to identify boundaries and marks graves. The Cairn Terrier originated in Scotland and was bred to flush out vermin and game which hid in these rocky piles. The breed was officially called Cairn Terrier in 1909, a change from its original name, Short-haired Skye terrier. The Cairn is most well known for featuring in one of the greatest stories of all time, 'The Wizard of Oz'. In this famous 1939 movie version of a broadway play, Dorothy, played by the young Judy Garland, is swept 'over the rainbow' with her dog, Toto, a Cairn terrier. And for those trivia buffs, Toto's real name was Terry and he, in fact, was a she.


The Cairn Terrier has a shaggy, double-layered, water resistant coat, giving the dog a tousled appearance. One of the largest of the terrier breeds, it stands between 28 and 31 cm (11-12"), larger than a Silky or Yorkshire. It has a solid, 'squared' body and sturdy legs. The breed comes in a variety of colours, including red sandy, grey, brindle and dark to almost black. Dark masks and tips of ears are typical. As a pup grows into an adult, the coat colour may change too.


The dog's mischievousness is part of the appeal of the breed. If you want something that's going to be very well behaved and particularly amenable to discipline don't get a Cairn! It's a bold, happy and fearless breed, with great affection for its master. Its wariness towards strangers and the inclination to bark makes the Cairn an excellent watchdog. Breeders say that the allure of a Cairn as a puppy is quite seductive and owners often let their new dog do what ever it wants. But Breeders warn not to let them do something at 12 weeks which you're not happy to have them do at 12 months.

Health and lifespan

Cairn terriers are tough, low maintenance dogs with few health problems. Night blindness, caused by the degeneration of the retina is occasionally encountered.


Cairns require exercise. Daily walks are recommended to keep the dog stimulated and help burn off that 'fizz' that is so common to terriers. The breed's instinct to chase is still strong so be wary if exercising your dog off lead.


The breed has a waterproof, double coat which can be groomed quite easily with either a short stiff bristled brush or a short wire brush about 2 to 3 times a week. Only bath when necessary as bathing can break down the water resistant coat.

Ideal owner

Cairn Terriers make excellent companions for those elderly who are able to exercise their pet. Ideal for families, the breed loves playing with children and make suitable watchdogs.

National contacts

To find up-to-date contacts for breeders, contact the following organisations.
The Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC)

Dogs NSW
Phone: 1300 728 022 (NSW only) or (02) 9834 3022
Fax: (02) 9834 3872

Dogs Victoria
Phone: (03) 9788 2500
Fax: (03) 9788 2599

Dogs ACT
Phone: (02) 6241 4404 - Fax: (02) 6241 1129.

Dogs West
Phone: (08) 9455 1188
Fax: (08) 9455 1190

Dogs SA
Phone: (08) 8349 4797

Canine Control Council of Queensland
Phone: (07) 3252 2661
Fax: (07) 3252 3864

Tasmanian Canine Association
Phone: (03) 6272 9443
Fax: (03) 6273 0844

Dogs NT
Phone: (08) 8984 3570
Fax: (08) 8984 3409
The Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC)

Copyright CTC Productions 2003

The Message Board

Get help, share your knowledge

5042 posts
1742 users
3260 posts
1102 users
1873 posts
883 users
1512 posts
603 users
627 posts
317 users

View all forums

The Lazy Gardener
The Lazy Gardener
Don Burke's all new The Lazy Gardener is out now.
buy now
Don's guide to growing organic food for your family.
buy now
Don's story, his own stunnning native garden, plus expert advice and tips
buy now
Kid's gardening kit
Kid's Gardening Kit
A great kids gardening kit with tools and fun activities.
buy now
© 2007-2014 CTC Productions, All Rights Reserved
Home | Message Board | Fact Sheets | Members | Magazine | CTC Facilities | About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Us