• Forward
  • Breed
    Standard
  • General
    Appearance
  • Skull,
    Muzzle
  • Teeth,
    Nose, Ears,
    Eyes
  • Tail &
    Body
  • Shoulders,
    Legs & Feet
  • Movement
  • Other
  • Grooming
  • Faults

It is an indisputable fact that the Cairn Terrier is one of the oldest, if not the oldest pure British terrier. There is some question whether the first Cairn came from the mainland of Scotland or from the Isle of Skye.

History of the Cairn precedes record-keeping. In the 15th Century Bishop Lesley of Ross describes a "dog of low height which, creeping into underground holes, routs out foxes, badgers and wild cats from their hiding places and dens; and if he at any time finds the passage too narrow, opens himself a way with his feet, and that with so great labor that he frequently perishes through his own exertions."

The original use of the Cairn Terrier was to hunt and kill foxes, otters and other vermin in his native land. These little dogs had to be stout of heart and hard as nails or they would not go into the holes in the rocks to find their natural prey.

The word cairn means a heap of stones; therefore it is natural that Cairn Terriers were found in the western coastal district of Scotland, where the sea left many rocks, and in the areas where farmers piled rocks in clearing the land, and vermin hid after destroying the farmers' crops. this working dog of the Highland crofter was as necessary to his master as cattle and ponies. He was a worker first, rarely a pet, rather homely" in appearance. It didn't matter what the dog looked like, as long as he could do his work. Color was unimportant, except that the reds were not popular because they too closely resembled the fox. If the dog bolted the fox, it would be hard to tell which one to shoot.

In 1909 these shaggy little fellows went to the Crufts Dog Show under the name "Short-haired Skye Terriers." Imagine how this name upset the Skye Terrier fanciers, an already established breed. Soon the Kennel Club designated them as Cairn Terriers.

From this early show career the Cairn has remained a hardy, sporting little fellow, full of life and energy, requiring no artificial trimming or chalk. He is a working dog and should not be stylized, powdered, etc. To bring any breed to perfection for the show ring, rules are essential. A standard for the breed evolves. A breed standard expresses the ideal. Since there is a divergence of opinion on many finer points of the standard, this publication attempts to clarify and amplify the areas of the standard which particularly need more attention from judges, breeders and exhibitors. It is hoped that this standard and amplification will better inform judges, and owners of Cairns, and aid in the better breeding of Cairn Terriers.

The rules set down in the standard are based on the dog's fundamental purpose in life. The final test should be to look at each specimen and ask, "Can it do what it was bred to do?"

Below is the Official AKC Standard for the Cairn Terrier.

Please click on the individual feature, above, for additional analysis and clarification of the Official Standard by the Cairn Terrier Club of America's Educational Committee.

GENERAL APPEARANCE: That of an active, game, hardy, small working terrier of the short-legged class; very free in its movements, strongly but not heavily built, standing well forward on its forelegs, deep in the ribs, well coupled with strong hindquarters and presenting a well-proportioned build with a medium length of back, having a hard, weather-resistant coat; head shorter and wider than any other terrier and well furnished with hair giving a general foxy expression.

SKULL: Broad in proportion to length with a decided stop and well furnished with hair on the top of the head, which may be somewhat softer than the body coat.

MUZZLE: Strong but not too long or heavy.

TEETH: Large-mouth neither overshot nor undershot. NOSE: Black.

EYES: Set wide apart, rather sunken, with shaggy eyebrow, medium in size, hazel or dark hazel in color, depending on body color, with a keen terrier expression.

EARS: Small, pointed, well carried erectly, set wide apart on the side of the head. Free from long hairs. TAIL: In proportion to head, well furnished with hair but not feathery. Carried gaily but must not curl over the back. Set on at back level.

BODY: Well muscled, strong, active body with well-sprung, deep ribs, coupled to strong hind quarters, with a level back of medium length, giving an impression of strength and activity without heaviness.

SHOULDERS, LEGS AND FEET: A sloping shoulder, medium length of leg, good but not too heavy bone; forelegs should not be out at elbows, and be perfectly straight, but forefeet may be slightly turned out. Forefeet larger than hind feet. Legs must be covered with hard hair. Pads should be thick and strong and dog should stand well up on its feet. COAT: Hard and weather resistant. Must be double-coated with profuse harsh outer coat and short, soft, close furry undercoat.

COLOR: May be of any color except white. Dark ears, muzzle and tail tip are desirable.

IDEAL SIZE: Involves the weight, the height at the withers and the length of the body. Weight for bitches, 13 pounds, for dogs, 14 pounds. Height at the withers-bitches, 9 1/2 inches, dogs, 10 inches. Length of body from 14 1/4 to 15 inches from the front of the chest to back of hindquarters. The dog must be of balanced proportions and appear neither leggy nor too low to ground; and neither too short nor too long in body. Weight and measurements are for matured dogs at two years of age. Older dogs may weigh slightly in excess and growing dogs may be under these weights and measurements.

 

That of an active, game, hardy, small working terrier of the short-legged class; very free in its movements, strongly but not heavily built, standing well forward on its forelegs, deep in the ribs, well coupled with strong hindquarters and presenting a well-proportioned build with a medium length of back, having a hard, weather-resistant coat; head shorter and wider than any other terrier and well furnished with hair giving a general foxy expression.

Side Gait-The Trot         Side Gait-The Pace

(Correct)                      (Incorrect)

CLARIFICATION: This first sentence describes the essential picture of "a big dog in a small package". The Cairn is one of the short-legged terriers, but a working terrier, not so low to the ground as to have a "weasely" look yet not too high on leg as to appear "up on stilts". The word "medium" is the key word throughout this Standard. Not a short back, square-looking terrier, but a terrier with enough length of back to be able to twist and turn in and out of holes and among rocks with quick movement is ideal.

CLARIFICATION: The head is very broad and short. The muzzle shorter than the length of skull. The ideal proportion of muzzle to skull is four to five (see above). The muzzle full but not heavy; yet broad enough to hold a full set of large, strong teeth. Heads may go to extremes and be too heavily boned appearing coarse and too fine appearing "snipey". Please note the Standard does not call for a foxy head-only for a foxy expression (smart, alert, cunning expression), which is lost if the head is coarse or overdone.

TEETH: Large-mouth neither overshot nor undershot. NOSE: Black.

EYES: Set wide apart, rather sunken, with shaggy eyeborw, medium in size, hazel or dark hazel in color, depending on body color, with a keen terrier expression.

EARS: Small, pointed, well carried erectly, set wide apart on the side of the head. Free from long hairs.

CLARIFICATION: Large, strong teeth are important. There should be 6 incisors upper and lower. The bite either level or scissors-not overshot or undershot (see above). The nose black only. the preferred eye color should be dark hazel (not black), medium in size, oval in shape and wide set, giving a "devilish" look to the Cairn. Ears small, wide set, properly placed on the sides of the head but carried upright are correct.

TAIL: In proportion to head, well furnished with hair but not feathery. Carried gaily but must not curl over the back. Set on at back level.

CLARIFICATION: Length of tail should equal height of ears. A standing Cairn should be able to have a ruler parallel to the ground from the tail's tip to the ears' tips. The tail is set high, at back level, but the ideal tail carriage is not necessarily vertical and should never be curled over the back. A Cairn going around the ring and carrying its tail at one or two o'clock is fine.

BODY: Well muscled, strong, active body with well-sprung, deep ribs, coupled to strong hind quarters, with a level back of medium length, giving an impression of strength and activity without heaviness.

CLARIFICATION: A firmly put together body with a heart- (or egg-) shaped rib cage, not barrel ribs, or slab-sided, is correct. Level back is desired. A good topline is a combination of proper placement of the bone structure as well as correct angulation.




  

CLARIFICATION: There should be some overhang in the front; the pro sternum should be fairly prominent with the front legs well back in under the withers.

Front legs are straight and well muscled without a tendency of a fiddle-front, but front feet may turn out slightly for digging purposes. However, this does no mean "east-west" front feet.

Front feet are larger than back feet (again for digging purposes) with good depth in the pad and strong pasterns, never down on the pasterns. Feet should be tight-with no indication toward a splayed foot. Nails must be kept short. Hindquarters: bend of stifle should be in proportion to shoulder layback to allow for a smooth, even gait. Hindquarters muscled with straight hocks.

Cow hocks and open hocks should be severely penalized. Gait: should move freely and easily with reach in front and drive in the rear on a loose lead. When viewed from the front, the legs should be straight and show reach. Any tendency toward winging or paddling should be penalized-as should crabbing. When viewed from the rear, the gait should show drive with the hocks parallel to each other and not too close together.

                                                                                                                                                                              

 

COAT: Hard and weather-resistant. Must be double-coated with profuse harsh outer coat and short, soft, close furry undercoat.

CLARIFICATION: This hard, double coat is most important in the Cairn, as it was designed to keep cold and water from penetrating to the skin. The profuse coat shoud be thick and a minimum of 2 inches in length. It should be the same lenght all over the body. Any appearance of the "jacketed" or "sculptured" look of the more stylized terriers should be severely penalized.

COLOR: May be of any color except white. Dark ears, muzzle and tail tip are desirable.

CLARIFICATION: Any color except white is permissible, however any markings resembling the old black and tan terrier (Doberman type markings), or parti-colored markings are highly objectionable and should not be allowed. Dark points-muzzle, ears and tail-are desirable.

IDEAL SIZE: Involves the weight, the height at the withers and the length of body. Weight for bitches, 13 pounds; for dogs, 14 pounds. Height at the withers-bitches, 9 1/2 inches; dogs 10 inches. Length of body from 14 1/2 to 15 inches from the front of the chest to back of the hindquarters. The dog must be of balanced proportions and appear neither too short nor too long in body. Weight and measurements are for matured dogs at two years of age. Older dogs may weight slightly in excess and growing dogs may be under these weights and measurements.

CLARIFICATION: While the weight and height limits are important, it should be stressed that the overall balance of the dog is most important. A well boned, properly-coated dog may appear larger than a light boned, shrot-coated dog. A slightly under or oversized dog of obvious quality is preferable to a proper sized dog lacking the desired attributes. See above illustration for the proper way of measuring dogs at the withers and length of back.


CONDITION: Dog should be shown in good hard flesh, well muscled and neither too fat or thin. Should be in full good coat with plenty of head furnishings, be clean, combed, brushed and tidied up on the ears, tail, feet and general outline. Should move freely and easily on a loose lead, should not cringe on being handled, should stand up on their toes and show with marked terrier characteristics.

CLARIFICATION: A Cairn should not be too heavy in body or in weight. They are not chunky little dogs and should have a little extra length of loin to be agile. In feeling behind the rib cage along the sides of the dog, a very slight depression is good in the loin area. Not that you want to feel the hip bones, but you do want to feel the ribs and you want some leanness through the body. Cairns are not as heavy as the Westie or Scottie.

Full good coat means full coat-2 to 3 inches long all over the body-unlike the Westie or Scottie where there is much longer coat on the legs and longer coat close to the ground. The Cairn is not stripped on the back leaving a flowing skirt. The entire body is stripped-not just the back. They are not to be skinned down at the neck nor should they carry an abundance of long, silky, dead furnishings. This style of grooming should be heavily penalized in the show ring. A coat should be worked entirely with the thumb and forefinger. Scissor marks should never be seen on the Cairn body. Scissors may be used around the feet and just at the very top of the ears. The fad of blow drying the Cairn should be discouraged. This fad only puffs out the coat and presents a very unnatural appearance for a rugged, sturdy dog. In order to preserve this breed in its best old-working type, the Cairn Terrier must resist current fashions.

Proper grooming of the tail is important for breed type in the Cairn. The hair covering the tail should taper from the base to a point at the tip like a Christmas tree or an inverted ice cream cone. A skinned down tail or the stovepipe grooming of a Fox Terrier is incorrect. Judges are encouraged to examine Cairns on a table for eye-level viewing and assessing.

 

The Standard calls for the dog to be shown on a loose lead. A loose lead is most important for the natural presentation of a Cairn. Also, those handling should be on their feet, not squatting and posing their dogs. Cairns are active, lively dogs, standing and facing the world proudly!

 

SKULL: Too narrow in skull.

MUZZLE: Too long and heavy a foreface; mouth overshot or undershot.

EYES: Too large, round at points, set too close together, set too high on the head' heavily covered with hair.

LEGS AND FEET: Too light or too heavy bone. Crooked forelegs or out at elbow. Thin, ferrety feet; feet let down on the heel or too open and spread. Too high or too low on the leg.

BODY: Too short back and compact a body, hampering quickness of movement and turning ability. Too long, weedy and snaky a body, giving an impression of weakness. Tail set on too low. Back not level.

COAT: Open coats, blousy coats, too short or dead coats, lack of sufficient undercoar, lack of head furnishings, lack of hard hair on the legs. Silkiness or curliness. A slight wave permissible.

NOSE : Flesh or light colored nose.

COLOR: White on chest, feet or other parts of body.

Approved May 10, 1938, American Kennel Club Book of Standards

 

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