Cairn Terrier Dog Breed Information and Personality Traits

Considered a loyal family pet and adaptable to most environments, the Cairn terrier is active and enjoys a playful lifestyle.

Cairn Terrier at a glance
The Cairn Terrier Dog Breed

The cairn terrier has a renowned Hollywood connection. Toto in ”The Wizard of Oz” was played by a cairn terrier.


Weight Range:

Male: 13-16 lbs.
Female: 13-16 lbs.

Height at Withers:

Male: 10 in.

Female: 9 in.


Upright ears (naturally)


Exercise Requirements: >40 minutes/day
Energy Level: High
Longevity Range: 12-15 yrs.
Tendency to Drool: Low

Tendency to Snore: Low
Tendency to Bark: High
Tendency to Dig: High Social/Attention Needs: Moderate

Bred For:

Bolting of otter, foxes, other vermin


Length: Medium
Characteristics: Hard coat
Colors: All except white
Overall Grooming Needs: Moderate

Club Recognition:

AKC Classification: Terrier
UKC Classification: Terrier
Prevalence: Common

Cairn terriers stand only nine to 10 to inches tall, are about 15 inches in length and weigh about 13 or 14 pounds.

They have a broad head and small, erect ears. Their body is compact, legs are relatively short and their tail is natural and carried high. 

Cairn terriers have a soft undercoat, but it is their shaggy, water-resistant outer coat that gives them a jaunty appearance. They come in several colors including black, red, brindle and silver.


Cairn terriers are considered intelligent, loyal family pets that adapt to most environments. They are true terriers, however, and consequently extremely active dogs. Some may be prone to excessive barking and others can be diggers. This is not a dog for someone who wants a quiet lap dog. They can be feisty with other dogs, and deadly with small pets and errant rodents.

On the other hand, cairn terriers are an excellent choice for families who want a playful, cheerful pet always up for a game of fetch or a brisk walk around the neighborhood.

Living With:

Cairn terriers are active dogs that should be given the opportunity to romp and play, but they do not need great amounts of space to obtain the needed exercise. Walks on a leash, in-house play sessions or runs in a fenced-in backyard will suffice.

Their coat sheds little and although it requires regular brushing and trimming, it is not difficult to care for.


The cairn terrier is the energetic, brave and devoted little dog that most of us know as Toto in “The Wizard of Oz.” But his roots extend farther back in time than that, and his accomplishments, too, are far greater.

The Cairn terrier may have existed as long ago as the 16th century, helping to control vermin on the Isle of Skye. Their specialty was in bolting quarry, particularly otters, from heaps of stone known as cairns. The breed is related to the Scottish and West Highland white terriers, and crosses with Westies occurred as recently as the 1920s. Today, the Cairn terrier is an excellent all-around family pet and show dog.

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