Cairn Terriers boast a Scottish ancestry and are known for being lively, game little characters with a very distinct shaggy albeit not scruffy coat. At one time they were highly prized for their hunting skills, but today these charming dogs are popular both as family pets and companions thanks to their mischievous looks and their devotion to their owners. Cairn Terriers thrive on being around people and are highly adaptable dogs by nature fitting in comfortably to most lifestyles with the greatest of ease. There is nothing these little dogs like more than to be part of a family and to be involved in everything that goes on in a household. A famous Cairn Terrier is 'ToTo' of 'The Wizard of Oz' fame, in the 1939 movie, 'ToTo' was played by a brindle Cairn Terrier girl.
Originally bred to hunt vermin, foxes and rodents, the Cairn Terrier has always been highly prized for their willingness to please. The actual origin of the breed remains unknown, but it's thought they are descendants of native working terriers that were used both in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. There are some references to Cairn Terriers that date back to the 16th century when the King of France was sent some "Earth Dogges" by King James I and then later James VI sent some over to the continent too.
Scottish shepherds, crofters and hunters would use these terriers to control vermin, hunt rabbits and foxes, but by the 18th and 19th centuries, they were used to hunt badgers and otters because they were considered vermin at the time. These terriers were prized for their courage and "gameness" and they fact they had the ability to ignore any pain when tackling their prey. At the time, these terriers varied greatly in colour, size and shape from region to region because they were specifically bred to work on different and often challenging terrains and to hunt different types of prey.
Other terriers that were around at the time which included the Scottish, Skye and West Highland White, were the most recognised breeds during the nineteenth century, while the little Cairn remained pretty much unknown other than in the areas of Scotland where they were most commonly bred to hunt. By the 20th century, enthusiasts and breeders pushed for the Kennel Club to recognise the Cairn Terrier as a breed in its own right, but at the time nobody could agree on what to call these dogs. Sometimes they were called "short-coated Skyes" or they were often referred to as "Prick-eared Skyes".
It was not until 1910 that the Kennel Club accepted the breed and they were given their name, Cairn Terrier. That same year, the official Cairn Club was established with just 54 members. Today, the Cairn Terrier is known the world over with more than twenty breed clubs worldwide and enthusiasts who do their best to maintain the same breed standard that was so highly prized by the early enthusiasts in times long past.