The Cairn Terrier is a native of Scotlands Western Highlands and has been a known breed since 1500 AD. The breed takes its name from large piles of stone found throughout Scotland, which were believed to have been used to mark graves, the border between two territories or clan holdings, or sites of historic significance. This breed of terrier was a farm dog that went after small vermin that would raid the farms stores. Most of these vermin made their permanent nests in cairns, and the dog would inevitably run its prey to ground at these stone markers--hence the name. Though used for such purposes for centuries, the Cairn Terrier is now primarily a companion dog. You might remember that the dog Toto from the film The Wizard of Oz was a Cairn Terrier. The directors of the film chose that breed because it learns tricks easily and has a very warm, happy and curious personality. Here is a guide on how to identify a Cairn Terrier.
Begin by judging the dogs size, weight and general body type. The dog should be no more than 10" high at the shoulder and rather long-bodied at 14" from chest to hindquarters. The tail should be thick and no more than 1/3 as long as the dog. It should be thick, covered with short bristles and almost always pointing directly upward.2
Look at the dogs fur. It should have a long and shaggy outercoat, as well as a short and fine undercoat. The fur will stick out like spikes across much of the body, barring the back, sides and tail. The coat may be colored red, brindle, grey, black or sand. Dark points on the ears, eyes and muzzle are common but not mandatory.3
Examine the dogs head. The skull should be very wide, with almost perfectly triangular ears sticking up diagonally from the sides. It should have very bushy eyebrows, as well as a mustache of long fur running out to the sides of the thick muzzle. The eyes should be set deeply in the skull and hazel in hue. If the dog matches this description, youre looking at a Cairn Terrier.