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The History of the Cairn Terrier

The origins of the Cairn Terrier are the western coastal regions of the Scottish Highlands and the Hebrides, especially the Isle of Skye. Therefore, he was originally called “Short-coated Skye Terrier”. The first historical records date from 1436 by John Lesley, bishop of Rosy. He describes short-legged dogs which crawl into underground burrows and recesses to track down, hunt and kill foxes, badgers, martens and wildcats.

It is handed down from the 16th century that there were terriers, so called “earth dogs”, in Argyllshire. They were kept in packs and bred by some families or clans, to hunt down small game, which the dogs tracked down in rock caves. These robust, brave, short-legged terriers were not only supposed to keep pests like rats and mice at bay, but they were also trained for hunting. For this purpose, they had to have certain qualities. These were, for example, the form of the teeth, position and size of the eyes, but also the rough coat with a warming under-coat. They were kept in a simple, frugal way in packs.

Farmers bred their special terrier type, some families preferred certain colours. The Maclonalds from Waternish preferred dark-grey and brindle, the Macleods from Drynoch silver-grey and the Macinnons from Kilbride cream, red, brindle and almost black. The Roseneath crossbred their animals with those of the Malcolms from Poltalloch, which were cream or white and later became know as West Highland White Terrier. It is fairly certain that all four Scottish terrier breeds have the same origin.

The Cairn Terrier has preserved his nativeness and joy of working. Even today, some are still used for hunting, as tracking dogs and even as drug sniffer dogs, because of their small size they can reach crevices into which a large dog doesn't fit.

Further Development

The first picture of a Scottish hunting terrier dates from the year 1792, more documents come from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The terriers are described therein as having a strung-out back, short legs and a foxy appearance.

The first kennel for Scottish terriers was founded in 1870 by Dr. van Best who called them “Short-coated Skyes”. He was so enthusiastic about them that he went to their place of origin to select animals to breed with. In 1909, the first four terriers of this breed were shown by Mrs. Alastair Campbell from Ardrishaig at Loch Fyne together with Mrs. Macdonald in Inverness at an exhibition and caused a sensation, because the breed wasn't appointed by the Kennel Club. Mrs. Campbell's mother, Lady Monro, bred Short-coated Skyes for several years after she received one as a gift in 1875. In 1910, the breed was named “Cairn Terrier” in order to distinguish them from the “Skye Terrier” breed. The first standard was established in 1911 and is still valid in relevant topics. Finally, in 1912 the breed was appointed by the Kennel Club as the last of the four Scottish terrier breeds and got it's own register. Now, it became possible to achieve championship awards. The first Cairn Terrier champion was “Gesto” by Mrs. Campbell, whose father was a West Highland White Terrier. Cross-breeding between Cairn and West Highland White Terriers was tolerated in the USA until 1916, in England even until 1924.

Many vacationers took home Cairn Terriers home from Scotland. After the Prince of Wales, who later became King George VI, appeared in public with his Cairn Terriers and was photographed, a boom started and the Cairn Terrier became a popular family dog. It is still the most displayed terrier breed on English exhibitions. Its popularity is still growing in Germany.

In 1928 and 1929 the first Cairn Terrier puppies born in Germany were registered. During the last years, about 1000 new Cairn Terriers were registered per year by the German Club for Terriers. Many people became aware of the Cairn Terrier by film, circus and magazines, who kept his nativeness until today. The Cairn Terrier breeders do not want this lovely breed to become a fashion item, despite a trend towards this undemanding and healthy little dog is developing.

Last Updated ( Freitag, 23 Februar 2007 )