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Dogs - Cairn Terrier

Rough coated Cairn terrier with tousled hair


Cairn terriers - grey and other colours


The Cairn Terrier originated in the northern mountains of Scotland. "Cairns" are large pile of rocks erected as landmarks, boundary markers, or monuments. Fieldmice, vipers, stoats, and weasels like to hide amongst the rocks and the hardy little terriers were used to dig them out. The word "terrier" comes from the Latin "terra" meaning earth. A terrier was used to unearth the animals from their lairs. The dogs developed tough nails, big feet and strong shoulders for digging.  

In order to plant crops or pasture, farmers cleared the land of rocks. The rocks were either piled into a high cairn or used to make dry stone dykes. These were rough walls made of stones, without cement. The tough little dogs were adept at climbing over the rock heaps in pursuit of game like ferrets, that hid in the crevices of the rocks.

How breeds of dogs developed

The Cairn Terrier has a rough shaggy coat which helps to protect it in the harsh terrain and snowy winters. The coat does not shed, but requires regular trimming. 

The tail is short and erect. 

Cairn Terriers enjoy being with their owners and may get up to mischief if left alone. They are unafraid of bigger dogs and will bark aggressively to protect their territory.  

Cairns are small dogs, which can adapt to being kept in a small yard.

Colour: any. Brindle is common.

Class: terrier.

2 young cairn puppies

Adult dog with Cairn puppies

Left: This small cairn marks the route of a hiking trail in Eastern Cape, South Africa. A lizard & a mouse darted into the rocks as the photographer approached.
Cairn terrier puppies riding in a wheelbarrow

Above - Cairn terrier puppies


Cairn terriers are courageous dogs. Let's be fearless like a Cairn! The Bible says, "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

Romans 8 verse 31. (Assuming we are for God, of course! We can't expect God to be for us, if we are not for him!)

Long ago, the Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a short ghost story - a fable called "The Poor Thing," in which he says,

 "for we must go this night to the little isle of sheep, where our fathers lie in the dead-cairn...the Poor Thing (ghost) went before him like a smoke in the light of the moon. So they came to the dead-cairn, and they laid their ears to the stones; and the dead complained withinsides like a swarm of bees:" 

It may have been that long ago on the rocky islands, folk were buried by heaping stones on top of them as a memorial.


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