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The Cairn Terrier is a compact little dog with well sprung ribs and strong quarters. Almost any colour, either self or brindled is correct; black mask, ears, and tip of tail being very typical and a great asset. The Cairn Terrier’s coat must be double dense and harsh, so as to be thoroughly weather resisting. His body must be neither too long nor too short, and his tail short, well carried, but on no account to curl over the back; a good set of strong teeth being indispensable.
At work there is not a terrier pluckier or more determined. Once at work the Cairn Terrier will “gang his ain gait” and when in a burrow will take a lot of getting out, unless he can bring his prey with him. This dog breed is an exceptionally good watchdog and discriminates more wisely than most. I have never known Cairn Terriers to bark at regular comers and goers, unless they have been teased by them— they never forgive an injury.
The Cairn Terrier is not as a rule a fighter, in the sense that he does not seek a fight, but if attacked will go for his enemy tooth and nail, and the strength of his jaw makes him a more formidable opponent than his size denoted. A very general error is the idea that the Cairn Terriers are expected to kill their quarry. This is quite a mistake. Their work is to go to ground and to bolt the game, whatever it may be — otter, badger, fox, or the more homely rat, which he will soon finish up.
In the Highlands most districts have their fox hunter, with his pack of Cairn Terriers, for it would be a really serious matter to the sheep farmers if the foxes were not kept down. It is a very different sport to foxhunting in the Lowlands; in this case the dogs enter the Cairn Terriers, and bolt the fox, which is quickly shot.
There is no trouble in training the Cairn Terrier to the gun, and he is very useful rabbiting. A farmer can have no more helpful employee than this terrier dog breed, as they will keep his place clear of rats, stoats, not to mention cats, who are so destructive to young rabbits.
Excerpted from Dog World magazine, February 1929, Vol. 14.