Of the Cairn Terrier.
The origins of the Cairn Terrier are lost in the mists of time, but the dog is undoubtedly descended from the original indigenous working terrier of the Scottish Highlands. There are references to them in the 16th century, when King James I and VI sent a group of “Earth Dogges” to the King of France. So prized were they, that he stipulated that they be sent in separate ships lest disaster befall them on route.
The dogs were used by crofters, sheperds and foxhunters…
for pest control . Foxes, rats and rabbits were their early quarry, but with the advent in the 18th and 19th centuries of sporting pursuits, the dogs were much favoured for use against badgers and otters. Their “gameness” -the ability to ignore pain and continue to fight on- became legendary, and even at the beginning of the 20th century there were packs of Cairns that could not be handled by anyone than their own keeper!
Dogs varied enormously in size and shape and colour depending on the terrain they worked, and the quarry they were used against.
From the mid – 19th century the differences began to resolve…
and the separate breeds of terriers developed – the Skye, Scottish Terrier and the West Highland White became well established, but their progenitor the Cairn, remained comparatively unknown exept in the remote sporting estates in Argyllshire and the Isle of Skye.
The first few years of the 20th century saw efforts by a few dedicated breeders…
and exhibitors to have these little dogs officially recognised by the Kennel Club, but early attempts were obscured by confusion over the name to call him.
Foremost among the pioneers was Mrs. Campbell, of Ardrishaig, whose first Cairns were brought over from Skye by her father.
Mrs. Campbell called the dogs variously “Short – Coated Skyes” or “Prick – Eared Skyes”, leading to vigorous confrontation with the breeders of the Skye Terrier, whose dogs had been recognised for at least 30 years!
Arguments raged back and forth in the dog press…
but it was not until 1910 that the Kennel Club accepted a delegation of Skye Breeders, and decided that the prick-eared or short-coated dogs of Mrs.Campbell and her fellow enthusiasts, should henceforth be called CAIRN TERRIERS.
The Cairn Club was formed the same year with the original object “to protect and advance the interests of the old working terrier of the Highlands, now known as the Cairn Terrier“.