The Cairn Terrier is a terrier breed originating in the Scottish Highlands and recognized as one of Scotland's earliest working dogs.
There is evidence that one of the oldest-known strains of Cairn, or “Short-haired Skye Terrier,” as the breed was generally known at the turn of the century, was founded by Captain Martin MacLeod of Drynock, Isle of Skye. Captain MacLeod was a great Highland sportsman and an enthusiastic otter hunter. He maintained a pack of silver grey Short-haired Skye Terriers for forty years before emigrating to Canada in 1845. The Drynock strain was kept alive by Mr. John Macdonald, Bridge of Ose Kennels, Isle of Sky. Mr. Macdonald was a gamekeeper to the Clan Chief MacLeod of McLeod, Dunvegan Castle, for more than forty years. In 1917 he wrote that he and his brother had this Drynock strain for the last seventy years. The Mackinnos of Kilbride was another kennel of good Short-haired Skye Terriers. These terriers were descendents of an old breed owned by Farquhar Kelly of Drumfearn, Isle of Skye in the seventeenth century. All of these strains played a part in the early lines of the breeds pioneers.
Mrs. Alastair Campbell and Mary Hawke were the pioneers of the Cairn Terrier as we know it today. It was their persistence that led to the Cairn Terrier being recognized by The Kennel Club in 1910. On May 29, 1912 The Kennel Club Committee gave the Cairn Terrier a separate register. The Cairn could now compete at designated championship shows in the United Kingdom.
In 1933 one of the most influential and important Cairns of all time was whelped. Eng. Ch. Splinters of Twobees (click link for pedigree) would go on to indelibly mark the breed. The winner of eight CCs and his prowess as a stud dog made Splinters an important contributor to setting the type we know today. Splinters can be found in the pedigrees of many of the top winning and producing dogs of today.
Mrs. Henry F. Price and Mrs. Byron Rodgers are credited with gaining approval of the Cairn Terrier in the United States. Mrs. Price imported the first Cairn Terriers to the United States in 1913 and owned the first Cairn Registered by the American Kennel Club Sandy Peter out of the West. In 1917 the Cairn Terrier Club of America was granted membership in the American Kennel Club.
The genesis of the American Cairn lies with the importation of Eng. Ch. Redletter McRuffie by Betty Hyslop to Canada. McRuffie, a great grandson of Ch. Splinters of Twobees, was bred by Walter Bradshaw of Redletter fame. McRuffie and his descendents Ch. Cairnwoods Quince and Ch. Cairmar Fancy Dresser would forever stamp their names in the history of the Cairn in the United States. One is hard pressed today to find a Cairn without one of the above dogs in the pedigree.