|The Cairn Terrier is France's most popular Scottish Terrier. It is also, for the vast majority of specialists, the original type !
Its name comes from the Gaelic word cairn, which means mounds of earth, whether it is natural scree or scree built to indicate a mountain pass or to limit a property. The real cairns, however, are much older: from the Bronze Age (millennium BC), they are intimately related to the universe of Celtic peoples who considered them the residences of the gods. Shortly before the Christian era, when they were stopped by the Picts in their conquest of Caledonia (the future Scotland), the Roman legions in turn built mounds, made of stones and earth, to bury their dead.
The tradition then required that the traveler who passed near these mounds should deposit a stone to reconcile the good graces of the missing, on pain of seeing his journey strewn with pitfalls.
With time, the mounds were gradually abandoned, forgotten even. They were covered with thick brambles and impenetrable bushes, but offered no less, for foxes, badgers and other animals that were digging burrows or looking for a shelter, an impregnable refuge. Really impregnable? For most dogs, yes. But not for the small, short-legged ones, who were perfectly protected by a shaggy fur and who, quite naturally, took the name of their chosen territory.
However, it is clear that, if the hunting underground and Aqui dogs were used there were known since the Middle Ages or even before, no chronicler or bard did not bother to evoke them. Presumably widespread first on the Isle of Skye (belonging to the Hebrides archipelago, west of Scotland), these dogs were mentioned in the second half of the 16th century by John Keys (Latinized name in Joannes Caius), then by George de Tuberville, who described them as rough-haired subjects, pursuing the game even underground, which even referred to the famous Agasse, cited by the Roman Oppien in his Cynégétiques in the second century BC.
It is only in the seventeenth century that traces of these dogs are found. In 1600, indeed, the King of Scotland Jacques VI (King of England under the name of Jacques I) offered several couples in the white dress (Whites Doggies) to the court of France, which he was close by mother Mary Stuart, while the MacLeods, of the Drynoch clan living on the Isle of Skye, possessed their own lineages, moreover well reputed. Two centuries later, in 1840, Martin MacLeod, who was leaving Isle of Skye to emigrate to Canada, took with him his pack from Cairns, which he made known across the Atlantic. At the Museum of Inverness, finally, a painting entitled The Favorite Dog, dated 1845 and painted by Rosa Bonheur, shows a typical Cairn, seen from three quarters and leaning on his right anterior.
The Cairn Terrier was for a long time the preserve of the great Scottish families, from that of the dukes of Argyll to that of the MacDonald clan, the latter being mentioned by the famous cynologist Pierre Mégnin to prove the very ancient existence of the race. But in the nineteenth century, this dog became much more popular, since between 1875 and 1883 he was the mascot of the Aberdeen cricket team.
This fierce hunter of badgers and foxes in the Highlands also excelled in the pursuit of the otter, and in the houses, farms, and stables, he was the regular destroyer of rats, mice, weasels, and polecats. such is the sign that the dog-earler FT Barton wrote that he was the "oldest vermin killer".
In 1860, this dog was introduced for the first time at the Inverness exhibition under the name of "Short-haired Skye Terrier", a name chosen because of its original island where the subjects were logically found the most typical. However, even before that date, another Terrier from the Isle of Skye had acquired a solid reputation, notably because of its silky and long hair, which had attracted the attention of Queen Victoria herself, who had decided , from 1842, to breed this dog, the real Cairn Terrier.
The Cairn Terrier could not therefore acquire a breed status under the name of Skye Terrier, despite a distinctive mention of the nature of its hair. In any case, the breeders of the real Skye Terrier denied him any relationship with their favorite dog, for which they feared the appearance of a cousin with shaggy hair, straight out of a burrow but likely to claim the palm of the seniority. For its part, the Kennel Club did not want to hear about a working terrier from the Isle of Skye called Cairn Terrier, a name that the brilliant dog managers thought too imprecise.
Taken between the Kennel Club and the followers of the Skye Terrier, Cairn enthusiasts had to argue no less than half a century before this dog finally received the right to officially wear its traditional name.
If this delay was so long, it was mainly because, in the minds of the dog-lovers, the Cairn, an honest worker, was not sufficiently distinguished to be admitted to the Scottish Terriers Club. On May 27, 1912, however, the Kennel Club committee decided to open his genealogical book for him: the first subject to appear there was Nisbet, and belonged to Major Ewing. The popular success of the Cairn Terrier was not immediate, since in 1922, that is to say, ten years after its official recognition, only 141 subjects were registered at the Kennel Club.
It has often been said that the Cairn Terrier is more or less related to the Scottish Terrier, the West Highland White Terrier, and even the Dandie Dinmont Terrier. Let us recall moreover that Thomas Bell, in agreement with many specialists of his time, wrote in 1837 in History 0f British Quadrupeds that there were only two types of Terriers: one with short hair and smooth, with a rather fine figure, a black and fiery dress, or white; the other with shaggy hair of varied hues and short and strong limbs. It was this second dog, close to the Cairn Terrier, that became, as a result of appropriate selections, the Scottish Terrier (from a cross with the now-defunct Aberdeen Terrier and the West Highland White Terrier (which more specifically, is just a mere selection of white Cairns.) Dogs who thus advance the theory that the Cairn Terrier is one of the original types of Terriers want to Pleuve that in the first standard of the Scottish Terrier published in 1880, it is mentioned under colors that the most desirable is the brindle red with the end of the ears and muzzle black, a color typical of the current Cairn! By the way, R. Juteau, dog specialist of unearthing, indicates that the Cairn Terrier should be considered "as the oldest of the Scottish Terrier varieties and probably the original type".
The Cairn Terrier is known for a long time in France. As early as 1928, before the Scottish Terriers Lovers Club came into being, French breeders, whose descendants continue today the vast enterprise, had adopted it. Some hobbyists, moreover, have managed to make a dog unearthed. In a book published in 1957 devoted to this type of dog, René Depoux writes: "During the 1955-1956 season, I saw at work a tiny Cairn, named after Truffle. This little dog, which was not supposed to weigh much more than four kilos, was excellent on the badger, with a very firm farm, perhaps holding the bar a little far, but compensating for this defect by a clever knowledge of the counter-digging it knew how to indicate with great intelligence."
Nevertheless, both in France and in other countries, the Cairn Terrier is hardly used in its original job. His success, he owes it essentially to its appearance remained natural and rustic and its alert and happy character. Note however that it is the only breed, apart from the Fox Terrier, Jagd Terrier and Dachshund, to count some representatives working in the burrow.