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Breed Priorities – The Cairn Terrier

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166 – March, 2018


This article is not intended to promote fault or part judging. Nor is it to imply that any characteristic called for in the standard is unimportant. Judging, and breeding, is about prioritizing and about what the judge or breeder will forgive. Discussing priorities can help in learning how to better evaluate a breed.

Cairns were once known as “Short Coated Skye Terriers,” a working terrier of Skye and the west Highlands. It is the sixth most popular terrier in AKC, ranking seventieth in 2016, down from sixty-first in 2013. I had heard that there were some differences of opinions among Cairn experts on proportion and leg length. If that were true, I wondered if it would be reflected on a survey on the breed.

We found twenty-nine breeder-judges to invite to participate in this survey. Twenty-two agreed to do so. Seventeen surveys were returned, but one was only partly done. Some judge only Cairns, while some others judge multiple groups. They average over thirty-four years in the breed and have been judging Cairns for an average of more than fifteen years. Some have judged their national, and many have judged other Cairn specialty shows.

Prioritizing Virtues

The breeder-judges were given a list of breed virtues taken from the Cairn Terrier standard to prioritize from the most important to the least important. The following is the list of Cairn characteristics in sequence by the breeder-judges’ average ranks, with 1 being the most important.

1. Level back of medium length
2. Keen terrier expression with hazel or dark hazel eyes
3. Skull broad in proportion to length
4. Hard, weather-resisting double coat
5. Medium length of leg
6. Moves freely and easily on loose lead
7. Body length 14 1?4 to 15 inches
8. Strong hindquarters
9. Well-sprung, deep ribs
9. (tie) Good condition, well-muscled, not too fat or thin
11. Marked terrier characteristics
12. Ears small, pointed, carried erectly, set wide apart
13. Large teeth
14. Height and weight for mature two-year-old dogs: Dogs: 14 lbs., 10”; Bitches: 13 lbs., 9 1?2”
15. Tail well-furnished, carried gaily, set on back level
16. Dark ears, muzzle, and tail tip

The largest majority put “Dark ears, muzzle, and tail tip” (16th) in the bottom quartile, with seven placing it absolutely last. It was an average of more than four points below the adjacent virtue, confirming its last place position. More than sixty percent ranked “Ears small, pointed, carried erectly, set wide apart” (12th) be- tween eleventh and fourteenth, while three others had it second most important.

Click here to read the complete article
166 – March, 2018

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  • March 2019