The Cairn Terrier is one of the oldest of the terrier breeds, originating in the Scottish Highlands and recognized as one of Scotland's earliest working dogs. The breed is commonly used for hunting and burrowing prey among the cairns.
Although the breed had existed since at least 1500, the name Cairn Terrier was a compromise suggestion after the breed was originally brought to official shows in the United Kingdom in 1909 under the name Short-haired Skye terriers. This name was not acceptable to The Kennel Club due to opposition from Skye Terrier breeders, and the name Cairn Terrier was suggested as an alternative. They are usually left-pawed,] which has been shown in dogs to correlate to superior performance in tasks related to scent. Cairn Terriers are ratters.