Westie vs Cairn: A Comparison Guide

People who want to share their hearts and homes with a canine companion would probably do well with a West Highland White Terrier (Westie) or a Cairn Terrier. These breeds have been highly popular for both older and younger people, as they are loyal and entertaining. You may even want to find the best gifts that Westie lovers will like since they are so popular.

The Westie vs Cairn question comes into play here because both breeds are popular, small, and adorable. We focus on comparing both dogs. This means you have more information and can make the right choice for your family, home, and lifestyle.

Cairn Terrier History

Cairn Terriers were initially bred to hunt vermin, so they have always been popular in areas with severe mice and rat issues. However, their origins are somewhat a mystery, as well. They’ve been used throughout the Scottish Highlands and Islands for hundreds of years.

Some think that the breed might even date all the way back to the 16th century. This is indicated through a reference to Earth Dogges sent by King James I in England to the King of France. Plus, Scottish shepherds and crofters used them to keep the vermin under control; hunters also used them.

Of course, back then, the breed didn’t resemble what we see today. There were a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, depending on where they were found and what they hunted. The breed wasn’t well-known in the USA at the time.

Now, many enthusiasts fell in love with the breed and created a fan base. These animals were domesticated to become family and companion pets in the UK. Eventually, it spread throughout the world.

West Highland White Terrier History

Westies are one of the oldest dog breeds in the UK, and records date back to the 15th century. These dogs were also bred to hunt rats and other vermin. This means they, too, share common ancestry with others, such as the charming Scottie, Dandy Dinmont, and the Cairn Terrier.

Primarily, this breed came about by crossing white puppies with other similar white puppies. The results of that mating became the foundation stock of Westies that we can see today. Generally, these dogs are a popular choice for companions, family pets, and working dogs.

Westie vs Cairn

1. Appearance

  • Cairn Terrier

The Cairn Terrier is a charmingly small dog that weighs about 4.5 to 6.8 kg and is about 23 to 33 centimeters tall. They’re sturdy and compact and have a distinctly unique look. This includes a shaggy coat, alert expression, and kindness around the eyes.

Their coat is weather-resistant, with the topcoat being harsher than its undercoat. Some of them can have a touch of waviness in the coat and come in many colors. These include Wheaten, gray, red, black, and cream.

  • Westie

Compact, small, and cheerful-looking, the Westie stands about 25 to 28 centimeters high, which is somewhat shorter than the Cairn. They usually weigh between 6.8 and 9.1 kg, so they are a bit heavier than the other breed.

You’ll find that the Westie has a double coat, too, with the topcoat harsher than the undercoat. There is only one color available and acceptable for a Westie, and that is pure white. Nevertheless, some have off-white or cream ears.

2. Shedding

Cairn Terriers do shed steadily regardless of the season, but they shed more in the autumn and spring. Therefore, this breed is considered a moderate shedder.

Westies are also moderate shedders, so they shed all year-round, as well. They, too, shred mostly in spring and autumn.

3. Training

The Westie tends to be eager to please and intelligent, so they’re easy to train. They do have a stubborn streak, though, which should be factored into training. Sometimes, they can also be mischievous, though that’s part of their personalities and what makes them so endearing.

Education for this breed must begin early and stay consistent. That way, your Westie understands the boundaries and rules that you set out for them.

Though intelligent, Cairn Terriers are also stubborn when they get in that mood. Therefore, training must start early in life and be consistent throughout. That way, they know what you expect of them.

This breed enjoys learning new things and partaking in a variety of activities. These help to keep the dog occupied mentally and physically.

4. Temperament

  • Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terriers are often fearless, happy, outgoing, and clever. They’re social, confident, and loyal to their owners and families, though they aren’t likely to be aggressive toward strangers. Since they’re so intelligent, they can learn fast, but this can include bad habits as well as good ones.

In most cases, these dogs are considered a great choice for beginner dog owners because they want to please. You should be aware that they are demanding at times, so it’s best if they’re often outside and active.

With that said, these dogs are sociable and want to be around you a lot. If you’re rarely home or at work all the time, you may need to use a dog sitter or kennel. These dogs often suffer from separation anxiety, so they could become destructive around the house.

  • Westie

Westies are often affectionate, mischievous, and intelligent, so they’re highly popular with all types of people. These dogs also like to please and want to be around people. That often means they’re easy to train but dislike it when they’re left alone for any period of time.

You’ll find that a Westie forms a strong bond with their family and owner and wants to be involved in everything that happens around them. They’re excellent watchdogs, so they will instantly let you know if something or someone upsets them. However, they aren’t aware that they are small, and might try to take on a large dog or person if they’re not socialized early on.


Making the decision between Westie vs Cairn is a tough one for most people. Both breeds do have similar qualities, but they aren’t the same. Each one is intelligent, but the Westie tends to be more affectionate and outgoing.

Plus, they don’t often mind being home alone while you go off to work. With that said, we do believe that the West Highland White Terrier is an excellent choice for retired people, households with children, and anyone in between. Just make sure you raise your Westie well.

3 Comments on “Westie vs Cairn: A Comparison Guide”

  1. Sounds like a biased version Westies over Cairns. I have groomed both for thirty years. Westies are in general more highly strung with incredible skin issues relating to too much inbreeding. Cairns have better overall temperaments to live with

    1. The information above is clearly non-founded. I’ve never met a westie bigger than my average sized cairn.

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