Cairn Terrier: An Ancient Breed as a Modern Pet

Cairn Terrier: An Ancient Breed as a Modern Pet

A few years ago I had my first encounter with a wheaten terrier. At the time it was very exciting for me since I didn’t have one at home.

A friend’s son came over to visit me and brought along his new pet – a small dog that looked like a cross between a pug and an English bulldog. He was a little smaller than my other dogs so I thought he would fit right into our family.

I immediately noticed that the dog wasn’t exactly what I expected from a terrier. His head was too big, his body too skinny and his tail just seemed out of place on him.

However, he did look friendly enough and after introducing myself, we spent some quality time together playing fetch and chasing each other around the house while eating treats.

The next day I took him back to my friend’s house where he lived with his owner. My friend was surprised to see me there because he thought I wouldn’t be able to take care of such a tiny dog.

After all, it takes a lot of energy and time to keep up with a terrier.

I explained that this dog didn’t seem to be like the other terriers I knew. He was more on the quiet side and a little lazy, he didn’t chase other animals or even pay much attention to them for that matter.

My friend told me that’s because he was a wheaten terrier, an older breed that isn’t exactly known for being hyper and energetic. If anything, they are content to lay around the house all day long.

When he said that I was a little disappointed because I thought a terrier should be full of energy and always ready for a good time. He then told me about how the wheaten terrier came to be such a quiet breed.

It’s origins go back hundreds of years in Ireland where it was bred to hunt and kill vermin in farms and barns. It was also used to hunt small game and birds.

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As you might expect this was a much tougher dog than the one I played with. It had to be physically fit and mentally sharp in order to perform its duties.

However, by the 19th century it’s purpose began to decline along with the population of small game in Ireland. Farmers began using pesticides instead on their crops and vermin began to disappear from farms. As a result, there was less need for terriers to hunt and kill them.

This all changed again when people became more aware of their environment and started preserving wildlife. Legislations were implemented to save endangered species and also protect animals from hunting, trapping, and poisoning.

The wheaten terrier almost became extinct around this time because of these new laws. In addition, many of the farms in Ireland were being abandoned and sold as housing developments. This meant there was no longer any habitat for the dog to thrive in.

The wheaten terrier might have completely vanished from existence if it wasn’t for one man, a police officer by the name of Dudley Marjoribanks. He owned a wheaten terrier named Bob who happened to be the grand champion at the Dublin Dog Show held in 1885.

As a result of his win, the police force began to use the dog as their official K-9 unit. Word soon got around about how excellent Bob was at tracking and chasing criminals and he soon saved many lives.

However, the government began to phase out all canine units in favor of automobiles. As a result, Bob’s career as a police dog came to an end in 1913 and he died the following year at the age of 14.

Bob’s legacy did not die though. Marjoribanks wrote a book about his experiences with Bob and it became a bestseller.

Soon people began to search for the rare wheaten terrier in Ireland. As it turns out, most farmers who had them didn’t actually plan to breed them because they were such lousy working dogs. They just kept the dogs around to be companion animals since they made good pets.

A few people managed to find some of these dogs, even a rare female, and began breeding them again. The result was the revival of the wheaten terrier breed.

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A statue of Bob can now be found at Belfast Harbor in his honor.

The name of my friend’s dog is also Bob and as I played with him in his house that day, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was any relation to the famous dog. If he was, I suppose that would make my friend a distant relative of mine as well.

I told you that story because it’s important for you to know where you come from and how you got to be the way you are. While I’m sure most of what I said went right over your head, you should at least remember one thing, there is no such thing as a “mistake” when it comes to having a baby.

What’s meant to be will always be.

With all my love,

Mom

***

April 24th, 2017

Dear Cal,

You’re not going to believe what happened to me today at school.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t looking when I crossed the street this morning and guess who I ran into?

That’s right, Mr. Flemings. He’s the geography teacher at our school.

If you’re wondering how I know him so well, it’s because I used to have a massive crush on him. He had dark wavy hair, dreamy eyes, and a great sense of humor.

He was married though so I never said anything and just admired him from afar.

I guess even teachers can be stricken by cupid’s arrow then because he still had a sparkle in his eyes as he picked me up off the side of the road.

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“I never thought I’d be doing this again,” he said as he dusted me off.

“Neither did I,” I replied, surprising even myself.

He didn’t seem offended by my honesty and just gave me a bashful grin.

So, do you have a boyfriend or something?”

he asked.

“Something like that,” I said coyly, “But I’m not sure how much longer it’s going to last.”

He stopped dusting me off and looked directly into my eyes.

Why not?”

I wanted to tell him that I had a crush on him and ask him out, but I stopped myself. It was too late for me to do something like that. Instead, I told him the truth:

“It’s because of you.”

He gave me a puzzled look.

What do you mean? Did you know me before or something?”

“No, although we did almost bump into each other once at the grocery store.”

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That seemed to jog his memory.

“Oh yeah, I remember that. My wife was with me and she saw you too.

She told me you were a student at my school.”

“That’s right. I had a massive crush on you and your sense of humor.

You were like my own private stand-up comedian when I was going through my classes. Whenever I was feeling down, I would just think of your jokes to pick myself back up. I didn’t know who you were at the time, but I’m pretty sure you changed my life for the better. You made me realize that I wanted to make people happy the way you did.”

“Wow, I had no idea.

So why wouldn’t your relationship last then?”

“Because I thought that true love should conquer all and I proposed to him. We’ve been engaged for two years now and still haven’t set a date. There’s obviously something lacking in our relationship and it’s because I’m not really in love with him. I’m in love with you.”

I looked down to my feet as I finished saying this. I thought for sure Mr.

Fleming was going to get upset and yell at me. Instead, he just put his arm around my shoulder and gave me a reassuring hug.

“Don’t worry about it sweetie. You’ll find someone someday that will make you very happy.

I think you should break up with your boyfriend though. You deserve better.”

Mr. Fleming didn’t even realize that it was him I was talking about.

I guess some people are just meant to be together.

We hugged for a little longer and then went our separate ways.

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You know what Cal, sometimes you’re right. People are too concerned with finding the right person rather than just being with the one they like.

I don’t know if you’re in heaven or hell right now, but I hope you’re doing well.

Goodbye Calvin.

Sources & references used in this article:

Genetic structure of the purebred domestic dog by HG Parker, LV Kim, NB Sutter, S Carlson… – …, 2004 – science.sciencemag.org

Trainability and boldness traits differ between dog breed clusters based on conventional breed categories and genetic relatedness by B Turcsán, E Kubinyi, Á Miklósi – Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2011 – Elsevier

Comparison of owner-reported behavioral characteristics among genetically clustered breeds of dog (Canis familiaris). by A Tonoike, M Nagasawa, K Mogi, JA Serpell… – Scientific reports, 2015 – nature.com

How old are (pet) dog breeds? by C Jung, D Pörtl – Pet Behaviour Science, 2019 – uco.es

Unequal contribution of sexes in the origin of dog breeds by AK Sundqvist, S Björnerfeldt, JA Leonard, F Hailer… – …, 2006 – Genetics Soc America

The Geographic Names of AKC Dog Breeds by AG Ray – Names, 1997 – Taylor & Francis

Calling the dog: The sources of AKC breed names by AG Ray – Names, 1995 – Taylor & Francis

Dog star rising: the canine genetic system by EC Ash – 1927 – E. Benn limited

Origin of dog breed diversity by NB Sutter, EA Ostrander – Nature Reviews Genetics, 2004 – nature.com