Friday, February 3, 2012


Kansas might be getting its very own State Dog, and guess what it will be:  the Cairn Terrier!  When I first heard this, I couldn't figure out why a Scottish dog like the Cairn would be chosen for the official dog of Kansas.  But then I learned that it's because of Toto in The Wizard of Oz, which was set in Kansas, of course.  Except for the part that took place in the Emerald City.  Anyway, in the movie, Toto was a Cairn terrier, like I already told you, even though in the book he was more of a mutt.

KC Star photo
In the Kansas City Star yesterday, there was an article about a class of first-graders at a school called Liberty View Elementary, which is in Olathe, Kansas, and they are lobbying very hard for Toto -- I mean the Cairn Terrier -- to be the State Dog.  Olathe is part of the Kansas City area, but it's way down in the southwest corner of the area.

Anyway, these first-graders were studying Kansas, and they learned that there is a state tree and a state song and a state salamander.  So they decided they wanted to ask the legislators to make a new State Something.  They came up with lots of ideas, and finally they thought there should be a state fish.  But then they found out there already was a state fish.

Right after that, though, State Representative Ed Trimmer introduced a bill in the Kansas State House to make the Cairn Terrier the State Dog.  The first-graders thought that was an excellent idea, so they started writing letters to lots of people in the legislature, asking them to pass the state dog bill.  In less than a week, they wrote almost 100 letters and also made a bunch of signs.  This way they got to practice their writing skills and also learn about how laws get made.

Their teacher, Molly Gentz, said, "Kansas has big issues, but I just feel like this is something that has been an amazing learning experience for my kids."

Cairn Gavrinis
And now that I told you about how the Cairn Terrier might get to be the State Dog of Kansas, I will tell you a little bit about this breed.  Cairns are the very oldest of the terrier breeds, and they got started in the highlands of Scotland and the Isle of Skye.  They were used to hunt foxes and badgers among the cairns.

A cairn is a pile of rocks, and it can be big or little, tall or short.  Some cairns are really big, and they were used for burial sites.  Other cairns are like markers show you where a trail goes or where the very tip-top of a mountain is.

1879 Painting of Cairn Terriers
by Fanny Moody
Anyway, in the beginning, there were just a bunch of terriers, and they were all grouped together as "Skye Terriers."  The Cairn Terriers were first entered in dog shows in the UK as Short-haired Skye Terriers.  But the Kennel Club wouldn't accept that name because the people who bred real Skye Terriers didn't like it.  So Cairn Terriers got their very own name and were bred separately.  And the same thing happened with West Highland White Terriers and with Scottish Terriers.

Cairn Terriers have a double coat, and it can be any of these colors:  cream, wheaten, red, sandy, gray, or brindle.  Pure black, black-and-tan, and white are not permitted.  If a Cairn is white, it has to be registered as a Westie.  Cairn Terriers weigh 13-18 pounds, are 9-13 inches tall, and live 10-15 years.

People who know Cairn Terriers say they are "big dogs trapped in a small dog's body."  They are feisty, adventurous, intelligent, tough, and loyal.  They love to dig, and they love to hunt for vermin, because that is what they were bred for, of course.  They are good family dogs, and they will protect their humans, but you have to keep them on a leash so that they don't go running off to chase a squirrel and get hit by a car.  This is the same as with basenjis and greyhounds and probably some other breeds, too.

So that's the story of how Kansas might get a State Dog.  As far as I know, Missouri has not thought about having a State Dog, but if they ever do, I think the basenji would be a good choice!


  1. they are feisty at first but eventualy they just let it happen. WOOF!

  2. Well, it's great to have a state dog, but wouldn't be exciting if it was a basenji and a bunny?
    Fluffy L.M.

    1. That would be cool! The State Dog could be the basenji, and the State Rabbit could be the Fluffy-Bunny!