Interview with Niki Higgins, Breeder of Nicairn Cairn Terriers
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What is your breed? What is your kennel name? Do you have a website? How long have you been in dogs? How long have you been breeding dogs? Who are some of your best-known dogs?
Niki Higgins: My name is Niki Higgins and I live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My breed is the Cairn Terrier and my kennel name is Nicairn (“Ni” for Niki and “cairn” for my Cairns). I have a business website but not one for my dogs yet. I have had a dog for my entire life, but was only introduced to the Cairn Terrier in 2000 through my first pet Cairn who was a retired champion. I was smitten! When I lost “Abby,” I soon thereafter bought “MacKenzie,” my foundation bitch, in 2012. I flew to Sweden with her in the summer of 2015 and then my magic started to happen!
My notable champions are: GCHP Nicairn Angelonia Hjo Got The Spirit, BOB at Westminster 2019, No. 3 Breed and All-Breed Cairn Terrier 2019, and Top 20 Winner at the National 2021; GCHP Nicarin Fearghas Dolaidh Hjo Got The Spirit CAA FCAT3 DJX3 CGC CGCA CGCU FDC, No. 5 All-Breed Cairn Terrier 2022 and No. 6 Breed Cairn Terrier 2022; GCHS Tulipa Hjo Got The Spirit, BOB Morris & Essex 2021 and BOB AKC National (Royal Canin, Orlando) 2021; and the young superstars, GCHS Nicairn Aegon Hjo Got The Spirit, currently No. 1 All-Breed Cairn Terrier and No. 4 Breed Cairn Terrier as of July 31, 2023 stats, and GCHS Nicairn Saffron Hjo Got The Spirit, No. 3 All-Breed Cairn Terrier and No. 3 Breed Cairn Terrier as of July 31, 2023.
As a Breeder, can you share your thoughts on your breed today? Is breed type strong? Are there things to be concerned about? Are there any health-related issues? Have you worked with breeders overseas? Are pet homes typically available for your breed?
Niki Higgins: As a breeder, I think that breed type is strong and that the Cairn Terrier, being one of the oldest and foundation terriers of the Terrier Group, is often overlooked in the Conformation ring. Our Breed Standard was written in 1938 and is one of the oldest AKC Standards. It describes the height of the Cairn at 9.5 to 10 inches with no height fault, only that each dog be moderate and balanced. The European/FCI Standard is 31cm (12-1/4 inches), and now with many breeders, including me, breeding to the European lines, I think the Cairn Terrier in the US has evolved into a typically larger Cairn Terrier than the physical description in the AKC Standard.
The Cairn is a generally healthy breed, although most breeders test liver enzymes for liver shunt and eyes for ocular melanosis, and they ultrasound kidneys for missing or defective kidneys and get an Embark genetic panel for CMO, GLK, and others. Please visit the Foundation for the Cairn Terrier for more information.
Elisabeth Theodorssen in Sweden is my mentor. She has been breeding Cairn Terriers for over 40 years and has over 369 champions worldwide! The Cairn is quite difficult to buy from a reputable breeder, as not so many are bred, and yes, they are a popular breed as a pet. Cairns must have a fenced yard as they are avid hunters and will run off after prey if loose.
As an Exhibitor, can you comment on recent entries in your breed? Are majors available in your area? Does your breed often participate in Companion and Performance events? How can newcomers in your breed be encouraged to join the sport of dogs?
Niki Higgins: Our breed entries in the Southeast are definitely much lower. Cairns are popular in Companion and Performance events; they are very good at FCAT and Lure Coursing, a few are excellent at Dock Diving, and many are fans of Agility, Rally, Earthdog, and Barn Hunt. Whenever I’m at the dog shows, I’m always introducing any interested spectator to my beautiful breed.
What are the biggest challenges facing the dog show community as a whole and how can we address them? And finally, what are some of the positive changes you’ve seen in your breed and in the dog show community as a whole over the past decade?
Niki Higgins: I think our dog show community is facing many challenges—especially from the rescue community, which is importing dogs from anywhere and everywhere, and the mainly unregulated and “designer” mutts whose breeders don’t health test but sell their dogs as more healthy than our beautiful purebreds.
On a positive note, I think that owner handlers are being encouraged and I’m very happy that there are more Bred-By Champion competitions.