Information about the Jack Russell Terrier
The Jack Russell terrier is a small terrier that has its origins in fox hunting. It is principally white-bodied smooth, rough or broken-coated which is commonly confused with the Parson Russell terrier (the American Kennel Club (AKC) and affiliate variant) and the Russell terrier (a shorter legged, stockier variety, whose name within the Fédération Cynologique Internationale is “Jack Russell terrier”), with the term “Jack Russell” commonly misapplied to other small white terriers. The Jack Russell is a broad type, with a size range of 10-15 inches (25-38 cm), the Parson Russell is limited only to a middle range with a standard size of 12-14 inches (30-36 cm), while the Russell terrier is smaller at 8-12 inches (20-30 cm), however each breed has different physical proportions according to the standards of their breed clubs.
Originating in the early 19th century from dogs bred and used by Reverend John Russell, it has similar origins to the modern Fox terrier. The Jack Russell is an energetic breed which relies on a high level of exercise and stimulation, and is relatively free from serious health complaints. It has gone through several changes over the years, through different use and breed standards set by kennel clubs. Recognition for the breed by kennel clubs has been opposed by the breed’s parent societies which resulted in the breeding and recognition of the Parson Russell terrier. Jack Russells have appeared many times in film, television and print with several historical dogs of note.
The small white-fox working terriers we know today were first bred by the Reverend John Russell, a parson and hunting enthusiast born in 1795, and they can trace their origin to the now extinct English White terrier. Difficulty in differentiating the dog from the creature it was pursuing brought about the need for a mostly white dog, and so in 1819 during his last year of university at Exeter College, Oxford, he purchased a small white and tan terrier female named Trump from a milkman in the nearby small hamlet of Elsfield. Trump epitomized his ideal Fox terrier, which, at the time, was a term used for any terrier which was used to bolt foxes out of their burrows. Her colouring was described as “…white, with just a patch of dark tan over each eye and ear; whilst a similar dot, not larger than a penny piece, marks the root of the tail.” Davies, a friend of Russell’s, wrote “Trump was such an animal as Russell had only seen in his dreams”. She was the basis for a breeding program to develop a terrier with high stamina for the hunt as well as the courage and formation to chase out foxes that had gone to ground. By the 1850s, these dogs were recognised as a distinct breed.
An important attribute in this dog was a tempered aggressiveness that would provide the necessary drive to pursue and bolt the fox without resulting in physical harm to the quarry and effectively ending the chase, which was considered unsporting. Russell was said to have prided himself that his terriers never tasted blood. This line of terriers developed by John Russell was well respected for these qualities and his dogs were often taken on by hunt enthusiasts. It is unlikely, however, that any dogs alive today are descended from Trump, as Russell was forced to sell all his dogs on more than one occasion because of financial difficulty, and had only four aged (and non-breeding) terriers left when he died in 1883.
The Fox terrier and Jack Russell terrier type dogs of today are all descended from dogs of that period, although documented pedigrees earlier than 1862 have not been found. Several records remain of documented breeding by John Russell between the 1860s and 1880s. The Fox Terrier Club was formed in 1875 with Russell as one of the founder members; its breed standard was aspiration and not a description of how the breed appeared then. By the start of the 20th century the Fox terrier had altered more towards the modern breed, but in some parts of the country the old style of John Russell’s terriers remained and it is from those dogs that the modern Jack Russell type descends.
Many breeds can claim heritage to the early Fox terrier of this period, including the Brazilian terrier, Japanese terrier, Miniature Fox terrier, Ratonero Bodeguero Andaluz, Rat terrier and Tenterfield terrier.
Following Russell’s death, the only people who made serious efforts to continue those strains were two men, one in Chislehurst with the surname of East and another in Cornwall named Archer. East, at one point, had several couples, all of which were descended from one of Russell’s dogs. The type aimed for were not as big as the show Fox terrier and were usually less than 15 pounds (6.8 kg).
Arthur Blake Heinemann created the first breed standard and, in 1894, he found the Devon and Somerset Badger Club, the aims of which were to promote badger digging rather than fox hunting and the breeding of terriers suitable for this purpose. Terriers were acquired from Nicholas Snow of Oare and they were likely descended from Russell’s original dogs as Russell would probably have hunted at some point with Snow’s hunting club and is likely to have provided at least some of their original terriers. By the turn of the 20th century Russell’s name had become associated with this breed of dog.
The club would go on to be renamed the Parson Jack Russell Terrier Club. Badger digging required a different type of dog to fox hunting, and it is likely that Bull terrier stock was introduced to strengthen the breed, which may have caused the creation of a shorter legged variety of Jack Russell terrier that started to appear around this period. At the same time that a split was appearing between show and working Fox terriers, a further split was occurring between two different types of white terrier, both carrying Jack Russell’s name. Heinemann was invited to judge classes for working terriers at Crufts with an aim to bring working terriers back into the show ring and influence those that disregard working qualities in dogs. These classes were continued for several years by various judges, but Charles Cruft dropped the attempt as the classes were never heavily competed. Following Heinemann’s death in 1930, the kennel and leadership of the club passed to Annie Harris, but the club itself folded shortly before World War II.
Following World War II, the requirement for hunting dogs drastically declined, and with it the numbers of Jack Russell terriers. The dogs were increasingly used as family and companion dogs. Further cross breeding occurred, with Welsh corgis, Chihuahuas and other smaller breeds of terrier. The offspring of these crosses became known as Puddin’ Dogs, Shortie Jacks or Russell Terriers.
The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America was formed in 1976 by Ailsa Crawford, one of the first Jack Russell terrier breeders in the United States. Size ranges for dogs were kept broad, with the ability of working dogs awarded higher than those in conformation shows. An open registry was maintained with restricted line breeding. Registration for the club is made at adulthood for Jack Russells rather than at birth, to ensure the breed’s qualities remain given the open registry.
Several breed clubs appeared in the United Kingdom during the 70s to promote the breed, including the Jack Russell Club of Great Britain (JRTCGB) and the South East Jack Russell Terrier Club (SEJRTC). The JRTCGB promoted the range of sizes that remain in its standards today, whereas the SEJRTC set a minimum height for dogs at 13 inches (33 cm). While the JRTCGB sought to ensure that the breed’s working ability remained through non-recognition with breed registries, the SEJRTC activity sought recognition with the UK Kennel Club. In 1983 the Parson Jack Russell Club of Great Britain (PJRTCGB) was resurrected to seek Kennel Club recognition for the breed. Although the application was initially rejected, a new standard was created for the PJRTCGB based on the standard of the SEJRTC, and under that standard the breed was recognised by the Kennel Club in 1990 as the Parson Jack Russell terrier. Jack was dropped from the official name in 1999, and the recognised name of the breed became the Parson Russell terrier.
In the late 1990s, the American Kennel Club explored the possibility of recognising the Jack Russell terrier. This move was opposed by the Jack Russell terrier Club of America as they did not want the breed to lose its essential working characteristics. The Jack Russell Terrier Breeders Association was formed, and petitioned the AKC with the breed’s admission granted in 2001. Under the AKC recognised standard, the size of the breed was narrowed from the previous club’s standard and the name of the AKC recognised Jack Russell terrier was changed to Parson Russell terrier, with the Jack Russell Terrier Breeders Association renamed to the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America.
The Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) and the New Zealand Kennel Club (NZCK) are the some of national kennel associations which registers both the Jack Russell terrier and the Parson Russell terrier, however the size requirements for the Jack Russell terrier under both those standards would classify a dog as a Russell terrier in the United States. In 2009, there were 1073 Jack Russells registered with the ANKC, compared to 18 for the Parson Russell terrier. Other modern breeds are often mistaken for modern Jack Russell terriers, including their cousin the Parson Russell terrier, the Tenterfield terrier, and the Rat Terrier. Several other modern breeds exist that descended from the early Fox Terrier breed, including the Brazilian Terrier, Japanese Terrier, Miniature Fox Terrier, Ratonero Bodeguero Andaluz, Rat Terrier and Tenterfield Terrier.
Jack Russell terriers come in a variety of coat types, and with a range of markings.
Due to their working nature, Jack Russell terriers remain much as they were some 200 years ago. They are sturdy, tough, and tenacious, measuring between 10-15 inches (25-38 cm) at the withers, and weigh 14-18 pounds (6.4-8.2 kg). The body length must be in proportion to the height, and the dog should present a compact, balanced image. Predominantly white in coloration (more than 51%) with black and/or tan markings, they exhibit either a smooth, rough or a combination of both which is known as a broken coat. A broken-coated dog may have longer hair on the tail or face than that which is seen on a smooth-coated dog. The skin can sometimes show a pattern of small black or brown spots, referred to as “ticking” that do not carry through to the outer coat. All coat types should be dense double coats that are neither silky (in the case of smooth coats) nor woolly (in the case of rough coats).
The head should be of moderate width at the ears, narrowing to the eyes, and slightly flat between the ears. There should be a defined but not overpronounced stop at the end of the muzzle where it meets the head, and a black nose. The jaw should be powerful and well boned with a scissor bite and straight teeth. The eyes are almond shaped and dark colored, and should be full of life and intelligence. Small V-shaped ears of moderate thickness are carried forward on the head. When the dog is alert, the tip of the V should not extend past the outer corner of the eyes. The tail is set high and in the past was docked to approximately five inches in order to provide a sufficient hand-hold for gripping the terrier.
The Jack Russell should always appear balanced and alert. As it is primarily a working terrier, its most important physical characteristic is its chest size, which must not be so large that it prevents the dog from entering and working in burrows. The red fox is the traditional quarry of the Jack Russell terrier, so the working Jack Russell must be small enough to pursue it. Red foxes vary in size, but across the world they average from 13-17 pounds (5.9-7.7 kg) in weight and have an average chest size of 12-14 inches (30-36 cm) at the widest part.
The Jack Russell Terrier and Parson Russell terrier breeds are similar as they share a common origin, but with several marked differences, the most notable being the range of acceptable heights. Other differences in the Parson can include a longer head and larger chest as well as overall a larger body size. The height of a Parson Russell at the withers according to the breed standard is 12-14 inches (30-36 cm) which places it within the range of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America’s standard size for a Jack Russell of 10-15 inches (25-38 cm). However the Parson Russell is a conformation show standard whereas the Jack Russell standard is a more general working standard.
The Russell terrier, which is also sometimes called the English Jack Russell terrier or the Short Jack Russell terrier is a generally smaller related breed. Both the breed standards of the American Russell Terrier Club and the English Jack Russell Terrier Club Alliance states that at the withers it should be an ideal height of 8-12 inches (20-30 cm). Although sometimes called the English or Irish Jack Russell terrier, this is not the recognised height of Jack Russells in the United Kingdom. According to the Jack Russell Club of Great Britain’s breed standard, it is the same size as the standard for Jack Russells in the USA, 10-15 inches (25-38 cm). Compared to the Parson, the Russell terrier should always be longer than tall at the withers, whereas the Parson’s points should be of equal distance. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard for the Jack Russell terrier has this smaller size listed as a requirement. Terrierman Eddie Chapman, who has hunted in Devon for more than 30 years, the same area that John Russell himself hunted, notes that, “I can state categorically that if given the choice, ninety-nine percent of hunt terrier men would buy an under 12″ worker, if it was available, over a 14″ one.”
A Jack Russell terrier is a dog with a moderate to a high level of energy
Jack Russells are first and foremost a working terrier. Originally bred to bolt fox from their dens during hunts, they are used on numerous ground-dwelling quarry such as groundhog, badger, and red and grey fox. The working JRT is required to locate quarry in the earth, and then either bolt it or hold it in place until they are dug to. To accomplish this, the dog won’t bark but will expect attention to the quarry continuously. Because the preservation of this working ability is of highest importance to most registered JRTCA/JRTCGB breeders, Jack Russells tend to be extremely intelligent, athletic, fearless, and vocal dogs. It is not uncommon for these dogs to become moody or destructive if not properly stimulated and exercised, as they have a tendency to bore easily and will often create their own fun when left alone to entertain themselves.
Their high energy and drive make these dogs ideally suited to a number of different dog sports such as flyball or agility. Obedience classes are also recommended to potential owners, as Jack Russells can be stubborn at times and aggressive towards other animals and humans if not properly socialized. Despite their small size, these dogs are not recommended for the condominium or apartment dweller unless the owner is ready to take on the daunting task of providing the dog with the necessary amount of exercise and stimulation. They have a tremendous amount of energy for their size, a fact which can sometimes lead to trouble involving larger animals. They may seem never to tire and will still be energetic after their owner has called it a day. While socialized members of the breed are friendly towards children, they will not tolerate abuse even if it is unintentional.
The breed has a reputation for being healthy with a long lifespan. Breeders have protected the gene pool, and direct in-line breeding has been prevented. Jack Russells can live anywhere from between 13 to 16 years on average given proper care. However certain lines have been noted for having specific health concerns, and therefore could occur in any line or generation because of recessive genes. These issues can include hereditary cataracts, ectopia lentis, congenital deafness, patellar luxation, ataxia, myasthenia gravis, and von Willebrand disease.
Being a hunt-driven dog, the Jack Russell will usually pursue most creatures that it encounters. This includes the skunk, and the breed is prone to skunk toxic shock syndrome. The chemical in the skunk spray is absorbed by the dog and causes the red blood cells to explode, which can occasionally lead to fatal anemia and kidney failure. If sprayed underground, it can also cause chemical burning of the cornea. Treatments are available to flush the toxin out of the dog’s system.