The Jack Russell terrier is a small terrier that has its origins in fox hunting. It’s usually a white-bodied dog and can have a variety of coat types, smooth, rough or broken-coated. Often any small white terrier is identified as a Jack Russell.
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.
Differences between types of Jack Russells
The Jack Russell Terrier and Parson Russell terrier breeds are similar and 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 legs and as well as overall a larger body size. It can either have a smooth or broken coat ( longer hair on the head).
The other type of Russell, the short legged variety most of us are familiar with is known in other parts of the world as the ‘English Jack Russell terrier’ or the ‘Short Jack Russell terrier’ is a generally smaller, with short legs designed to fit down animal holes. 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. Jack Russells can be rough coated with harsh longer hair all over the body as well as having smooth or broken coats.
In working dogs, the shorted legged dog is much more favoured, for its ability to ‘go to ground’.
The Jack Russell Terrier is a cheerful, merry, devoted, and loving dog. Spirited and obedient, yet absolutely fearless. Careful and amusing, he enjoys games and playing with toys. Stable Jack’s are friendly and generally kind to children. They are intelligent, and if you let them take an inch, they can become willful and determined to take a mile. He needs to be given rules to follow, and limitations as to what he is and is not allowed to do. Do not let this little dog fall into Small Dog Syndrome, where he believes he is pack leader to all humans. This is where varying degrees of behaviour problems can arise, including, but not limited to guarding, snapping, separation anxiety, and obsessive barking. Jacks are highly trainable, and able to perform impressive tricks. They have been used on TV and in the movies.
Owners must be aware of their strong hunting instincts, much stronger than moat terriers and should not be trusted with other small animals. Jacks love to chase, explore, bark and dig, it is not usually for them t obe lost down a fox or rabbit hole, to reappear minutes, hours or occasionally days later when dug out by rescue services after getting stuck. Only let them off lead if they are well trained or in a safe area.
Jacks are very energetic and will get restless and destructive if they do not receive enough exercise and activities to occupy their keen minds. Jack Russells can climb over a fence, they also jump, a 12 inches high can easily jump five feet. Dspite their small size JRTs are not the breed for a inexperienced dog owner. The owner needs to be as strong-willed as they are, or this little guy will take over.
Both the traditional JRT and the Parson Jack Russell Terrier are named after a clergyman named Rev. John Russell who lived in the Devon area from 1795 to 1883, he was a founding member of the Kennel Club. They were used as a small game hunting dog particularly for foxes, digging the quarry out of its den in the mid-1800s for the fox hound to kill.
The small white-fox working terriers we know today 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. In 1819 during his last year of university Russell purchased a small white and tan terrier female named Trump from a milkman and she became the basis for his breed, one with high stamina for the hunt as well as the courage and formation to chase out foxes that had gone to ground. 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.”
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 underground. Russell was said to have prided himself that his terriers never tasted blood.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Several breed clubs appeared in the United Kingdom during the 70s to promote the breed, i In 1983 the Parson Jack Russell Club of Great Britain (PJRTCGB) was resurrected to seek Kennel Club recognition for the breed. The taller, longer legged breed type 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.
The breed has a reputation for being healthy with a long lifespan of up to 15 or 16 years. However certain lines have been noted for having specific health concerns such as:
hereditary cataracts (hardening of eye lens)
ectopia lentis ( lens of the eye slips)
congenital deafness ( from birth)
patella luxation (knee cap slipping)
ataxia (lack of muscular co-ordination)
myasthenia gravis (auto immune disorder)
Legg–Calvé–Perthes syndrome ( hip joint deterioration)
Von Willebrand disease (blood disorder)