Jack Russell Terrier Breed Information

Breed History

The Jack Russell Terrier has its origins in foxhunting. Jack Russell’s derive their name from Reverend John Russell. Rev. Russell was a keen huntsman. He wanted to create a breed of dog which had long enough legs to keep up with hounds, stamina to continue the chase and the courage to chase foxes that had gone underground but without the aggressiveness that would result in the fox being harmed.

In the mid to late 1800’s, Rev. Russell came across an English White Terrier called Trump, she had tan spots over her eyes, ears and at the tip of her tail. He bought Trump on the spot and began to use her as the foundation bitch for a breeding program to perfect the sort of dog described above. These dogs were bred for the purpose of working/hunting and were mainly used to hunt small game such as red foxes. By the 1850’s, the Jack Russell Terriers were considered a distinct breed.

During World War 2 the demand for working dogs reduced dramatically and working Jack Russell’s already in existence became family dogs. Cross breeding took place with other common family dogs which resulted in a shorter legged Jack Russell Terrier.

Over the years, the working Jack Russell Terrier has maintained its working ability and appearance. In fact, the Jack Russell Terrier that we know today is very much the similar to the Fox Terriers from pre-1900s. Its preservation can be largely attributed to the efforts of working terrier enthusiasts.

Physical Attributes

There was a lot of emphasis placed on the breed’s working ability by breeders which resulted in a very broad standard when it came to accepted body types. Some disagreed with the wide variety of working Jack Russell types, resulting in the establishment of show type examples. The shorter legged variety, the working type, became known as Russell Terriers or Jack Russell Terriers while the longer legged, the type bred to show conformation standards, were officially named Parson Russell Terriers.

The Jack Russell Terrier’s working nature contributes to the fact that they are very similar to how they were 200 years ago. They are tough, sturdy, tenacious and always on their toes. Generally Jack Russell Terriers will be around 25 to 30.5 centimetres high, weighing between 4 and 7 kilograms and Parson Russell Terriers 33 to 35 centimetres high and weighing between 5 and 8 kilograms.

Breed standards for Jack Russells dictate that they should have flat skull, moderately sized v shaped dropped ears, a black nose and narrowing, almond-shaped dark eyes. They should have a defined stop which is not overly pronounced, powerful and well-boned jaws with strongly muscled cheeks. They generally have strong teeth with a bit of an overbite. Level and scissor bites are common, but scissors are preferred.

The neck should be muscular and steadily widening at the shoulders. Their shoulders should slope and look well laid back. Their forelegs have to be strong and straight boned. The body of a Jack Russell should show an athletic appearance instead of a heavily-chested one. Back should be strong, straight and proportionate to the height. Hindquarters should be strong and muscular, with straight hocks. The feet are round, wide and hard padded, similar to a cat and the tail is set high with length proportionate to body length.

As for colouring, white should be the predominant colour with tan, brown or black markings. Coats can be rough or smooth but either way will be coarse, thick and close to the body. Jack Russell’s do not need much grooming and only need baths when necessary but they do shed moderately all year round.

Mental Attributes

Jack Russells are happy and energetic dogs. They are known for their loyalty, intelligence and assertiveness. Their greatest attribute as a dog breed lies in their working ability. This attribute is followed closely by their admirable quality of being an excellent companion.  It does not take a lot to make a Jack Russell happy. They are pretty much content with chasing objects or animals, whether a toy, fox or a rat. They are sure to make you laugh, but their intelligence, boundless energy and assertive nature can be overwhelming at times. They can also bore easily, leaving this breed alone for long periods of time is not an option. They can become destructive and very difficult if not provided with sufficient exercise and stimulation.

Jack Russell’s are ideally suited to living in open rural spaces. They will adapt to apartment living but need a vast amount of exercise. However, as much as they love the outdoors, they should not be left to roam unattended. Their strong instinct can influence them to stay in a quarry for days without food and water. Jack Russell Terriers require a lot of human attention and outdoor activity, positive disciplining and also a good amount of patience, acceptance and understanding of their hunting nature.

A Jack Russell can be aggressive with other dogs. In fact, Jack Russell’s should not really be left alone with other dogs or pets. Their hunting instinct brings out aggression towards other animals. Courage of a Jack Russell should never be questioned, they are rarely afraid to take on animals twice their size.

As a family pet, Jack Russell terriers have no problem getting along with well-behaved children, “well-behaved” being the operative word. Although Jack Russell’s have a sweet and kind nature, they will not tolerate abusive actions from children. This behaviour is natural assertive terrier behaviour. With that said, families with children below 6 years old should consider this carefully before adopting a Jack Russell into their family.

Health and Well-being

Jack Russell’s are generally a hardy, healthy breed with very few hereditary problems. However, some lines of the breed can be prone to patella luxation, eye problems, deafness, Legg-Calve- Perthes Syndrome and von Willebrand disease.  The lifespan of a healthy, well-cared for Jack Russell should be around 13 to 16 years.

1 Comment
  1. Son grandes campeones de Agility, es increíble ver a estos perros efectuar este tipo de pruebas. Es importante, enseñar al Jack Russell, la obediencia básica,sino queremos tener energía descontrolada. Son tremendamente cariñosos, y si queremos disfrutar de un perro, sin duda no pasará desapercibido en casa. Tiene un instinto natural a la caza, así que debemos cuidar de no dejar otras mascotas de menor tamaño a su alcance.