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Jack Russell Terrier


The Jack Russell Terrier, also sometimes called the Working Russell Terrier, the Working Jack Russell Terrier, the Jack and the JRT, is a lively little dog named after its originator, the Reverend John (Jack) Russell, who was an English parson in the 19th century. Jack Russell Terriers were bred to accompany the hunt and go to ground to bolt fox. Ultimately, they were bred for temperament and ability rather than consistency in type. An interesting fact about this breed is that a Jack Russell Terrier is the only dog ever to have set paws on both the North and the South Poles. Explorers Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his wife, Ginnie, apparently took their JRT, Bothie, on both of their transglobal expeditions from 1979 to 1982. Jack Russell Terriers are best known for their intense curiosity, extreme intelligence and endlessly entertaining personality. The Jack Russell Terrier is not recognized by or eligible for registration with the English or American Kennel Clubs.

The adult Jack Russell Terrier typically stands 10 to 15 inches at the withers and weighs between 11 and 13 pounds, although there is great variability in the size and appearance of this breed. The JRT comes in three coat types, all of which are virtually weatherproof: smooth, rough and broken. Their coat requires minimal care.

History & Health


The Jack Russell Terrier was developed in Devonshire, England, in the early 1800's. In 1819, a young John (Jack) Russell was wandering the Oxford University campus shortly before he was to sit for an examination for which he apparently was ill-prepared. He came across a milkman accompanied by an unusual, but adorable, terrier bitch. Russell found her so delightful that he bought her on the spot and named her "Trump." Trump became the foundation for the Jack Russell Terrier breed. Based upon her appearance (which was similar to a Wire Fox Terrier but with shorter legs and a wider skull), Trump is thought to have been a cross between a Black-and-Tan Terrier and a Fox Terrier.
After Mr. Russell graduated from Oxford, he bred Trump to create a terrier tall enough to keep up with his hunting foxhounds, but small enough to go to earth and bolt a fox from its den. He deliberately avoided introducing so-called "killer blood," because he wanted his dogs to set the fox running above ground rather than kill it below ground and ruin the chase. He bred for consistency in temperament, not for consistency in looks. It is thought that he introduced Fox Terriers and perhaps Beagles into the mix. His terriers were also distinctive because they were primarily white, with minimal tan and/or black markings mainly on the head and rump.
After Mr. Russell's death, his dogs and their descendants became hugely popular with sportsmen, and supposedly were crossed from time to time with Dachshunds, Corgis and assorted toys and terriers, causing considerable variation in size, shape and type. This variability made the breed ineligible for acceptance by The Kennel Club (England) for the show ring, despite being one of the most popular breeds in the British Isles. Breed enthusiasts formed their own Jack Russell Terrier Club of Great Britain in 1974 and organized their own competitive shows.
In the early 1980s, that club split in two: those who wanted to impose a rigid breed appearance standard to appease and gain admittance to The Kennel Club, and those who gave priority to the temperament and working qualities of their terriers. The first group formed the Parson Jack Russell Terrier Club, for purposes of promoting what they called the "Genuine" Jack Russell. They developed their own breed standard and were granted recognition by The Kennel Club in 1989, and by the American Kennel Club in 1997 as a member of its Terrier Group. The Parson Jack Russell is longer-legged and more squarely built than the shorter-legged, slightly longer-bodied and less consistent Jack Russell Terrier. The existing club continued as the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Great Britain, which is not a member of the English or the American Kennel Club even today. The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America was founded in 1976, and today is the largest Jack Russell Terrier breed club and registry in the world.


The average life span of the Jack Russell Terrier is 12 to 14 years. Breed health concerns may include cataracts, cerebellar ataxia, congenital deafness, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, lens luxation, myasthenia gravis, patellar luxation and von Willebrand disease.

Temperament & Personality


Jack Russell Terriers are the biggest dogs you'll ever meet in such a tiny package. They can run all day and keep coming back for more. They are sharply intelligent and absolutely nothing gets past them. There is no fooling a Jack Russell. They are spirited terriers, fearless and sassy with minds of their own and aren't above causing mischief to get a laugh. They are highly trainable and are famous for their high-jumping antics. When raised alongside children, Jack Russells make fine family dogs. They are exceptional athletes who excel in the competitive arena.

Activity Requirements

Their size may make them appealing to apartment dwellers, but Jack Russells are not apartment dogs. Think of them as large dogs trapped in small bodies. They need lots of wide open space to run and can feel cooped up inside a small apartment which will almost always lead to destructive behavior. Fenced in yards are a must, as Jack Russells will take off like a shot after cats, squirrels, rabbits, bikes, and even cars. They should always be supervised when outdoors because these little guys love to dig and not only will the make quick work of a flower bed, but they will dig under fences to get out and seek new adventure.
Daily activities should include both walking and time to run in the yard. Jack Russells love, love, love to chase balls. They love it so much, in fact, that many owners believe their dogs are obsessed with playing ball. They will retrieve the ball as often as you are willing to throw it, and when you're done, he'll still want more.
Jack Russell Terriers are highly intelligent dogs and need as much mental stimulation as they do physical activity. These dogs excel in agility activities and there are entire competitions set up around Jack Russell Terriers that include sprinting, flyball, obstacle course and retrieving. Enrolling your Jack Russell in these types of activities ensures he's getting his daily physical and mental stimulation.
"Earth dog" activities, where dogs are allowed to dig in search of rodents is also an excellent outlet for Jack Russells, as it satisfies their need to dig as well as their need to hunt. These activities are conducted with safety in mind, and the rodents are kept in safe enclosures, so that the dogs can't actually get to them.


Jack Russells are highly trainable dogs and soak up new tasks like a sponge. They are terriers and can exhibit stubbornness if they don't like the attitude of the person training them. Positive reinforcement and mixing up the daily training routine will keep your Jack Russell engaged and interested. Discipline and harsh tones will cause this dog to become defensive which may lead to snapping or biting.
Once basic obedience is mastered, Jack Russells should move on to advanced obedience, trick training and agility work. They thrive on new activity and will be at the top of their class in just about every activity they participate in.

Behavioral Traits

Jack Russells are terriers, and they exhibit many classic terrier traits including excessive barking, willfulness, rudeness to strangers, dog aggression, possessiveness and jealousy. Proper training and socialization from an early age can ensure an even-tempered dog.
Jacks should never be trusted off leash. They will take off like a shot after small animals and it is next to impossible to call them off.
Digging is a common complaint among Jack Russell owners. Turn your back on these guys for one second, and they can be halfway to the center of the earth. Keeping an eye on your dog at all times is important to keep your landscaping in tact and to ensure your Jack doesn't escape under the fence.

Breed Standard


The Jack Russell Terrier is a small, athletic, working dog who resembles a fox terrier. The skul is flat between the ears and tapers slightly. There is a defined, but not an abrupt stop. The eyes are almond-shaped and dark in color and should never be protruding. The V-shaped ears fold forward. Teeth should meet in a scissors bite. The double coat comes in two varieties: smooth and broken, and comes in colors of white, white with black, white with tan or tri-coolor. The chest should be small so that the dog is able to fit into rodent burrows after his prey. The forelegs are long and straight, the hindquarters are strong and muscular. The tail is set high and carried gaily.

Size and Weight
The ideal height for male Jack Russell Terriers is 14 inches at the shoulder and for females, 13 inches. The average weight of a Jack is anywhere from 13 to 17 pounds. Size, however, is not the last word in the show ring. Judges take into account the overall balance of the dog.

Coat and Color
The Jack Russell Terrier coat comes in two varieties: smooth or broken. Both types are double coats with a coarse texture, but the broken coat is a touch longer, and the face has the slightest hint of eyebrows and beard. Some Jacks have a third type of coat, a rough coat, which is longer than the broken coat but is not curly or wavy. Regardless of coat type, Jack Russells may be white, white with black markings, white with tan markings, or tricolor (white, black and tan).

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Sources: American Kennel Club


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