Classicyds Jack Russell Terriers
History of the Jack Russell Terrier
Last Updated 21/10/2012 Copyright Melaine Attridge 2012
The Jack Russell Terrier (JRT) 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, which is a taller, less stocky breed.
The term "Jack Russell" commonly misapplied to other small white terriers and often used to incorrectly describe “mini fox terriers”, a breed that doesn’t actually exist.
The working JRT is a unique terrier which has been preserved in working ability as well as appearance much as it existed over 200 years ago. Originating from the dogs bred and used by Reverend John Russell in the early 19th century from the white terriers of that period, they have similar origins to the modern Fox Terrier.
The JRT is a high energy breed which relies on a high level of exercise and stimulation, and does not have a great deal of serious health complaints. It has gone through several changes over the centuries, with changes in use and the formation of different conformation show standards by different kennel clubs.
The sporting parson
The small white-fox working terriers we know today were first bred by the Reverend John Russell who was born in 1795. The modern JRT 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 he purchased a small white and tan terrier female named Trump from a milkman in the nearby small town. 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. Reverend 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.
After John Russell
Carlisle Tack, a Fox Terrier born in 1884, who was owned by Parson John Russell.
In the years that followed the Reverend’s death, the JRT was also used to dig for Badgers. The club of enthusiasts of the breed 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.
Post World War II
Following WW2, 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.
Several breed clubs appeared in the United Kingdom during the 1970’s to promote the breed. In 1983 the Parson Jack Russell Club of Great Britain was resurrected to seek recognition for the breed. By 1999 the two breeds, JRTs and Parson Russell Terriers were totally separated and acknowledged as two distinct breeds in themselves.
JRTs remain far more prevalent in Australia than the Parsons RT. In 2009 there were 1073 JRTs registered with the Australian National Kennel Council compared with only 18 for the Parson Russell Terrier.
A drawing of Trump, the dog purchased by Reverend John Russell
Carlisle Tack, a Fox Terrier born in 1884, who was owned by Parson John Russell