top of page

the history of the jack russell

A hunting tradition that includes fox hunting.  Packs of 'hounds' were used for fox hunting, which looked for a fox trail and loudly chased the fox.  The hunters, usually on horseback, followed the hounds and managed to shoot a fox after a chase that sometimes lasted for hours.  However, it often happened that a fox would hide in its den, so that the hounds could not get to it and neither could the hunters.  At that moment, a terrier bred specifically for this purpose appeared on the scene and was placed at the entrance to the fox's den.  These terriers had an enormous amount of courage and fierceness.  They quickly made their way to the fox, often meters deep underground, and continued to bark at him until he left his safe den.  It was important that the fox was not bitten (to death); After all, then the hunt would be over and that was not the intention.  The terriers used for fox hunting were called "Working Terriers". The Fox Terrier also belonged to this group of dogs.

No uniformity

Photos taken of Fox Terriers in the 19th and early 20th centuries provide a very varied picture of the 'breed'. 
There was no unity in type, there were different colors, and coat textures and sizes.  This is not surprising when we consider that the hunters selected their dogs exclusively on their willingness to work and suitability for this specific form of hunting, and that the ground conditions were not identical everywhere. 


In the middle of the 19th century, cynology was on the rise and non-hunters also became interested in the Fox Terrier.  The cynologists were not or hardly interested in the hunting capabilities of these dogs, but they were interested in their appearance.  The Fox Terrier ended up in the show ring, where the emphasis was on appearance.  A breed standard was drawn up and selection was made for a more refined, more uniform type. 
Ultimately, these dogs gave rise to the 'luxurious' looking Fox Terrier that we know today.

Rev. John Russell

Many hunters watched the 'demise' of their working terrier with sorrow.  They became too big for underground work and the attitude required for hunting also began to weaken.  The hunters more or less distanced themselves from the show dogs and their owners, and continued to breed dogs suitable for hunting -  often without a pedigree.  One of these people was the man who had an important influence on the development of the (Parson) Jack Russell Terrier: the English pastor John Russell. 
This controversial pastor lived from 1795 to 1883.  He was a great fan of hunting foxes and badgers with terriers, and over time bred many litters of dogs that, in his opinion, had the desired characters and appearance.  The dogs he bred mainly ended up in hunters' hands and due to their excellent working abilities, the name John Russell quickly became a household name in the English hunting world.

Normal leg versus Short leg

Occasionally, suitable short-legged terriers were also involved in the breeding.   The short-legged puppies that had the desired hunting abilities ended up with hunters, who discovered that short-leggedness had its advantages and disadvantages.  A disadvantage was that the dogs had difficulty keeping up with the pack of hounds.  So they had to be taken hunting on horseback and were only deployed when a fox had entrenched itself in its den.  Then the advantage of the modest size immediately became clear; Under certain circumstances they were often able to penetrate far into a cave better than their normal-legged counterparts.  Short-legged terriers whose working abilities were questioned were sold to non-hunters.  Many of them ended up in the hands of farmers and horse people, who valued the dogs because they made themselves useful by keeping the stables and yards free of vermin.  Their capabilities as a companion dog also did not go unnoticed.  Ultimately, the short-legged Jack Russells became known beyond the country's borders faster than the normal-legged Parsons.


Although the breed has a considerable history, it took a long time before canine science was concerned with it.  This is not surprising, because breeders of the (Parson) Jack Russell were negative from the start regarding possible official recognition as a purebred dog; recognition would mean that the dogs would end up on the show circuit.  In many working breeds, the breed status, and the inextricably linked pursuit of refinement in appearance, has led to concessions on the original working aptitude and working capabilities.  Lovers of the working Russell Terrier  obviously found this unacceptable. 
Nevertheless, the Parson Jack Russell Terrier received provisional recognition from the F.C.I. on July 2, 1990. (Féderation Cynologique Internationale).  This means that the canine dogs and associations of the approximately 60 countries that are part of the F.C.I. are affiliated, issue officially recognized pedigrees for the breed and that the dogs are also welcome at exhibitions, where they can compete for championship prizes. 

The differences

There are several differences between the Parson Jack Russell Terrier and the Jack Russell Terrier.  The most noticeable difference is in size; the Jack Russell Terrier is a lower dog than the Parson and its body structure is proportionately heavier.  In addition, there are differences in both breed standards in the desired ear shape and chest depth.  In practice, for both breeds, preference is given to a white dog with markings on the head and at the base of the tail, but this is only specifically mentioned in the breed standard of the Parson Jack Russell. 
In other respects the breed standards, as well as the characters of both breeds, are broadly the same.

bottom of page