Jack Russell Terrier

"The Perpetual Motion Machine"

Photo of Jack Russell Terrier


The Rev. John Russell, a parson and enthusiastic fox hunter living in 19th century England, developed a line of fox terriers to help him hunt. These dogs were such excellent fox and small game hunters that their reputation and popularity quickly spread. As Parson Russell perfected them, the new breed took on his name, and has since split into several related breeds: the Jack Russell Terrier, the Parson Russell Terrier, and the Russell Terrier. Jack Russell Terrier fans claim their dog is closest to the original because although the Jack Russell varies more in size and appearance than the Parson Russell or Russell Terrier, breeders focus on working ability more than looks and strongly encourage a perpetuation of the breed's hunting instinct. That was, after all, the breed's original purpose. In 2004, amidst some controversy, the American Kennel Club changed the name of the Jack Russell Terrier to the Parson Russell Terrier, to distinguish the AKC breed from other dogs they believed did not conform to the standard or resemble Parson Russell's original dogs. The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America, on the other hand, a club affiliated with the Jack Russell Terrier United World Federation, continues to promote the Jack Russell's working ability rather than its appearance or role as a show dog. The United Kennel Club recognized the Jack Russell Terrier in 1991 and did not change the name to Parson Russell Terrier, choosing to represent the Jack Russell Terriers instead. The AKC and UKC also recognize the similar but shorter-legged, longer-bodied Russell Terrier. Call them what you will, the Jack Russell Terriers, Parson Russell Terriers, and Russell Terriers originated from the same dogs.


Bold, alert, quick, with highly attuned senses and the almost singular drive to chase small animals, the Jack Russell Terrier can be a real handful. With typical terrier fire and a stubborn sense that they know what they should be doing, Jack Russells can be hard to train and hard to control. However, they are also friendly with most people, affectionate and protective with their families, and can get along well with other dogs as long as they are of the opposite sex (same-sex terriers will almost inevitably get in scuffles). Life with a Jack is sure to get you in shape and keep you challenged trying to keep up with his antics.


Small to medium, slightly longer than tall, and built to follow a fox into its den underground and bark to be heard down there, the Jack Russell Terrier can vary in size but should always have a broad flat skull, a strong muzzle with big teeth, V-shaped ears that drop forward and lie close to the skull, and a straight, high-set tail that is normally docked. Jack Russell Terriers can have any of three coat types: rough, a double coat with a short dense undercoat and a dense wiry outer coat with wiry eyebrows and a beard; broken, which is a coat between rough and smooth, closer than a rough coat with longer guard hairs than in a smooth, with or without the eyebrows and beard; and smooth, with a short, flat, hard coat. Jack Russell Terriers should be mostly white, with or without black, tan, or black and tan patches, and with or without ticking. Dogs with a coat that is less than fifty-percent white would be disqualified from the show ring, according to the United Kennel Club standard.


Tough to train because of their high prey drive, stubborn independence, and selective deafness when on the hunt, the Jack Russell can frustrate even the most patient trainer. Early obedience classes with a qualified instructor who understands terriers can help to guide the young Jack Russell towards good behavior. Also important: provide him with daily, highly vigorous exercise, and the chance to chase and/or fetch things. Teach him tricks, dog sports like agility and rally, and give him jobs around the house and he'll have the chance to exercise his highly intelligent brain. A tired Jack is a good Jack, but tiring them out can be a Herculean task, requiring not only a lot of energy but creativity in avoiding boredom.

Grooming & Care

Easy to groom, smooth Jack Russell Terriers need only a good brushing about once a week to keep shed hairs to a minimum in your house and on your clothes. Broken and rough-coated dogs can be stripped—a process of pulling out dead hairs by hand—or clipped down by a professional groomer. Stripping will maintain the natural harsh texture better than clipping. Train puppies early to accept nail trimming and tooth brushing, or you may have trouble getting your dog to accept these important grooming chores later. Watch the ears for signs of infection (redness, itching), and that's about all a Jack Russell Terrier needs, other than the all-important daily exercise regimen.

Health Concerns

Like many other smaller breeds, Jack Russell Terriers can sometimes suffer from luxating patellas (kneecaps that slip out of place). Some can develop eye problems. Like many other dogs with white coats, they can also be born deaf in one or both ears. Ask the breeder about these issues and whether the parents of the puppies have had any health tests like a CERF evaluation (for eyes) and an OFA evaluation (for knees), and whether the puppies have had a BAER test (for deafness).

Famous Jack Russell Terrier

George, living in New Zealand, saved 5 children from 2 pitbulls. He was posthumously awarded a medal of bravery by the SPCA.

Ideal Owner
Activity Level 4
Schedule 34
Home 43
Children 48
Experience 51
Quick Facts
Grooming 13
Exercise 14
Challenges Very high energy, gets into trouble without sufficient exercise and attention, barks.
Height 10 to 15 inches
Weight 10 to 20 pounds
Life 13 to 15 years
Home Alone 84
With Kids 89
With Strangers 91
Availability 96

This client information sheet is based on material written by: LifeLearn

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

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