About Jack Russell Terrier

Introducing the Jack Russell Terrier

Starting out as a hunter

The Jack Russell Terrier is a fox hunting breed developed in England in the 19th century and is the breed from which the modern or show Fox Terrier has evolved. The Jack Russell takes his name from the renowned hunting parson, the Reverend John Russell, who from 1830 to 1870 bred with care, a predominantly white terrier that followed the hunt on foot and went to ground after the fox.

At that time the Jack Russell was known as the working Fox Terrier and was bred by many fox hunting terrier men. The type of terrier bred by John Russell was the type now called the original or true type Jack Russell Terrier.


Growing into the job

The conformation of the Jack Russell follows its original function. Early British fox hunters used a black and tan type terrier, rather like the Fell or Welsh terrier, whose colour was similar to that of its quarry the fox. Difficulty telling terrier from fox in a dig brought about a desire for a white terrier to do the job and most probably the Old English Black and Tan was crossed with the Old English White Terrier (now extinct) to achieve the type of colouring we have today.

As the Jack Russell most often followed the hunt on foot (no jeeps to follow the hunt in the 1880's), he had to have a most reasonable length of leg. As he went over terrain and to ground following into the fox's territory he had to have a size and shape similar to that of the fox. Has anyone ever seen a short-legged, thick muscled fox?


Amusing, assertive, small, yes. But feisty.

The Jack Russell Terrier is a happy, bold, energetic dog, extremely loyal, intelligent and assertive. Their greatest attribute is their working ability, closely followed by their excellent qualities as a companion. A Jack Russell can be equally contented bolting a fox or chasing a toy at home; or equally adept at killing a sock in the living room or a rat in the barn. Their funny antics will continually amuse you and their intelligence knows no bounds, although their assertive nature and boundless energy can at times be overwhelming.

These little dogs require an extraordinary amount of human attention, outdoor activity, exercise, discipline, and your understanding and acceptance of their hunting nature. Their natural instinct may make them Die! chippy!agressive towards other small animals such as snakes, cats, gerbils, guinea pigs. They can also be very aggressive with other dogs. Never leave two or more together unattended, as Terriers have been hurt, and even killed by their fellows. Even young pups must be carefully monitored. It is imperative that prospective owners understand this part of the Terrier's nature.


Is this the dog for you?

These feisty little Terriers capture the hearts of many, BUT they are not the dog for everyone! While adaptable to a variety of environments, they are first and foremost bred to be hunting dogs. City or apartment living, or a confined or sedate lifestyle, do not suit a Jack Russell. Special facilities and handling are absolutely necessary, especially when owning two or more Jack Russells.

You must be ready to provide firm, consistent and responsible handling. And, while facilitating outdoor activity and exercise is essential, you can never leave your Jack Russell Terrier unattended, even in the country. The courage of the Jack Russell is never in doubt, they may take on any adversary, even twice (or more) their size. They are intelligent, determined and bold, but sometimes you have to apply the brakes they were born without.


Breed Standards

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What is a "good" Jack Russel Terrier

A good Working Terrier

Jack Russell Terriers are a type, or strain, of working terrier; they are not "pure bred" in the sense that they have a broad genetic make-up, a broad standard, and do not breed true to type. This is a result of having been bred strictly for hunting since their beginning in the early 1800's, and their preservation as a working breed since. The broad standard, varied genetic background based on years of restricted inbreeding and wide outcrossing, and great variety of size and type, are the major characteristics that make this strain of terrier known as a Jack Russell (a.k.a. Parson Jack Russell Terrier) such a unique, versatile working terrier.

The core standard for a Jack Russell

Everything about the Jack Russell has fox hunting in mind .... coloring, conformation, character, and intelligence. The body is compact, of totally balanced proportions, the shoulders clean, the legs straight, and most importantly, a small chest (easily spannable by average size hands at the widest part behind the shoulders). The Jack Russell must also be totally flexible, allowing him to manoeuver underground. This conformation allows the terrier to follow his quarry down narrow earths. The fox is a good model for the Jack Russell - where the fox can go, so must the terrier. Although originally bred for fox hunting, the Jack Russell is a versatile working terrier to a variety of quarry including red and grey fox, oppossom, raccoon and grounghog.

The top dogs are not just a pretty face

There has been a great increase in the conformation showing of Jack Russell in recent years. Conformation exhibiting has been very effective in promoting correct conformation according to the breed standard, thereby improving the quality of the breeding stock. However, while showing is beneficial to the breed, the Trials are designed to keep the working aspects of the terrier in the forefront. The highest awards presented to a terrier are its working awards; the Natural Hunting Certificate and the Bronze Medallion for Special Merit in the Field.

Likewise, JRTCC sanctioned conformation judges are required to have experience working their terriers in the field, getting an in-depth, first-hand knowledge of terrier work, so they understand the importance of the physical characteristics necessary for a terrier to be useful for the work he was bred to do.

A Reference to the JRT "Breed Standard"

CHARACTER The terrier must present a lively, active and alert appearance. It should impress with its fearless and happy disposition. It should be remembered that the Jack Russell is a working terrier and should retain these instincts. Nervousness, cowardice or over-aggressiveness should be discouraged and it should always appear confident. 

GENERAL APPEARANCE A sturdy, tough terrier, very much on its toes all the time, measuring between 10" and 15" at the withers. The body length must be in proportion to the height, and it should present a compact, balanced image, always being in solid, hard condition.

HEAD Should be well balanced and in proportion to the body. The skull should be flat, of moderate width at the ears, narrowing to the eyes. There should be a defined stop but not over-pronounced. The length of the muzzle from the nose to the stop should be slightly shorter than the distance from the stop to the occiput. The nose is black. The jaw should be powerful and well boned with strongly muscled cheeks.

EYES Should be almond shaped, dark in color and full of life and intelligence. 

EARS Small "V" shaped drop ears carried forward close to the head and of moderate thickness. 

MOUTH Strong teeth with the top slightly overlapping the lower. The left two bites are acceptable; the far left bite (scissor) is preferred. 

NECK Clean and muscular, of good length, gradually widening at the shoulders. 

FOREQUARTERS The shoulders should be sloping and well laid back, fine at points and clearly cut at the withers. Forelegs should be strong and straight boned with joints in correct alignment. Elbows hanging perpendicular to the body and working free of the sides. 

BODY The chest should be shallow, narrow and the front legs not too widely apart, giving an athletic, rather than heavily chested appearance. As a guide only, the chest should be small enough to be easily spanned behind the shoulders, by average sized hands, when the terrier is in a fit, working condition.  The back should be strong, straight and, in comparison to the height of the terrier, give a balanced image. The loin should be slightly arched.

HINDQUARTERS Should be strong and muscular, well put together with good angulation and bend of stifle, giving plenty of drive and propulsion. Looking from behind, the hocks must be straight. 

FEET Round, hard padded, wide, of cat-like appearance, neither turning in nor out. 

TAIL Should be set rather high, carried gaily and in proportion to body length, usually about four inches long, providing a good hand-hold. 

COAT Smooth, without being so sparse as not to provide a certain amount of protection from the elements and undergrowth. Rough or broken coated, without being woolly. 

COLOUR White should predominate (i.e., must be more than 51% white) with tan, black, or brown markings.  Brindle markings are unacceptable. Brindle, dilute (merle), and liver markings are unacceptable. 

GAIT Movement should be free, lively, well-coordinated with straight action in front and behind. 

Special Notes 

Old scars or injuries, the result of work or accident, should not be allowed to prejudice a terrier's chance in the show ring unless they interfere with its movement or with its utility for work or stud. A Jack Russell Terrier should not show any strong characteristics of another breed.


Shyness, Disinterest, Overly aggressive, Defects in bite, Weak jaws, Fleshy ears, Down at the shoulder, Barrel ribs, Out at elbow, Narrow hips, Straight stifles, Weak feet, Sluggish or unsound movement, Dishing, Plaiting, Toeing, Silky or woolly coats, Too much color (less than 51% white), Shrill or weak voice, Lack of muscle or skin tone, Lack of stamina or lung reserve, Evidence of foreign blood.


NOTE For showing purposes, terriers are classified into two groups: 10" to 12 1/2" and 12 1/2" to 15". Old scars and injuries should not be allowed to prejudice a terrier's chance in the show ring, unless they interfere with its movement or with its utility for work or stud. Male dogs should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

Breeder's Code of Ethics





Suzanne Hunt
Mundare AB Canada
T0B 3H0

New Brunswick

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Laura Maher
Lower Newcastle,N.B.
E1V 7G1


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Bonnie Cooper
Swift Current Sk Canada
S9H 0N5


Reynard's Folly

Kay Sewright
bright, Ontario
N0J 1B0


Sally Holmes
Castleton, ON

Reidell Kennel

Rose Reid and daughter Ammie Reid
Ashburn, ON Canada

Highland Acres

Bob & Doryce Ednie
Kwartha Lakes
Ontario, K9V 0N3



Seadog Terriers

Denise Decosta
Fairhaven, MA, USA