Choosing a Parson Russell Terrier (Jack Russell Terrier)

Choosing a Parson Russell Terrier (Jack Russell Terrier)

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Lively, tenacious and independent are words commonly associated with the Parson Russell terrier. Originally bred to assist in fox hunting, he still retains much of his hunting characteristics. The Parson Russell terrier (previously Jack Russell Terrier) is quickly becoming a popular breed, helped no doubt by the hit sitcom "Frasier," which features a terrier named Eddie. However, the Parson Russell may not be the best choice for everyone.

History and Origin

The Parson Russell terrier owes his existence to his namesake, the Reverend John Russell of Devonshire, England. Pastor Russell was an avid sportsman who enjoyed fox hunting. In the 1800s, Pastor Russell selectively bred terriers to help in the hunt. To hunt foxes, a dog needs to be aggressive, stubborn and fearless. In time, the Parson Russell terrier, as we know it today, was developed.

The Jack Russell arrived in the United States in the 1930s and the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America was founded in 1976. By 1998, the Jack Russell was recognized by the American Kennel Club as a member of the terrier group. In April of 2003 the Jack Russell Terrier Association of America changed its name to the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America.


The Parson Russell terrier is a small and compact dog. The tail is short, upright and is usually docked at birth. He has two different hair coats: smooth or broken. Both types are double coated, coarse and weatherproof. The smooth coat is dense and short and tends to shed more than the broken type. The broken hair coat is harsh and has a tendency to curl or wave. The hair coat can be all white, white with black or white with tan.


The Parson Russell terrier stands approximately 12 to 15 inches from the ground to the top of the shoulder and weighs 13 to 17 pounds.


Parson Russells are intelligent, determined and relentless dogs that certainly fits the stereotypical terrier. The word terrier is Latin for terra, which means earth. Terriers love to dig and the Parson Russell happily obliges. They are willing and fearless hunters that will go so far as to follow their prey into burrows.

This ability to focus on their prey can lead to some problems in the home. The Parson Russell is stubborn and independent and loves to hunt. Unfortunately, they are not too particular about what they consider prey. They've been known to chase and kill chickens, cats and other dogs, even housemates. Despite this strong hunting drive, Parson Russells are also known as fun loving, clown dogs that love playing tricks on their owners. Not a breed for everyone, the Parson Russell does well in the home of someone who understands his personality and accepts his shortcomings.

Home and Family Relations

The Parson Russell terrier is, above all, a hunter at heart. This does not coincide with being a good family pet, especially around young children. They are a very energetic breed but also unpredictable. They can be loving and affectionate family members if socialized and properly trained. The Parson Russell is not a good breed for someone who wants a couch potato. This breed requires exercise and if not given frequent opportunities to release pent up energy, behavior problems and household destruction can occur. Parson Russells tend to prefer being the only dog in the house and fights may occur between other canine family members, with the Parson Russell being the instigator.


Parson Russell terriers are independent and self-confident and can be quite a challenge to train. They tend not to mind their owner and would prefer hunting above all else.

Special Concerns

The most significant concern regarding Parson Russell terriers is their independent nature and what can occur as a result. These dogs don't do well with other dogs, they love to dig and they have a strong prey instinct.

Common Diseases and Disorders

Parson Russell terriers are generally healthy dogs with few health concerns. They are prone to dislocation of the lens of the eye, Legg-Perthes disease (abnormality of the hip joint) and myasthenia gravis (a neurologic disorder).

Life Span

The lifespan of the Parson Russell terrier is approximately 14 to 16 years.

We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.


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