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John Russell, born in 1795, in Devon became interested in animals and hunting from a young age. He went on to become a churchman and enthusiastic hunter which gained him the nickname of “the Sporting Parson.”

Whilst at Oxford University Russell discovered “Trump” who he spotted hitching a ride on the back of a milk wagon. This bitch was to become the mother of the Jack Russell Terrier breed after Russell struck a deal to buy her. ​Trump (pictured below) was mostly white which Russell preferred as spotting a white dog whilst hunting is much easier than spotting a dog which has only brown/black markings.

The breeding of the predominately white Trump with a black and tan terrier led to the familiar characteristics for the breed we know so well today.

John Russell's 'Trump'

Jack Russells, being bred to hunt foxes, had to work alongside hounds and cover extensive distances without slowing whilst being small enough to enter a fox den and be bold and brave enough to uphold the fox. These traits say a great deal for their unwavering tenacity, strong mindedness and ability to get along well with other dogs not to mention digging like their lives depend on it!

Following John Russell’s death two southern men made serious progress to continue the standard, both having dogs descended from one of John Russell’s dogs. They aimed for a dog not as large as the show fox terrier and ideally weighing below 15 pounds.

The first breed standard was created by Arthur Blake Heinemann and in 1894 the Devon and Somerset Badger Club was founded whose aims were to promote badger digging rather than fox hunting and so breeding of terriers to fit this purpose.

Terriers were acquired from Nicholas Snow of Oare and were likely descendants of John Russell’s original dogs as Russell would have hunted at some point with Snow’s hunting club and so probably provided some of their original terriers. At the onset of the 20th century Russell’s name became associated with this breed of dog.

The club later changed it’s name to the Parson Jack Russell Terrier Club. Badger digging proved to require a different type of dog than fox hunting therefore likely that Bull terrier stock was bought in to enforce the breed which may have formed the a shorter legged type of Jack Russell. Whilst a divide was becoming apparent between the show and working fox terriers a further split was happening between two different types of white terrier both carrying Jack Russell’s name.

Heinemann was asked to judge classes for working terriers at Crufts with a sight to bring working terriers back into the show ring to try and influence those that disregard working qualities in dogs. The classes continued for several years by various judges but Charles Cruft dropped the attempt because the classes were never largely competed. After Heinemann’s death in 1930 the leadership of the club passed to Annie Harris however the club itself diminished just before World War II.

Post World War II the need for hunting dogs declined as did the numbers of Jack Russell terriers. The dogs were found more in the domestic home as family and companion dogs. More cross breeding occurred with Welsh Corgis, Chihuahuas and other small terrier breeds. The offspring of these crosses became known as “Russell Terriers”, “Puddin’ Dogs” or “Shortie Jacks”.

Breed History


​The Jack Russell Terrier was never originally incorporated into the Kennel Club in the U.K. 

In 1990 a standard was written in the U.K for a taller Jack Russell Terrier (12-15 inches) and given the name Parson Jack Russell Terrier which in turn, ten years later, became the Parson Russell Terrier. At the same time the U.S.A. followed suit and adopted the Parson Russell Terrier into the American Kennel Club.

Separate to what was happening in the U.K and the U.S.A.enthusiasts in Australia were also working to develop the breed.

Dedicated breeders in Australia endeavoured through line-breeding, to bring the height down to 12 inches and under, since migrants from the U.K had introduced Parson Terrier’s Ancestry with heights up to 15 inches to them.

A standard was set to this “new” kennel club breed in Australia as a Jack Russell Terrier, and the breed was permitted to be shown at Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) shows. Jack Russells took the terrier ring by storm and it was not long before they were winning Group and Best in Show awards.

The Federation Cynlogique International recognised the Jack Russell Terrier as a breed in 2001 with the Australian Standard.

Since FCI recognition, the Jack Russell Terrier has become one of the most popular breeds in the terrier group all over Europe.

Although everyone acknowledges that the country of origin of The Jack Russell Terrier is the U.K, Australia must be given credit for making this terrier into a Kennel Club breed, with a written standard.

Show people in the U.K started to notice these little terriers being shown outside the U.K and became smitten with their happy disposition and appealing look. A group of enthusiasts lead by Geoff Corish started to campaign for the Jack Russell Terrier to finally be a recognised breed by the Kennel Club in the UK. A few years down the line, after much paper work and meetings Geoff Corish later received the desired phone call from the Kennel Club to confirm that the Jack Russell Terrier would be officially recognised as a breed from 1st January 2016.

The Modern Day Jack Russell


Last updated April 2016

A breed standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance including the correct colour of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed.

From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Breed Watch information related to this breed for details of any such current issues. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure. However if a dog possesses a feature, characteristic or colour described as undesirable or highly undesirable, it is strongly recommended that it should not be rewarded in the show ring.


General appearance

A strong, active, lithe, working terrier of great character with flexible body of medium length. Smart movement. Keen expression. The coat is predominately white, and may be smooth, broken or rough.

Scars not to be penalised.



Lively, alert and active. A good hunting terrier, sturdily built, that could go easily to ground



Bold, fearless, friendly and confident.


Head and skull

The skull should be flat and of moderate width, gradually decreasing in width to the eyes and tapering to a strong muzzle. The stop is well defined, and the cheek muscles are well developed. The length of muzzle from the stop to the nose should be slightly shorter than from the stop to the occiput. Nose and lips black. Lips tight fitting.



Almond shaped, fairly small and dark, with keen expression. Not prominent. Closely fitting eye rims, with black pigment.



Button or dropped, carried close to the side of the skull, of good texture and great mobility. The top of the ear is level with, or very slightly above the skull. The tip of the ear is in line with the eye.



Jaws strong with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws. Broken or missing teeth due to work are not to be penalised.



Strong and clean, of sufficient length to carry the head proudly, and to protect the feet when working below ground.



Shoulders well laid back with visible forechest, and never heavily loaded with muscle. Upper arm of sufficient length with angulation to ensure elbows are set under the body. Well-boned forelegs as straight as compatible with a short legged dog when viewed from front or side.



The length from the point of shoulder to the buttocks slightly greater than the height from the withers to the ground. Level back, with very slight arch to loin which is short, strong and well muscled. Chest oval, fairly deep rather than wide, with good ground clearance. The distance from the withers to the elbow is equal to the distance from the elbow to the ground. Ribcage oval, well sprung, flattening somewhat on the sides so that the girth behind the elbows can be spanned by two hands - about 40 cm to 43 cm. Moderate tuck up.



Strong and muscular, angulation in balance with the shoulders. Stifles well bent with low set hocks. When standing, pasterns parallel when viewed from behind.



Round to oval, not large, with toes moderately arched. Pads firm.



High set, thick at base, in overall balance with the rest of the dog. When moving the tail should be carried completely erect but may drop at rest.

If docked for work, the tip of the tail on a level with the skull.



Unrestricted, free striding, ground covering gait without exaggeration. Well co-ordinated; straight action front and rear, may converge slightly at a faster pace. Strides should be of good length, never stilted or high stepping. Hindquarters providing plenty of drive.



May be smooth, broken or rough. Must be weatherproof. Not over trimmed.



White must predominate with black and/or tan markings. The tan markings may range from light tan to rich chestnut tan.



25-30 cms (10-12 ins). Substance and weight should be proportionate to height. Neither too coarse nor too refined.



Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.



Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.


*Note for prospective puppy buyers

Size – The Kennel Club breed standard is a guide and description of the ideal for the breed; the size as described does not imply that a dog will match the measurements given (height or weight). A dog might be larger or smaller than the size measurements stated in the breed standard.

Taken from The Kennel Club

The Breed Standard
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