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Jack Russell History:

Jack Russell Terriers originated with the Parson John Russell's working terriers. This much we all agree on. There are slight story versions, depending upon the enthusiast, club or breeder telling the history. And there is very little (if any) hard proof to go with each version.

In recent years you may have heard the Jack Russell Terrier referred to and now registered as; a Parson Russell Terrier or a Russell Terrier (AKC); Jack Russell Terrier & Russell Terrier (UKC); Connemara Terrier (CTS); English Jack Russell Terrier (EJRTC); Jack Russell Terrier (JRTCA); And a myriad of other loose terms like; English Jack, Irish Jack, Irish Jacks, Irish Jack Russell, Miniature Jacks, Australian Jacks, Shorties, Shorty Jack Russells, Puddin’ Jacks and a few other terms.

Regardless of what one refers to them as, they can all be considered Jack Russell Terriers in one way or another. Regardless of what you believe or what “breed club elitists” claim to be fact, that does not change the history of this little “terrier type” known by many names but more broadly as the Jack Russell.

Let’s take an honest, open look at some of the history behind this little terrier…And then see what you think when we are finished…
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Did you know that the original jack russell was all brown like the puppy above? The reason the white body was introduced and over time, more desirable, is because you could see the white body better at night when the sun would set. Remember, these dogs were once bred for hunting. Being able to see your hunting dog at night was important. Our black and tans will and do produce the all brown color. The puppy above is out of Guinness x Phoebe.

More about the history of the Jack Russell Terrier

The JRTCA (oldest Jack Russell Terrier club in America) writes:

"History of the Jack Russell 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 Jack Russell Terrier, by any name, all exhibit similar characteristics due to similar origin yet may differ in height to length ratio. Temperaments also vary dramatically due to different terrier mixes involved in the breedings."


I like the JRTCA’s short, clear, non-sensational and to the point “History”.  Let us break it down further and look at some interesting facts that begin to surface when one spends years researching and tracking down the Jack Russell Terriers origins.  Let’s look at what we know to be so...And not waste time on legend and hearsay.

It Just Wasn’t That Simple:


The Parson John Russell did not begin with two dogs, or a pack of dogs, breed them and "voila" a breed was born.  If one digs deep enough into the Jack Russell Terrier history, several interesting facts begin to surface:
1. Several times the Parson worked and bred certain dogs and lines, only to later sell them all off.  History also tells us he preferred strains of terriers with working Fox Terrier blood.  ...however, this did not come until much later in his breeding experiments. This is not the only type he ever bred.  Often he wouldn't be satisfied for one reason or another and change the mix.  Other times he held back his best dogs to breed with the new.  Many times, he started all over from scratch. There are even documented periods during his life when the Parson had no dogs at all. These facts were documented by one of his closest friends; E. W. L. Davies in his book; "A Memoir of the Rev. John Russell and His Out-Of-Door Life" published 1878.

2. The parson John Russell didn’t begin with a couple of Fox Terrier influenced dogs and end with the same.  Writings by his own friends describe him as an impetuous person...He bought and sold dogs ALL THE TIME.  And as time went on, he came to prefer a certain type.  Later in life he may have preferred a terrier with more concentration of working Fox Terrier blood...but he started as well as borrowed from, other lines that later went in a direction of their own.
3. As his type of terrier became more popular, they began to spread across all of England and eventually into other lands - especially in Ireland.  By then, there were Englishmen and Irishmen who preferred a more manageable terrier and found this in some of the Parsons earlier breedings.  These same terrier men found that if they stayed away from breeding in too much Fox or Fell Terrier influence, they could breed a more suitable dog for their lifestyle. Many lived on working farms and could not, or simple would not tolerate a dog that would worry livestock or show aggression.

More confusion as kennel clubs began to recognize the Jack Russell as a breed and not a type of terrier: 

You may not know this, but when a kennel club recognizes a new breed, they require the representing breed club to present a history behind the new breed. It is part of the process when the kennel club is deciding which breed club will represent the breed. This is why we now have enthusiasts/clubs claiming the Jack Russell has one very specific history and standard.  But it’s untrue. There’s a lot more to the Jack Russell Terrier's rich history.  They were never meant to be cookie-cutter dogs.  They were always meant to be a type of terrier not a breed.  Jack Russell Terriers, by any name, should exhibit similar characteristics due to similar origin yet may differ in height to length ratio as well as temperament and drive, depending upon the desires of the breeder and what they were bred for. For more information and detailed, documented history: Read THE ULTIMATE JACK RUSSELL TERRIER - EDITED BY MARY STROM.  

Editorial review of this book:
"The Ultimate Jack Russell Terrier is our largest book on the breed to date and brings together an impressive panel of top authorities to give a total picture of the breed."
Chapter Two: The Parson's Terrier", Page #26. Here are some excerpts:
"Although he was living in the depths of the Devon countryside, John Russell did not limit his breeding program by using merely stud dogs that were living locally or were easily obtainable. Davie's described Trump as 'progenitress of that famous race of terriers' but there is no evidence as to which dog or, indeed dogs were used in the foundation of the dynasty. The county of Devon was known at that time for its own strain of white bodied rough-coated terriers - ...It has been suggested that she (Trump) was at some point mated to a rough-coated black & tan terrier. Later in life, the parson was to use some of the most famous Fox Terriers of the day on his bitches."
***It should be noted this information came directly from his biographer E.W.L. Davies.
This is a small sample of and closer glimpse at some of what really went on during the development of the breed. Mary Strom did her own research as well as consulted eleven (11) other "experts" of the breed and its history. Today, some have tried to re-write the history behind the Jack Russell Terrier... But it doesn't make it so. Not all Jack Russell Terriers have the same amount of Fox Terrier influence. Still today in England and Ireland, a few lines of Jack Russell's with less Fox Terrier influence remain with a few faithful breeders of this old type and style. (The Connemara is one of those lines.)
Another great book that has a non-sensationalist view of the origin and history behind the Jack Russell Terrier is D. Brain Plummer’s: THE COMPLETE JACK RUSSELL TERRIER. Some excerpts from Plummer’s book; "The Facts Behind the Legend - Having decided that the present-day white-bodied hunt terrier is not, or at the most only slightly, connected with the dogs of the Reverend John Russell, what are the dogs that we today call, for want of a better term, Jack Russell Terriers? ...Well the reader must first dispense with the notion sadly perpetuated in a great number of books that God created John Russell and terriers came into being.”

“The Jack Russell Terrier is a fox hunting dog, developed in England in the 19th century. There were terriers of all descriptions hunting earth dwelling creatures for hundreds of years before the Reverend John (Jack) Russell developed his particular "strain" of hunting terriers. The Reverend lived in the mid-1800's in Devonshire. He maintained his dogs with a certain body style and temperament...”  “The conformation of the Jack Russell Terrier follows it's original function. Early British fox hunters used a black and tan type, rather than the Fell or Welsh, whose coloring was too similar to the quarry it was hunting, namely, the fox. Difficulty in telling the terrier from the creature it was bolting out of it's den brought about the desire for a more white-bodied dog. In all probability the English Black and Tan was crossed with the Old English White Terrier (both now extinct) to achieve the type of coat and coloring we have today in our Jack Russell Terrier.”

We hope you will at the very least, walk away from this article with a much keener understanding of what a fascinating and unique history is behind this truly unorthodox breed of dog, and that the real facts about Jack Russell Terriers are really more astounding than the fiction that's been written in more recent times.

As you can see when comparing the Irish Connemara to all of these very old photos - Our lines still have that old style, old world look. Not much has changed for over 100 years with this line. Connemara Jack Russell Terriers are clearly "longer than tall". This is the standard look of the Connemara (Irish) Jack Russell Terrier. Unrefined by fashion, the Connemara Terrier still possesses the 'antique features' once common to many early terriers - its distinctive outline, the body's length to height ratio, and on occasion rose ears, are all hallmarks of this line.

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Piper, a second generation jack russell terrier who lives in New Hampshire with her best friend. A cat! :)

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This jack russell terriers loves the snow!

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Gweni & Benen live in New Hampshire with our greatest Polished Puppy Kindergarten Trainer.

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Darby is the funniest little jack russell! She was the cutest puppy! She loves everyone and everything!