Jack Russell Terrier

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(CC) Photo: Steve Sewell
Portrait of a smooth-coated Jack Russell Terrier

The Jack Russell Terrier is a small, tenacious and resourceful terrier originally developed as a hunting dog. Jack Russells come in three coat variants and several related types, the naming and defining of which is sometimes contentious. Although the “Jack Russell” is among the oldest of the English Fox Terrier derived breeds, the breed has only been officially recognised by kennel clubs since 1990. Australia is credited with being the country of development, although the United Kingdom is the country of origin. Because of points of contention including the correct breed standard and conformation, legal entanglements concerning the rights to the name “Jack Russell Terrier” and the naming of various Jack Russell Terrier Clubs, and disagreements between hunting and showing aficionados, what is and is not a Jack Russell Terrier is highly debatable in some circles. It will likely be some time before the distinction between dogs known as Jack Russell Terriers, Parson Russell Terriers, Russell Terriers and Parson Jack Russell Terriers are set in stone. Still, most Westerners now have some idea of what a Jack Russell is. Most people think of the broken-coated variant as the archetypal Jack Russell, thanks to a couple of popular canine actors, notably " Wishbone " "and Eddie, the character from the sitcom Frasier. This article will discuss the origin and development of the Jack Russell Terrier, and identify its variants. The article will also direct the reader to articles about related breeds.

Current variants

  • Jack Russell Terrier –
The show version was developed in Australia, recognised in 1990 as the Jack Russell Terrier after discussions about whether it should be called the Australian Jack Russell Terrier. There are three coat variants: smooth coated, rough coated and broken coated. Recognised by the FCI in 2001
The hunting version. Typified by the type of Jack Russell Terrier defined by the independent Jack Russell Terrier Club of America and often described as a landrace rather than as a true breed.
  • Parson Jack Russell Terrier
  • Parson Russell Terrier – recognised in the United Kingdom in 19 as “a working variant of the Jack Russell Terrier”. Now recognised by Kennel Clubs. generally a leggier, slightly taller dog than the recognised JRT, although this is somewhat misleading as there are Jack Russell variants in some clubs as tall as Parson Russell Terriers.
  • Russell Terrier – name given by some kennel clubs, notably the United Kennel Club (UKC) to distinguish them from other forms of Jack Russell Terriers.

The origins of the Jack Russell Terrier:

The immortal Trump

The actual lineage of John Russell’s terriers is a mystery, but it is generally accepted that Russell stated that while a student at Oxford University, he spied a little white-with-tan terrier bitch on a milkman’s wagon and bought her on the spot. The bitch was named “Trump”, and she is credited as being his main brood bitch. Unfortunately, the only surviving pictures of Trump were painted after her death; one of these is in the Harness Room at Sandringham Castle, having been commissioned by the Prince of Wales. Fuzzy reproductions show a not particularly attractive little dog, and it is not clear what qualities Trump exhibited which made Russell buy her outright, without having seen her in action.

There was a scramble for Russell’s dogs after his death, and it is less than certain who ended up with “Jack Russell’s terriers”; the sister of his studmaster appears to have acquired a few. Certainly, the chances that any of the bloodlines of the dogs presented today as Jack Russell Terriers or Parson Russell Terriers or any of the variants thereof are direct descendants of Trumps or any of the parson’s dogs, are slim.

"We're Rolling...and...Action!" Jack Russells on Screen

The Jack Russell’s endearing facial expressions, feisty personality and interminable cuteness make it a natural choice for television and the cinema. Some famous Jack Russells include Wishbone, the title character of a popular children’s television series in the United States, and Eddie, the clever, irrepressible dog belonging to character Martin Crane on the sitcom Frasier. “Scooter”, the dog star who portrays Wishbone, is a veteran performer with many television commercials to his credit. He reportedly hates swimming and has two stunt doubles and a body double. Eddie was played by a dog called “Moose”, but later in the series, Moose also had a stunt double; his son “Enzo” stepped in for the more physically demanding tricks to spare his aging dad. Moose and Enzo also appeared in the movie My Dog Skip.