Archive for May 11th, 2012

Jack Russell Terrier - The Reverend Jack Russell

John Russell’s dogs were of a type suitable to the terrain of the West Country where they lived. But, with the fame of both Reverend Russell and his dogs spreading, it became the desirable thing in other parts of the country to have one of his terriers. Apart from his church activities, the reverend was well known throughout England as a man passionate for the sport of fox hunting and breeding fox hunting dogs. Before long, the name Jack Russell Terrier spread and began to be applied to these feisty little working terriers.
The reverend’s foundation bitch was named Trump. In 1819, while still an undergraduate at Oxford University, he bought her from a milkman in the Oxfordshire village of Marston. In Russell’s eyes, Trump was the ideal terrier. She was white with brown ears, a patch of brown over each eye, and one no larger than a British penny at the base of her tail. Her coat was reported to be thick, close, and wiry, but not the long jacket of the Scottish terrier. Her legs were as straight as arrows, her feet were perfect, and she was of a size that has been compared to a grown vixen. Said Russell of this lovely animal: “Her whole appearance gave indications of courage, endurance and hardihood.” Even now, there is a painting of Trump hanging in the harness room of the royal residence at Sandringham, in Norfolk, England.
In England, the red fox was considered a varmint, a killer of spring lambs and poultry, so if the hunt crossed a farmer’s land, risking damage to crops and fences, it was considered appropriate to kill the plentiful foxes encountered during the hunt. In America, there is little, if any, interest in harvesting foxes. Americans concentrate on the chase, and the greatest admirers of the fox are those who have spent time observing them and their intelligent strategies. Foxes in the country have many safe escape routes and seem to exhibit a sense of humor about the hounds “singing” their scent. Country sport affords a participant the pleasure of the sights and sounds of good hound work, and the enjoyment of following the hounds on horseback.
It has been reported that John Russell was also not interested in the killing of the fox. He said of the terriers: “A real Fox Terrier is not meant to murder and his intelligence should always keep him from such a crime.” When fair terrier work is possible, with a noncombative terrier employed, one can well understand John Russell’s fondness for the chase alone. He was a participant well into his 80’s.
Russell became vicar of Swymbridge in 1832 and was occupied by both his church duties and his position as Master of Foxhounds. His circle of friends included the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and other Masters of Foxhounds and often, even late in his life, he would travel long distances on horseback to meets. Legend has it that the bishop of his diocese once accused him of refusing to bury a body on a Wednesday because it interfered with the hunt. There are also stories of the bishop repeatedly asking Russell to give up his hounds and hunting. He agreed to give up his hounds. “Mrs. Russell shall keep them,” he said.

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