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The Jack Russell Terrier history

Jack Russell Terrier In America

The JRT Club of America (JRTCA) was founded in 1976. Thirty years later, thousands of members are united in admiration of and dedication to the protection of the Jack Russell Terrier.
The history of the Fox Terrier and the Russell Terrier seems to have repeated itself when the Jack Russell Terrier Association of America (JRTAA) broke away from the JRTCA, with the intention of seeking recognition for the breed from the American Kennel Club. The JRT was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1991 and by the American Kennel Club in 1997 – two moves that were opposed by the JRTCA.
Why do most of the Jack Russell Terrier clubs and the Jack Russell Terrier United World Federation oppose recognition by any all-breed kennel club? Why does the Jack Russell need “protection”? Showing dogs in highly competitive conformation contests has resulted in physical and mental changes to nearly every breed in history. While this kind of competition may be fine for other breeds, it is not suitable for the Jack Russell because beauty alone has nothing to do with the dog’s ability to perform the task she was bred to do.

The Parson Russell Terrier

The JRTCA breed standard has not changed since the club was formed. But the little terriers being shown in AKC breed rings began to change – much as the Fox Terriers of old began to diverge from the working terriers in Britain. The JRTCA eventually sold the name Parson Russell Terrier to the JRTAA. The idea was to help make clear the difference between the two breeds. In 2003 the AKC officially changed the breed name of the dogs it registers to the Parson Russell Terrier and the club changed its name to the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America.
With a more rigid standard that seems to place appearance above working ability, changes will happen quite quickly to this new terrier breed. The Parson Russell Terrier is already a dog of more substance than the Jack Russell Terrier. The Parson Russell standard tolerates less variation in height – just twelve to fourteen inches at the withers, compared to ten to fifteen inches for the Jack Russell, which is suitable for a variety of hunting applications. The Parson Russell breed standard notes a preference for a spot at the base of the tail, which will have some breeders working hard to breed dogs with those markings, rather than on striving to maintain the essence of what the dog should be, a working hunting terrier.
There is currently another group approaching the AKC with another variant of the breed that has short legs, again seeking to use the name Jack Russell Terrier. David Ross of the JRTCA comments, “By adopting the name ‘Parson Russell Terrier’ for the AKC variant of the Jack Russell Terrier, the AKC and the Jack Russell Terrier Association did in fact separate the standards into two different terriers, eliminating much of the confusion and leaving the name Jack Russell Terrier for the standard the JRTCA and the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Great Britain have used for many decades. While education and time will be needed for both our organizations to completely sort these terriers out in the public’s mind, a good start has been made. However, if the AKC now accepts yet another standard for ‘Short’ Jack Russells and calls them ‘Jack Russell Terrier,’ both our registries will be in the unenviable position of telling innocent buyers that while their breeder and pedigree say they own a Jack Russell Terrier, the fact is they have purchased a ‘new’ variant of the terrier named after our terrier.”

Preserving the Breed

The Fox Terrier was once the dog now known as the Jack Russell Terrier. However, today’s Fox Terrier no longer has the conformational structure or even the desire to perform her original function of holding at bay or bolting foxes from their earth dens. The Jack Russell Terrier today is the unspoiled working terrier of the 1800’s. The breed has been preserved in the standards of most of the major terrier clubs, which emphasize working ability. The mental and physical soundness of the Jack Russell Terrier is protected by those dedicated to their breed’s performance and character.
Fierce protection of these traits motivates loyalty to the breed, and the members of the JRTCA are devoted to the organization and its task. Through understanding, the club can continue protecting this remarkable terrier.
Today, the Jack Russell Terrier is a much-loved pet in homes and families across the country. In addition to preserving the working function of the Jack Russell Terrier, the JRTCA educates pet owners about the unique qualities and requirements of keeping a Jack Russell. The JRTCA offers services and activities to keep people working and bonding with these special dogs. The club encourages people to love, play with, and work their terriers, and to fight for the dog’s ability and instinct to work, both now and in the future.

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JRT - After Jack Russell

Upon Jack Russell’s death, at the age of 88, his stock was scattered. It is doubtful that anyone today can trace a terrier back to Trump.
What does live on is his strain or type of hardy, old-fashioned, willing-to-work terriers. Those who did not hunt were culled along the way, or kept as pets in homes of nonsporting people. Others who did not conform correctly for earth work, perhaps having too much blood of other breeds, were kept by people who found they were useful above ground for the task of rodent control. Some of these dogs had short, bandy legs and barrel chests. They may have carried some Dachshund or Bull Terrier blood.
Many of these pet strains came to the United States with fanciers who brought them from England. With them also came fine examples of the hardy, well-conformed working terrier so favored by the Reverend Russell himself. Fortunately, while the show-ring Fox Terrier continued to develop – and change-devoted fans of the original Fox Terrier continued to happily breed and work their tough little dogs in both Britain and North America. During this time they were still called by many names: hunt terrier, white terrier (after their extinct ancestor), and working Fox Terrier.
But as Greg Mousley, a noted terrier man and world authority on Jack Russell Terriers, relates, “Parson Russell was an extrovert and a flamboyant character and in his role as the sporting Parson he became very well known. Along with his fame went the awareness of his terriers, and when the Fox Terrier Club was formed, a name was needed for the many thousands of white bodied working terriers belonging to the working terriermen of the day, in order to distinguish them from their Kennel Club counterparts.” They became known as Jack Russell Terriers (JRT).

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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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Jack Russell Terrier - The Fox Terrier In The Show Ring

The popularity of the terriers reached its zenith in the late nineteenth century, and Fox Terriers were accepted as an English Kennel Club breed. Popular fashion tends to require change, and it was not long before the Fox Terrier was caught up in the whims of the show ring.
The breed developed an upright scapula, a deepened chest and a lengthened, narrowed head. In the show ring a smooth coat was favored over the less popular but more protective wiry-haired coat. The show ring’s Fox Terrier was no longer at all like the working terriers in the hunt kennels. With its redesigned structure, it could not enter shallow earth even if the instinct to do so remained.
Russell himself was a member of England’s Kennel Club (he was one of the original founders in 1873 and judged Fox Terriers at the first sanctioned show in 1874), but he did not exhibit his own dogs. Apparently disapproving of the changes in the terriers, he stated: “True terriers they were, but differing from the present show dogs as the wild eglantine differs from a garden rose”.

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JRT - The Fox Terrier

The original strains of Fox Terriers were based on what were called White Terriers, which now are extinct. Many hunt kennels in England kept their own strains of terriers to work with their hounds. The hounds would give the fox chase, and the mounted staff and hunters would follow to observe and hear the hounds sing. Of course, chasing foxes with a pack of hounds and many riders is hardly an efficient method of fox control. It is more a country tradition and an active outing – part of the rich history of humans and hunting.

The hounds were always the aristocrats, and the terriers were the hunting partners of the hounds. Pedigrees were carefully kept on hounds, but many terriers were simply the product of one good working dog bred to another for the job of dislodging a fox the hounds had chased to ground.

When the fox was chased into an earthen den, the hounds and field of riders were moved back by the Master of Foxhounds so the terrier could enter the deep underground passage. Sometimes a staff member would carry a terrier in a pouch on horseback so the terrier would be handy the minute she was needed to enter the earth for the foxhunters. The terrier willingly entered, and her intrusive presence below ground would give the fox the idea to move on and the chase could continue. The dog was not bred to do the fox harm.

The fox is a formidable opponent, larger and more at home in the earth. The Fox Terrier therefore had to be a strong, spirited dog to encourage the earth dweller to bolt and continue the chase. Although smaller than the fox, the terriers often knew the landscape and where the dens were. They could listen and figure out which den the fox might duck into and be there before the hounds by taking shortcuts. The intelligence of the terrier has always been notable when applied to hunting.

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Jack Russell Terrier history

The Reverend John Russell lived between 1795 and 1883 in Devonshire (England). He contributed to developing one of the world’s finest strains of working terrier. John Russell, also known as Jack, was a popular character in Devonshire, and he loved hunting with hounds and terriers. He and his strain of terriers soon became well known, and to this day the dogs he developed carry his name.

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