History of the Jack Russell Terrier breed

History of the Jack Russell Terrier breed

The Jack Russell Terrier is a hunting dog breed bred in the UK and further developed in Australia. Historically, this terrier is used with other hunting dogs – by climbing into holes, it drives out foxes.

Jackie is an old breed of classic English terriers, which received their official recognition much recently, more than a hundred years ago. Until 1900, jacks were not yet jacks; they were brought out of the English fox terriers by a priest named John Russell. The creator of the breed loved dogs and hunting. In 1873 he founded a club and began to deduce the breed standard. At first, they tried to breed the Russells with the Bull and Terrier, because they wanted to get a good fighter for dog fighting. This crossing gave the relief musculature and strong build.

Why the breed was bred?

These terriers were bred in the UK specifically for burrow hunting. The dog must climb into the hole and drive the animal out of there or pull it out during the fight. The terrier must be small in order to penetrate the holeand be able to move freely in it, therefore, traditionally, the height at the withers of burrowing terriers did not exceed 38.5 cm. At the same time, such a dog requires strength, courage and powerful jaws to fight with armed teeth (and claws) a beast. It is not easy to work in a hole: it is dark, narrow and cramped, the earth is crumbling and even blockages are possible. Terriers with smooth or short, and, as a rule, harsh coats are most suitable for hunting in such conditions.

From the beginning of the 18th century, a new agricultural technology was introduced in Great Britain, which included corralled grazing. The appearance of hedges around the fields has brought to naught the popular deer horse hunting since the Middle Ages. Farmers switched to burrowing, which became a national hobby. The fox was chased by a flock of Foxhounds, and the animal hiding in the hole was chased away with the help of terriers. For this purpose, terriers were suitable, not lagging behind the hounds. The preferred color was white to avoid confusion between the dog and the fox. However, the terrier that crawled out of the hole very rarely remained white: it was covered with mud and saturated with the smell of the animal, and often the hounds mistook the terrier for a fox. Terriers were also used by the hunters for “reconnaissance”:

John Jack Russell

The English priest John (Jack) Russell was born in 1795 in Dartmouth, Devon, and lived for almost 87 years. He was a good rider, passionate about hunting foxes with terriers. In 1873 he co-founded the Kennel Club and took part in the development of the Fox Terrier Standard. However, he himself bred wire-haired terriers exclusively for hunting and never showed them at exhibitions, because then only smooth-haired terriers were successful at exhibitions. The breed that is known today as the Jack Russell Terrier was, until 1900, nothing more than the old type of fox terrier. The champion fox terriers of the beginning of the century were no different from modern Jack Russell terriers. While studying at Oxford, Russell acquired one of his famous dogs – a white wire-haired bitch with reddish-brown spots on the head and at the base of the tail.

Some breeders have practiced crosses with Bull and Terriers (a mixture of an old type of bulldog with various terriers). As a result, the fighting qualities of hunting terriers improved. After the prohibition of dog fighting in 1835, many fighting terriers became a thing of the past. However, until 1912, rat-baiting by terriers was allowed, so small terrier breeds flourished.


Some signs of bulldogs are still visible in some white-coated Jack Russell Terriers with black spots. In addition to a stocky build and a wider head, they are distinguished by the lack of an informal voice, which is necessary when working in a burrow. In the late 19th – early 20th centuries, many hunters used Sealyham Terriers for breeding in their flocks (those, on turn, were often mated with Pembroke Welsh Corgi). One of the last terriers used for introductory crosses into the Jack Russell Terrier breed was the White Lakeland Terrier.

However, hunters in western Britain believe that dogs of the Lakeland terrier type are undesirable, as they do not correspond to the peculiarities of fox hunting. Indeed, the West British fox hunters have developed a certain ritual, the main “terrierist” takes part in the hunt with his flock, but the task of his dogs does not include a direct attack on the animal. This is a purely theatrical entertainment of aristocrats. For hunters in the northern mountainous part of the country, on the contrary, hunting is necessary to protect their livestock from predators, so their terriers really chase and hunt foxes.

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