What’s in a Name?
A Compilation of the History of Jack Russell/Fox-Working Terriers
Compiled by Candace Lundin, DVM, MS (USA)
What’s in a name? Quite a lot, it seems when it comes to our breed, one of the fox-working terriers.
The terms ‘Jack Russell Terrier’ and ‘Russell Terrier’ both now refer to the same breed—at least when it comes to all-breed kennel clubs. But it wasn’t always so. Along with Jack Russell, Parson Russell, and Russell, other names for the fox- or earth-working, white-spotted terriers throughout history have been Parson Jack Russell Terriers, Hunt Terriers, Porlock Terriers, Devonshire Terriers, Puddins, Working Russells, and more. Eventually, most countries’ kennel clubs settled on the names Fox Terrier, Parson Russell Terrier, and Jack Russell Terrier but it wasn’t easy, and disputes are ongoing.
Many have wondered why the American Kennel Club (AKC) uses the name ‘Russell Terrier’ when most of the rest of the world calls the same breed a Jack Russell Terrier (JRT). This is especially odd when one considers that the largest JRT club in the world in the 80s/90s (and perhaps still to this day) is in the USA and it is a club that uses the term Jack Russell Terrier. The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (formed in 1976). This club (JRTC-Am) named themselves following the suit of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Great Britain (JRTC-GB), which had formed just two years earlier in 1974. But these were not the first JRT clubs. The Jack Russell Terrier Club of Australia (JRTC-Austr) predated both Britain and the USA by forming their club in 1972. So, why didn’t kennel clubs in all countries end up with the term Jack Russell Terrier?
Some will say that it was a simple copyright violation in the USA as to the reason that the AKC did not use the name JRT, but it is far more complicated. At one time, the AKC did have a breed called the JRT, but it became the Parson Jack Russell Terrier and later the Parson Russell Terrier. Other clubs in the USA still call them all Jack Russell Terriers, as does much of the public. Confusing? Most certainly!
Another interesting question is how it is that the two countries in the world in which mounted foxhunting (a sporting chase on horseback) was most practiced and for which small terriers were used for such, were the last two countries to have kennel clubs recognize the JRT? The AKC did not officially recognize the Russell Terrier until 2012 and the U.K. (now, the Royal Kennel Club) did not recognize it until 2016. In contrast, 98 other countries (FCI members) had accepted the JRT almost a decade prior.
This article, which is a compilation of published historical information the U.K., Australia, and USA, hopes to answer these questions and more, and explain the complicated, convoluted, and controversial history of the ‘Jack’ Russell.
NOTE: Credit for much of what appears below goes to a variety of sources. As editor, I simply compiled and combined articles from authors who have experienced, studied, and written about, the history of our breed. I felt this article was needed because none of the previous publications had combined the history of all three countries that have been most instrumental in the history of our breed, and because much of the historical writings are not readily available or easily accessible. Some writings appeared in club newsletters or club history pages online or in anniversary publications; some in online blogs; some in court records, old newspaper clippings, or obituaries; and some as information sent to me in private messaging. Books were also used but to a lesser extent. I have collected these historical notes, bits, and pieces, over the past 15 years to try and understand the details of our breed’s origins. Not everything sent to me, or which I located, came with a listed author. So, I apologize if I miss some acknowledgements. Many of the authors have passed on and so it was impossible to ask for their permission. In order to not misrepresent what they said or wrote or meant, I used much of the material nearly verbatim, simply editing it enough to interweave it with similar information from others to try and stay as factual as possible to tell the WHOLE story. Various contradictions were found between how authors in different countries, or those associated with competing clubs, perceived, or recalled the history. I did my best to represent all ‘sides’, and I did further research to resolve contradictions.
Michael Worboys provides a very detailed and well referenced work on the development of fox-working terriers in ‘Inventing Dog Breeds: Jack Russell Terriers’ at https://humanimalia.org/article/view/9524. With this article, I hope to add more of the recent Australian and American history.
Any errors found should be blamed on me; let me know, and I will make the corrections.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS in no particular order: Dr. Julie Tilbrook, Fran Kinnear, Marnie Thornton, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Australia, the New South Wales Jack Russell Terrier Club, Patrick Burns of The Terrierman, Avril & Michael Black, JoAnn Stoll, the American Russell Terrier Club, Cindy Cooke, the United Kennel Club, the American Kennel Club, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America, the English Jack Russell Terrier Club Alliance, Geoff Corish, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of the U.K., the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Great Britain, Michael Worboys, Narelle Hammond, Rawdon B. Lee, David Bruning, the Terrier Club of Devon and Cornwall, the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America, the Parson Russell Terrier Club of the U.K., and most importantly, the WORKING TERRIER HISTORY Facebook group for many photos and Working Terrier History website for articles (https://workingterrierhistory.com/)
Most dog folk have heard that the breeds Jack Russell Terrier, Russell Terrier, and Parson Russell Terrier were named after a fox sporting-huntsman and parson in Great Britain (Devon, England) by the name of Reverend John Russell. Though Reverend Russell primarily used Fox Terriers with his Hounds, he became enamored with a smaller female terrier named “Trump”. According to the memoirs of Reverend Russell, written by Reverend Edward Davies, “Trump was such an animal as Russell had only seen in his dreams”. Said to be built like a vixen (fox), but the color was “white with a patch of dark tan over each eye and ear while a similar dot, not larger than a penny piece, marks the root of the tail. The coat, which is thick, close, and a trifle wiry, is well-calculated to protect the body from wet and cold but has no affinity with the long rough jacket of the Scotch Terrier. The legs are straight as arrows, the feet perfect, the loins and whole frame are indicative of hardiness and endurance.”
So, was Trump the foundation dog for our breed and why we have the JACK RUSSELL/RUSSELL TERRIER name-- named after John (Jack) Russell? Not exactly. An objective review of the convoluted history shows that there may not have been any ancestry line continuing down from this female named Trump, not one that can be proven in any case, and that the ‘style’ of this terrier named Trump was a better fit to the current day PARSON RUSSELL TERRIER than to our kennel club recognized JRT/Russell Terrier. Thus, where did our JRT/Russell originate? Yes, it was in England as with most terrier breeds, but it may have had no direct line down from Trump or the Reverend Russell’s stock.
There are several things that most texts agree on about Reverend John Russell.
He was a student at Exeter College in Oxford and out for a stroll one afternoon when he came across a milkman with a terrier called Trump that John Russell insisted he must have.
He was primarily a houndsman who hunted on horseback and was a sporting huntsman rather than a digging terrierman.
He was a terrible record keeper and dogs would come and go from his kennel frequently with no record of pedigrees.
One of his fox-working terriers was a foundation dog for the breed that became the Wire Fox Terrier.
As the larger show version of the Fox Terrier took off, he stuck with his smaller working version--better to enter the fox dens. His were also baying terriers rather than killing terriers.
The account of Trump is disputed, even the year in which she was acquired (1815 vs 1819). It is said that John Russell bought Trump from a milkman whom he happened to be passing by while he was still a young man at Exeter College, Oxford. If so, it’s clear that the dog was not bought because it was a keen hunter; it was bought on the basis of looks alone. Apparently, this rather cavalier acquisition of dogs was a habit with John Russell. There is no evidence that he bred a “pure line” of dogs. He acquired and turned over numerous fox hound packs, and it is likely his terriers were acquired and passed on similarly, because John Russell was more of a houndsman than a terrierman. White-foxing terriers were not all rare by that time and so Trump was not the first. Then, there is the assertion of Trump being “14 inches tall and weighing 14 pounds”. It was conjecture by someone who had never met John Russell and had never seen any of his dogs. He had only seen a painting of Trump, which had been created more than 40 years after the dog had died and had been painted by someone who had never seen the dog. John Russell said the painting was “a good likeness” but he may have been trying to be polite since the painting was commissioned by the then Prince of Wales, who had the painting done as an homage to the old man who had been a friend.
To explain more, it is best to start at the beginning. We need to go back to the beginning of the history of ‘fox-working’ terriers.
In 1667, Nicholas Fox in ‘The Gentleman’s Recreation’ suggested that the Working Terrier type was fixed to two general kinds, one having shaggy coats and straight limbs, the other smooth coats and bent legs. All were said to be black and tan in color. When fox hunting became popular in England in the late 17th century, a dog was needed that could go-to-ground and bolt the quarry. Terriers were ideal for this except that most of the early terriers were dark in color and many were short on leg (e.g., the ‘Scotch’’ Terrier) and so unable to run with a pack of hounds.
Scotch Terriers, the precursor to Scottish Terriers
Thus, the development of a longer-legged, white-spotted terrier---white, so as to not to be mistaken for a fox-- began. Due to the popularity of badger baiting (different from badger digging), terriers were sometimes crossed with bulldogs to give added courage and ferocity. One result was that most terriers in the beginning were smooth coated. One of the first records of a fox-working breed was a white, smooth-coated terrier, named ‘Pitch’ who was believed to have been developed from the Old English White Terrier (now extinct), the smooth-coated Black and Tan terriers of England, the Old English Bull Terriers, Greyhounds, and Beagles.
'Pitch' (1790) by Sawrey Gilpin. Painted three decades before John Russell acquired Trump, proves that white-spotted terriers existed earlier than Trump.
During the next 70 years, huntsmen worked on developing their ideal fox-working terrier. They varied in shape, color, and coat because they were bred to suit local geographies, styles of hunting, and the preferences of the Masters of the hunts. Reverend John Russell was one of these huntsmen figuring out what his preferred working terrier would be.
There was no uniform type of terrier used for hunting in the 1800s. They were just "working terriers". Photographs of terriers from the 19th century provide evidence about the variety used to bolt the fox. The color, structure of hair, and size varied.
Fox Terriers were not mentioned as a distinct type of terrier (not a breed yet) in dog books until 1859. This is when cynology was on the rise and nonhunters also began to take interest in fox terriers. These ‘dogmen’ almost didn’t take a terrier’s hunting skills into account; what was important to them was the ‘look’.
As the huntsmen continued to develop the Fox Terrier, they formed a club (1875), and the Reverend John Russell was one of its founding members. However, the variety of types around the country made it difficult to gain agreement on a national breed standard based on any one type. So, instead, the Club in 1876 drew up a breed standard describing what they hoped the Fox Terrier breed would become, and by the turn of the 19th century, the Fox Terrier was altering towards that ‘hoped-for’ type and was recognizable by modern-day standards as Fox Terriers.
Carlisle Tack in 1883
19th century variety of working terriers
But, for work under the ground, these show-type Fox Terriers were getting too big.
To the rescue came Reverend John Russell. As the ‘show-type’ Fox Terrier was evolving, the old type of foxing terrier remained, mostly in the more remote areas of the country. The Reverend’s fox-working strains were much smaller than the show-type Fox Terriers and remained working terriers. So, even though Rev John Russell’s strains of Fox Terriers were integral in the development of the modern-day Wire Fox Terrier, his personal preference for work was a smaller version.
Reverend John Russell was referred to as the Sporting Parson. He abhorred the bull terrier crosses used by many of the digging terriermen hired to kill vermin on farms.
For a sporting hunt, hounds are used to locate, track, and pursue a fox with loud baying sounds. Houndsmen follow on horseback. When a fox ducks into a burrow, neither hounds nor hunters can reach it. This is the moment when terriers are brought in and sent in to confront the fox in its hole. They bay (bark) and worry (irritate) the fox enough that it leaves the safety of its burrow, allowing the chase to continue. It is important that a terrier not kill the fox because that would be the end of the hunt and of the sporting chase.
Foxhunting in the southern part of Great Britain was comprised primarily of mounted hunts riding over the fields of the countryside. Terriers working these hunts were required to be baying terriers. Reverend John Russell demanded that his terriers be "steady from riot", for the hunt ended if the fox did not bolt—if the fox was injured by the terrier.
In the south, "hard" terriers who tried to kill the fox underground were suspected of carrying undesirable bull terrier blood (hence the brindle disqualification inserted in the future standards). In the northwest of England near the Scottish border, foxhunts are not mounted and man and dog follow the fox on foot over rocky terrain. Northern terriers are often expected to be hard dogs who can latch onto their quarry and drag it from the earth as the rocks make it difficult to dig. In the north, hard Russell-type terriers were suspected of carrying Lakeland or fell terrier blood (hence the faulting in the future standard of a curly or kinky coat).
Northern territory hunts required a terrier to drag the fox from the rocks since digging was difficult.
Although Reverend Russell was one of the founders of the Kennel Club (U.K.) and stayed a member until his death, he did not register his personal terriers into the studbook of the Kennel Club. During 60 years of his breeding activity, he created a type of hard-working dog for hunting needs-- dogs that were able to chase out the fox faithfully from the lair, but not kill it. These dogs were smaller than the Fox Terriers. It is said that his dogs were “mostly short-haired but with a structure of a rough-haired puppy's hair”.
“John Russell was a legend for riding to hounds from the beginning of organized fox hunting straight through to the end of the Victorian era. Mainly a houndsman, he acquired dogs and made them as he could, and his life was such that he was not breeding a "pure strain" of terriers of any kind, but simply selecting small white foxing terriers (already a type) as he found them.” The Terrierman
The Sporting Parson was primarily a Houndsman. Terriermen mostly referred to those hired by farmers to rid the farm of vermin—the terrier-and-spade men. The Parson had many land disputes with these terriermen who dispatched of the foxes in their dens, preventing him from having any fun with a chase. Also, the Parson felt that they were killing too many fox and that there would be none left to chase on horseback.
Reverend John Russell was not always a fan of the terrier-and-spade men depicted here.
In 1894, Rawdon Lee published a book devoted to terriers, and he presented the smooth and rough coat fox terriers as distinct breeds. They each got their own chapter. He mentioned Rev Russell’s dogs, which were included as rough-haired Fox Terriers, as “one amongst many strains and one of the best”. However, because of Russell’s attitude toward pedigrees, Lee noted that “we look in vain for many remnants of the strain in the Stud Books”. Lee included another chapter titled “Other Terriers”, with some shorter-legged types.
1887. The Fox Terriers, Smooth and Rough.
In: The Dogs of the British Islands, the description stated that the Fox Terrier breed had developed from a “group of terriers of no definite breed”, especially “from the strains used with foxhounds by Mr. Radclyffe and the Rev. J Russell in the West of England, some of which were rough and others smooth.”
This photo, included in the “Other Terriers” chapter of Lee’s 1894 book shows a heavier style of rough-coated Fox Terrier. (Not Sealys)
When Reverend John Russell died in 1893, Arthur Blake Heinemann began the Devon and Somerset Badger Club. Arthur Heinemann and the Reverend John Russell generally hunted different quarry. Heinemann was mainly interested in badger, and John Russell in fox. While John Russell was a horseman out for the fun of the chase, Heinemann was a terrier-and-spade enthusiast. Heinemann, like Reverend John Russell before him, moved a lot of dogs through his kennels, making the tracking of pedigrees or lines difficult. Heinemann was one of the few terrier breeders that worked his terriers to fox, otter, and badger, although, during his time he claimed most of the Fox was planted for the mounted hunts in his area, so he preferred Otter hunting claiming it to be better sport. However, Heinemann is credited with drawing up a breed standard that seemingly matched the late Reverend Russell’s preferences in a fox-working terrier.
Heinemann’s Devon and Somerset Badger Club drafted a vague breed standard for a working terrier in 1894 that stated “the terrier must present a gay, lively appearance. Bone and strength in small compass are essential, but not cloddy or course. Speed and endurance must be apparent. Not too short or long in the leg. Fourteen inches at the withers ideal for a dog, thirteen for a bitch. Weight when in working condition about fourteen pounds but a pound more or less entirely acceptable. Conformation that of an adult vixen.”
Arthur Heinemann with a badger. Interestingly, he had been born in the USA, but he moved with his family to Britain shortly thereafter.
In 1904, a more formal version of a standard was drafted.
Heinemann with Devonshire Terriers that later were called Porlock Terriers and then Parson Jack Russell Terriers. Heinemann primarily hunted on badger and otter. 1909
Heinemann’s role in the history of Jack Russell Terriers is disputed. To some, he was the person who preserved and protected “the genuine Jack Russell Terrier,” but others argued that Heinemann’s attitude towards terriers and to the work expected of them were very different from that of Rev John Russell’s. Heinemann promoted badger digging, not fox chasing. Claims that Heinemann’s dogs were based on four terriers bequeathed to him by the Parson are questionable since when Reverend John Russell died at 87 years of age, he had only one or two pet dogs, having given up hunting and his kennel some time previously. In addition, Heinemann was only 11 years old at the time Reverend John Russell died.
Terriers owned by Nicholas Snow of Oare were possible direct descendants of John Russell’s original dogs, because the Reverend likely would have hunted at some point with Snow’s hunting club and so he probably provided or exchanged some terriers. Perhaps then, Heinemann acquired some of Reverend John Russell’s ‘lines’ from Snow. Heinemann claimed in a court case over the death of one of his puppies that it was a ‘pedigreed Parson Jack Russell’, which he had obtained from Nicholas Snow, Master of Exmoor Foxhounds. He said that he was not the ‘originator’ of the breed---that the late Reverend John Russell was, but that he knew of no other breeder in the country that was breeding this stock from the late Reverend. The judge asked if the dog’s pedigree was entered into the Kennel Club (U.K.) and Heinemann answered “no, because these terriers are bred for working and not for show”.
“Nicholas Snow, a friend of the Parson Jack Russell hunted with a pack known as The Stars of the West. In 1889 the Hon J.L. Bathurst, took over the hounds and they were renamed the Exmoor Foxhounds. Arthur Heinemann, another friend of Nicholas Snow, would further the Terriers by working them with the pack and at one time call them Porlock Terriers after his Village just down the road from Oare Manor. Here are the Exmoor Foxhounds in Porlock in 1910. The Terrier on the right seems to be one the Parson would approve of, good in leg and coat to run with the hounds.” From Working Terrier History.
The name of the Devon and Somerset Badger club founded by Heinemann was changed to the Parson Jack Russell Terrier Club in 1914 and was registered at the Kennel Club (U.K.) as an affiliate of the Fox Terrier Club, not as a separate breed club. In an attempt to bring working terriers back into the show ring, Heinemann was asked to judge classes for working terriers at Crufts. The classes continued for several years by various judges, but Charles Cruft later dropped the attempt because the classes were never popular.
1909 photo of Arthur Heinemann’s Devonshire strain of fox-working terriers "Porlock Terriers", which would later become Parson Jack Russell Terriers.
At the onset of the 20th century, John (Jack) Russell’s name became associated with many different types of terriers. While the divide between the show and working Fox Terriers continued to grow larger, a split was happening between those that used other types of hunt terriers, all carrying Jack Russell’s name. All were smaller than either the show-type or the working type of Fox Terrier; all were white-spotted; and all had a terrier prey drive. But the sizes, shapes, ancestry, and what they were used for varied.
Badger digging proved to require a different type of dog than did fox hunting, therefore, it’s likely that English Bull Terrier stock was brought in to enforce the breed in some packs. Bully blood also may have been introduced into those JRTs being used in the Rat pits in Ireland. It was a blood sport that involved releasing captured rats in an enclosed space with spectators betting on how long it took the terrier to kill the rats.
Rat pits. A gambling sport.
Excerpt from 1907 Badger digging by Arthur Heinemann
“One might possess a hundred terriers and not know their worth were it not for badger-digging, which demands not only pluck on the terrier’s part, but also the quality of threading the intricate maze…of underground talliers in search of quarry, and many a terrier will scamper through an earth and reaper [and emerge with a smug face] having failed to locate his quarry, who is lying in some butt-hole or cul de sac, or on some shelf of ledge above his head.”
“…once located, you want the terrier who possesses the doggedness enough to lay up on him, baying every second when fronting the foe-hard words-to tell you where to dig, and giving him when he turns hard blows…to prevent his digging on or burying himself before…the shovel shall have reached the scene of the conflict.” http://workingterrierhistory.com/Articles/
Mr. L. Rose, Master of the Essex Otterhounds. He bought the Essex hounds from Heinemann in 1903 and continued to use some of Heinemann's terriers as well.
Major Winter Master of Cheriton Otter hounds in 1900 with Crib. A good friend of Arthur Heinemann would in just a couple years buy the pack before it was dispersed due to lack of funds.
By the early 1900s, the show-type fox terrier had a distinct appearance, whereas the smaller 'hunt' terriers had not yet differentiated into what would eventually become the Parsons, Sealyhams, and Russells.
1909: The last Fox terrier to show and win best of breed at Crufts that was also worked on both Fox and Badger.
1909: Captain Huth's terriers at a badger dig
Sealyham crosses with JRTs were part of some packs, mostly with those who hunted rats and rabbits on foot. Captain Jocelyn Lucas’ mixed packs were probably the best known of the working Sealy/Russell packs.
The working Sealy and the loosely named JRTs in England looked similar and probably overlapped and intertwined during this time as ‘Working Sealyham/Russell types”.
The late Capt. Edwards of Sealyham frequently crossed his terriers with those of Reverend Jack Russell. He said “Some day I hope a small short-legged terrier will be considered the right type, and not the present leggy, narrow dogs, which appear, to me unsuited for going to ground”.
The dogs shown here are “Captain Jocelyn Lucas’ mixed pack of Sealyhams and Jack Russell Terriers.”
Lucas’ mixed pack of Sealyhams, ‘Jack Russell’ terriers, and Beagles preparing for a rabbit hunt.
WWI in Australia
During WWI, various versions of what were referred to as Jack Russell Terriers were used in the trenches of the battlefield to rid them of rats.
Following the death of Arthur Heinemann in 1930, the Parson Jack Russell Terrier Club continued under the leadership of Mrs. Anne Harris who had been his kennel maid. The Club tried to organize the remaining few dogs, whether or not they actually carried the Parson’s blood, into a type described as the original Parson type - 14 inches height, 14 pounds weight and adhering to the famous “ one to one” standard - this being one pound in weight for each one inch in height at the withers. Some say that they were almost exclusively broken or rough coats, which seems odd since smooths and brokens predominated in the Parson’s kennel. They were nearly all white and all were, compulsorily, den workers with hounds. This club folded just before the Second World War.
The remnants of the club and those of other surviving Heinemann lines (impossible to verify whether any descended directly from the Rev Russells’ dogs) became disseminated throughout the U.K.. They were either owned privately and singly by members of a hunting club or owned by kennels maintained either by the Master of Foxhounds or a terrierman of the Hunt concerned. The dogs were considered “pure breed” in terms of working functions. Genetically, they had been selected for genes contributing to working/hunting abilities, even if not for form or pedigree.
The best had been bred to the best ‘workwise’. Non-performers in the progeny were culled. The result was a dog that was genetically standardized for work, but not necessarily standardized for conformation. Where the environmental pressure on the working dogs was identical (i.e., hunted in the same type of terrain), then conformation and type rapidly became standardized in parallel.
But since each hunt club had its own geographic territory with its own terrain, dog packs developed differently, based on need. Some packs were too isolated to easily exchange genetic material with other packs, and so the dogs’ appearances could vary greatly. With the various terrains encountered by each Hunt Club, there was likely some judicious crossbreeding within each Hunt Club to other Hunting Terriers of a type most suitable for that terrain. So, these dogs were standardized genetically, but it was the working genes that were genotypically similar and the conformational genes that were dissimilar. This resulted in a widely varying type from region to region, but with remarkably identical den skills. These terriers, of various shapes and sizes, also made their way to other parts of Europe, Australia, and North America.
Fox hunting for sport was almost as popular in America as it was in England. The Gloucester Fox Hunting Club was formed in Philadelphia on October 29, 1766. George Washington, America’s first President had been an avid fox hunter and even bred his own foxhounds. Numerous Hunt Clubs formed during the next 200+ years, many in Virginia Hunt Country where Jacqueline Kennedy regularly rode with Orange County Hounds.
American Hunt club members and socialites involved in equestrian activities enjoyed trips to England to guest hunt--meeting their contemporaries across the pond while experiencing the different hunting territories/ geographies, or to just socialize. Terriers were gifted to the American Hunt Clubs, to be employed as working terriers in hunt fields in the eastern USA. Red and grey fox were the quarry.
Not all the terriers brought home from England ended up with the hunt packs. Many of the American visitors returned home with terrier puppies that they had fallen in love with during their stay with their new hunting friends in England, Ireland, or Scotland. These ‘Jacks’ grew up as companions in the horse barns, assisting in rat disposal, while also becoming family house pets. Invariably, they were bred to provide friends and family with their own little “English Jack Russell”. The popularity of the shorter legged ones grew since they were so different from the more familiar Wire Fox Terriers at the time. So, both types of ‘Jacks’ (Heinemann style and a shorter, longer-backed version) flourished in America, with the name “Jack Russell Terrier” not being used to describe a breed of dog but used as a common name for any predominantly white, earth-working terrier.
USA 1925. Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ grandmother Maude Bouvier, her mother "Grandma Precious," Phelan, Jr., and Little Edie Beale with a JRT puppy at the Maidstone Club.
The Masters of Foxhounds Association of North America, formed in 1907 as the governing body of organized mounted hunting with hounds in the United States and Canada, currently recognizes 135 member hunts.
At some point (unable to verify exactly when), Hunts in Britain employed ‘Hunt Runners’ who were terriermen who either carried the dogs in bags or kept them on leash while running on foot with the hounds! Smarter ones (!) rode a horse or bicycle and eventually a motorcycle, while carrying the terrier to the settee. In these cases, smaller might have been preferred.
Excerpt from 1910 The Terrierman and his Charges
by J. Fairfax Blakeborough
“The late Fred Holland, for so many years huntsman of the Bedale… once said that [a] good terrier were as important, in many countries, as good hounds, and knowledge of their breeding as essential a part of the huntsman’s duty. Holland used to have one terrier which could sit on the pommel of his saddle, with its forefeet on the horses wharrage, and cling as his road owner galloped and jumped fence after fence. The little dog, I verily believe, are really keener about the sport than foxhounds, which always seem to look so patronizing down upon them.” http://workingterrierhistory.com/Articles/
Note that they were called Hunt Terriers by most of the British Hunt Clubs.
Some hunts were on foot. In this case, terriers would walk with their masters until needed. It was important that they not get in the fray with the hounds, risking accidental injury.
Look closely and you can see a white terrier being carried across the water.
From Michael Worboys’ Inventing Dog Breeds:
During the 1950s and 1960s, JRTs continued to be bred as working dogs and continued to grow in popularity as pets. Stanley Dangerfield, the canine correspondent of the Daily Express, wrote regularly on JRTs and especially on why it was not a breed. He was a critic of the Kennel Club and he had soft spot for JRTs. He observed they had “charm but not papers,” and that they were “classless,” the “non-conformists” of the dog world. Indeed, they had become a “reverse status symbol”. (Note that at this time the Sealyham Terrier and the Wire Fox Terrier had become popular among the Hollywood ''elite''.) Dangerfield told his readers that JRTs were a variety or type, not a breed. He wrote “It has never been established what is the shape, size or colour of these dogs,” and that to achieve breed status, “it was up to fanciers to agree on a conformation, and breed consistently for several generations”.
Not all in Britain wanted the leggier style of JRT. Most outspoken was probably Miss M.S. Sixton (see newspaper clipping). In 1957, the advertisements of Miss Sixton's kennels seemed to be the start of a new era for the growing popularity of the Jack Russell terriers.
1957 “Miss Sixton admits that there is not a deal of likeness between the modern dog and the dog of Parson Russell’s day…In Parson Jack’s day, the terriers had to run with the hounds and the longer legs were obviously desirable, but today hunt terriers are almost invariably carried around by car until their services are required…In her opinion, short legs are essential if the dog is to work well and protect himself at the same time.”
Whiskey, the original stud dog for Miss M.S. Sixton’s Breach Farm kennels. 1960.
Similar to the USA, Australia likely had Jack Russells in the country long before their official introduction. The photo of the military officer during WWI shows that. In addition, near-white terriers, appearing similar to the English JRTs of the time, were found in photographs of a late 1800s mining town in South Australia. The official introduction of JRTs to Australia, however, did not begin until 1962 through imports into Victoria. These dogs eventually entered into the stud book through their descendants. Also, like the USA, dogs were interchanged between hunting and equestrian enthusiasts. Small, white-spotted terriers were gifted from various U.K. Hunt clubs to equestrians and friends visiting from Australia. The dogs were given as coveted gifts; they were not commercially sold or exchanged, and this was characteristic of the time. Pedigrees were not given, and to ask for such would have been in poor taste.
Different from what happened in the USA, however, is that Australia created a formal registration system for the JRTs, and this was the beginning of the documented JRT in Australia. Then, in 1972, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Australia (JRTCA-Austr) was formed.
Two years later in England, thirteen Jack Russell proponents met and formed the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Great Britain (JRTC-GB). With a new law banning badger digging, it was felt that many old Jack Russell lines would be lost if something were not done to organize.
This is when the disparate philosophies of working emphasis versus conformation emphasis arose among the JRT aficionados, similar to that which had occurred during the development of the Wire Fox Terrier. History was repeating itself with two strongly opinionated factions forming.
Australia chose the route of developing their imported ‘foundation dogs’ as a kennel club breed, leading the way by forming the JRTCA-Austr and immediately putting emphasis on pedigree, phenotype, and linebreeding to solidify breed type. They developed a registration system early on, which was superior to any of the registration systems later implemented elsewhere. Pioneers in Australia kept excellent records of pedigrees and puppies produced.
Imports into Australia during the late 60s to early 70s were known to be from the ‘right side of the track’, for they came from the Duke of Beaufort, Duchess of Bedford, and the Eastleigh and Cowdray Hunts in the U.K. The breed developed from former genuine Hunt Club imports.
Australia was the first country anywhere in the world to form a club dedicated to the JRT in post-war years. Virtually all JRTs in the club’s register descended from a defined group of genuine foundation dogs.
In contrast, America followed the path of the terriermen in Britain, breeding primarily for working traits, and forming the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTC-Amer) soon after the formation of the JRTC-GB. Neither the British nor American JRT clubs were associated with their respective all-breed Kennel Clubs, and neither had any intention of ever doing so. Their mantra was that the JRT was not a kennel club breed but rather a ‘type’ of fox-working terrier that could vary in size and proportion.
So, the different philosophies (breeding for function vs breeding for form) determined what each country (Australia vs America) did with their terrier gifts from Great Britain. Enthusiasts of each philosophy claimed they had ‘pure breeds’ and, in some sense, it was true since both found ways to concentrate genes and select for a common goal. One selected for hunting/working genes over what a dog looked like and the other selected for appearance with the belief that the traits they were selecting for would provide the necessary working abilities.
Despite Rev John Russell believing only working ability mattered, he was a founding member of the Kennel Club. Yet, he had no time for conformation dog shows and refused to register his own terriers. It is ironic that he is alleged to have been impressed by Trump’s ‘look’, seemingly taking her form as an indicator of function, implying that a dog’s appearance did have a role in its potential success for work.
The JRTC-Amer did not create a detailed breed standard. The JRTCA-Austr did. Size ranges for dogs in JRTC-Amer were kept broad, with the abilities of working dogs rewarded higher than their appearance. An open registry was maintained, with line breeding restricted. Registration for the club occurred at adulthood for Jack Russells, rather than at birth, to ensure the breed's qualities remained, given the open registry. This was in contrast to what was happening in Australia where records of the foundation dogs were created almost right from the beginning and line breeding from the defined group of British imports soon began to shape the breed.
1975 in Australia “…Some time ago Mrs. & Miss Prue Waddell…suggested we should devise our own Standard for Jacks. Soon after we found a new Jack Russell book in which it said a club in England had done just that...perhaps we could do the same as the English club & form our Standards based on theirs? It has been suggested we form a committee of any five members who could occasionally get together and keep closely in touch as to the type, pedigree etc...actually, I think it could be quite exciting to have our own standards and really make this a working club with Shows in various areas where we can meet and discuss our dogs...”
Australia proceeded in drawing up a breed standard in 1981, finalizing their standard for the Jack Russell Terrier in 1983. Though the standard was mostly based on the JRTC-GB draft that had come from Heinemann, the size and shape was more narrowly defined:
JRTCA-Austr: “For conformation purposes, the ideal height is 25.5 cm (10 inches) to 30.5 cm (12 inches). For working purposes, the height may range 23 cm to 34 cm (9-13 inches)… measuring slightly longer from the withers to tail.”
JRTC-GB: 14 inches at the withers ideal for a dog, 13 inches for a bitch. Eventually revised to “measuring between 10″ and 15″ at the withers. The body length must be in proportion to the height”.
At the time their breed standard was finalized, Australia had 3500 JRTs in the registry. Today, there are nearly 20,000 entries in the registry for JRTs in Australia.
Back in the U.K., the JRTC-GB and the South East Jack Russell Terrier Club (SE-JRTC) were having a dispute. The JRTC-GB promoted the broad range of sizes like JRTC-Amer, whereas the SE-JRTC set a minimum height for dogs at 33 cm (13 in). While the JRTC-GB sought to ensure that the breed's working ability remained by avoiding recognition with registries of other breeds, the SE-JRTC actively sought recognition with the U.K. Kennel club. Becoming aware of what was happening in Australia where a club was moving toward kennel club recognition of a narrowly defined type to be named a JRT, the SE-JRTC became deeply concerned that the type of terrier associated with the Reverend John Russell would become extinct or unrecognizable.
Thus, the SE-JRTC club reformed as the Parson Jack Russell Terrier Club (PJRTC)--Heinemann’s club that had folded right after WW II. The club adopted the Heinemann’s 1904 breed standard. Quite soon, the PJRTC made an application to the Kennel Club (U.K.) asking for recognition of the Reverend John Russell’s type of terrier, but they were turned down. Over the next few years, several applications were made to the Kennel Club by the PJRTC requesting recognition of the Parson Jack Russell Terrier. All failed.
Timeline for the nomenclature of the Parson Russell Terrier
The General Committee of the Kennel Club (U.K.) finally agreed to recognize the Parson Jack Russell Terrier on January 9, 1990, as a “variant of the Fox Terrier”, saying that “the terriers should continue to be similar in size and appearance to the strain of foxing terriers bred by Reverend John Russell.” Size was ideally to conform to the 14/14 ideal of 14 inches in height, 14 pounds in weight.
Approval of a breed called the Parson Jack Russell Terrier in Britain had been very controversial. Bert Gripton, who had been “sixty years a breeder,” claimed that “All the fuss over the recognition of the Jack Russell terrier is a sheer waste of time. There are a dozen different types of the breed,” and that reference to a “true type” was “sales talk and guesswork”.
Bert Gripton, considered the best digging terrierman of the 20th century, used a type of Hunt Terrier that he advertised as Jack Russell Terriers to hunt fox, otter, and badger.
The then-Prince Charles, Prince of Wales greets his Jack Russell dog Tigga during a polo match at Windsor Great Park on June 01, 1979, in Windsor, England. Getty Images. The modern-day Royal family seems to prefer the shorter, heavier style of JRT, even though the previous Prince and Princess of Wales (Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) had a friendship with Reverend John Russell. The Reverend had met them in 1865 and visited them several times at Sandringham. It is unknown whether Edward and Alexandra had any JRTs more representative of the Reverend’s preferred type.
A year after the Parson Jack Russell was approved as a breed in Britain, the United Kennel Club (U.K.C) in the USA also recognized it, using the same name, Parson Jack Russell Terrier, and with the same standard set forth in Britain for the “variant of the Fox Terrier”.
The American Kennel Club, however, did not recognize the Parson Jack Russell at that time.
Meanwhile the New South Wales JRT club in Australia had been preparing for a few years for their submission to the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) for recognition of their JRT standard. Some argued for the Australian-developed Jack to be called the Australian Jack Russell Terrier. It was thought that the KC (U.K.) might recognize the Jack Russell Terrier if there was a name change to the Australian Jack Russell Terrier, but the club stuck with the name Jack Russell Terrier. The NSW Jack Russell Terrier Club prepared an extensive submission. It was not until this evidence was laid out comprising shared common ancestry and 10-generation pedigrees did those in the KC (U.K.) realize that the Jack Russell Terrier was a real breed and not a "Dwarf Hunt Terrier” of impure blood. No one had seemed to understand that this was a British Breed developed in Australia from English imports. In any case, the Australian-developed Jack Russell Terrier was approved as a new breed by the ANKC in 1991. The Federation Cynlogique International (FCI) then recognized the Jack Russell Terrier as a breed in 2001, with the Australian Standard.
In the USA at this time, neither Britain’s Parson Jack (12-15”) or Australia’s JRT (10-12” had made it into the American Kennel Club; the former was in the United Kennel Club only. So the Jack Russell Terrier, in any form, was not a breed recognized by the AKC, the well-known umbrella registry for almost all types of pure-bred dogs in the United States. Consequently, there was no AKC registry of breeders or an AKC-breed certification by which potential owners could verify the authenticity of prospective dogs. Aiming to remedy this omission, in 1991 a minority group of JRTC-Amer members asked the AKC to recognize the Jack Russell Terrier as an official breed. They formed a "foundation stock" of dogs to stand as a base for an AKC dog registry. The AKC accepted the Jack Russell Terrier as an official AKC-certified breed in 1998, but guess what? It was not the dog named a Jack Russell Terrier in Australia; it was the dog named a Parson Jack Russell Terrier in Britain. Why? It was because the request to AKC came from a faction of the JRTC-Amer, which used the name Jack Russell Terrier.
A faction in Britain also broke away from JRTC-GB but for a different reason. In 1994, many members of the south and west regions of the JRTC-GB met at a special meeting to discuss how several prominent members of the JRTC-GB and the JRTC-Amer had been crossing their Jacks with “white Lakelands” and Fell blood since the 1980s. An uproar ensued. It was felt that if the original ‘undiluted’ breed was to be preserved, the people of the south and west of England, considered ‘the traditional heartland of the breed’, should establish their own club to safeguard the remaining ‘pure’ bloodlines that were left.
A terrier called a ‘white Lakeland’ was a white-bodied Fell type terrier introduced into some JRTC-Amer/JRTC-GB dogs at a time when members wanted to add more bone and a stronger temperament. This was the impetus for a split in the JRTC-GB with the formation of the BJRTC.
Eighty-four people immediately joined this club and a committee was formed that same evening. The club was named the British Jack Russell Terrier Club (BJRTC). The well-known Eddie Chapman was a founder. This club was of the faction that believed in function over form just like the club that they were leaving and so they still had no interest in Kennel Club recognition.
In 1995/1996, a club in the USA calling themselves the English Jack Russell Terrier Club began to exclusively register the 10” to 12” Jack Russell Terrier and maintain it separately from the JRTC-Amer’s diverse-sized working dogs. Most of the initial registrants were “puddins” (per JoAnn Stoll).
First dog registered in EJRTC (ARTC)
Their ancestors had come from the U.K. many years prior and had been bred in the US by a half dozen different kennels from the late 50s.
So, at that time in the USA, there was a 10- to 12-inch JRT (EJRTC), a 10- to 15-inch JRT (JRTC-Amer), and a 12- to 15-inch JRT (AKC) along with a 12- to 15-inch Parson JRT in the United Kennel Club and, soon to be, a 10- to 12-inch Russell also. Let’s not even get into the National Kennel Club, another USA all-breed club!
On August 1st, 1999, following several requests made by the PJRT Club on behalf of the membership, the Kennel Club (U.K.) finally agreed to change the name of the KC breed to Parson Russell Terrier, removing the word ‘Jack’. Two significant events then happened in 2001. First, the FCI agreed to accept the Parson Russell Terrier. Second, the United Kennel Club in the USA, which already had the Parson Jack Russell Terrier (1991), agreed to add the 10- to 12-inch dog from the English Jack Russell Terrier Club to its roster of breeds, and it would be called a "Russell Terrier" to maintain its separation from the JRTC-Amer JRTs.
The dispute between the form vs function groups ended up in court at one time. JRTC-Amer members who decided to register their over 12-inch JRTs with the American Kennel Club had their JRTCA membership terminated, and they were not permitted to participate in JRTC-Amer dog shows. They sued for restriction of trade.
In 2003, the AKC renamed their 12- to 15-inch Jack Russell Terrier to Parson Russell Terrier to match the FCI and to differentiate the true Parson-type terrier from little generic terriers casually being referred to as "Jack Russells". The Jack Russell Terrier Association of America Club name was changed to Parson Russell Terrier Association of America (PRTAA). The UKC did not revise the name of Parson Jack Russell to Parson Russell until 2008, but just a year later, the UKC changed the Russell Terrier name to Jack Russell Terrier to align with the rest of the world (except for AKC). Whew!
The American Rare Breed Association recognized the “Russell Terrier” in 2003, with the old U.K.C standard originally written by the U.K.C. This standard was based on the same standard written by Australia and also used in Ireland.
The FCI Jack Russell Terrier was accepted into the AKC Foundation Stock Service as the “Russell Terrier” in December 2004. The application submitted by the American Russell Terrier Club used the FCI standard. The AKC accepted the Russell into its Foundation Stock Service, using that FCI standard. However, the AKC parent club for the Russell Terrier changed the breed standard in 2010 and introduced their own standard which is now different from the rest of the world and FCI.
The breed standard chosen by the parent club in the USA was disappointing to the international community. It had been hoped that the USA would accept the FCI and ANKC Standard for the Jack Russell Terrier even though it would be called a Russell Terrier. By doing so, it would have also matched the UKC standard. Although the height of 10 to 12 inches matched the ANKC/FCI standard, several other aspects differed inexplicably.
The AKC had settled on Russell Terrier as the name to avoid confusion with the JRTC-Amer which used a different description and included terriers both under and over 12 inches. The JRTC-Amer was a huge club with its own events, including earthwork trials and conformation, where terriers would compete in ‘under vs over’ classes. The club remains very active today. The name Russell Terrier also was chosen presumably to indicate a more pure ancestry for them than the JRTC-Amer dogs that potentially had the addition of ‘white Lakeland’ blood.
Timeline for the development of the FCI Jack Russell Terrier/ Russell Terrier
Since FCI recognition, the Jack Russell Terrier has become one of the most popular breeds in the terrier group all over the world. Although everyone acknowledges that the country of origin of the Jack Russell Terrier is the U.K, Australia must be given credit for making this terrier into a Kennel Club breed.
Dog show fanciers in the U.K took notice of these little terriers being shown outside the U.K and they became smitten with their happy disposition and appealing look. A group of enthusiasts in the U.K. started to campaign for the Jack Russell Terrier to finally become a recognized breed in its homeland. It took a few years, much paperwork, and meetings with the Kennel Club (U.K.), but the JRT was officially recognized as a breed in England at the beginning of 2016.
Reverend John Russell, the Sporting Parson, can be credited as being instrumental in developing fox-working terriers, one of which became the Wire Fox Terrier breed. In addition, his preference for smaller terriers, like his favored Trump, led to the drafting of a breed standard by Arthur Heinemann, which became the template for the Parson Russell Terrier breed. It is unlikely, however, that any dogs alive today are descended from Trump, because the Reverend was forced to sell all of his dogs on more than one occasion due to financial difficulty. Any link of Reverend Russell to the current day FCI Jack Russell Terrier/Russell Terrier breed is questionable.
(Left) Smaller hunt terriers were preferred for terrier bags. (Center) Capt. Lucas with Sealys likely crossed with Jacks. (Right) Terrier Show in 1940 Ireland.
As the title of this article asks: What’s in a name? It turns out a lot in the case of our breed. The Fox Terrier, Parson Russell Terrier, hunt terrier, Sealyham Terrier, and the Jack Russell Terrier/Russell Terrier (Australian/FCI JRT) will forever be linked in ancestry, along with a host of other breeds and names also. But isn’t that what a dog breed is---an historical composition of selective breeding? Afterall, a pair of Jack Russell Terriers did not walk off the Ark. Many traditionalists will never accept the kennel club JRT, believing that once ‘dogmen’ of the show ring became involved, the original working attributes of a terrier became too diluted. One FCI country, France, continues to try and please both the function vs form factions by requiring JRTs to demonstrate acceptable working results on wild fox, badger, or nutria (previously also boar) in natural hunting (not artificial) environments before being issued a conformation title. In addition, France may be the only FCI country that does not separate the JRT and the Parson breeds fully. Crossbreeding is allowed with the assignment of the breed’s name at birth based on the mother’s breed, but with the possibility to change the breed starting at one year of age when the terrier’s height and proportions are confirmed by a French judge during a show or a special confirmation session (where the dog is ‘confirmed’ as to its assigned breed. Most breeders in France, however, appear to stick with one or the other and prefer not to crossbreed. It is quite evident in French Championship shows judged by non-FCI judges that the dogs usually placing high are different conformationally to the dogs winning in France at FCI shows. So, the function vs form philosophies continue to maintain a separation.
“What makes the controversies over JRTs particularly interesting is the sharpness and duration of the disputes over breed status…and the existence today of at least five versions. At its simplest, the clashes were over whether JRTs were to be defined by their function or their form. Were JRTs working dogs of variable appearance, bred and owned for their working abilities, or [were they] dogs of a specific, standard shape, size, color, coat, etc. — conformation”? M. Worboys
The traditionalist breeders both in Europe and the USA frequently call their dogs the “REAL Jack Russell Terrier’ or the ‘GENUINE Jack Russell Terrier’ as a not-so-subtle ‘jab’ at the kennel club breeders. That’s fine. The Reverend John Russell never wanted them to be a breed at all and so, perhaps, none should be named after him, not the kennel club terriers nor the exclusive hunting terriers. It is the NAME of Reverend (Parson) John (Jack) Russell that has caused so much controversy over the past 100 years and will likely continue to do so for some time to come.
The dispute over form vs function is ongoing, but it seems to be more about ego or pride now than anything real, with each faction unwilling to admit that the terriers bred by the other have value; perhaps, because each wants to “claim” the rights to John Russell’s name. Ironically, the Reverend never “named” his kennel stock with his name. To him, they were just working fox terriers to accompany his hounds.
The show JRTs, now a BREED, have proven that they can ‘work’ as well any when given the opportunity. The original purpose for many dog breeds no longer exists but good preservation breeders try to maintain the traits in the breed that were needed to accomplish the task and find alternative ways to demonstrate the dog’s instincts and abilities. How many people are hunting gazelles with dogs that are expected to run in the desert or over sandy scrub in hot climates? Few to none, but we can breed for a dog that has prey drive and athleticism and the feet to do the job while looking like the historical breed. Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks hunting lions? Are Dalmatians needed for coaching jobs? Bulldogs have been out of a job since 1835. Not much otter-hunting going on, but a dog with a weather-resistant coat that will go in the water and is biddable might still be appealing and find utility for modern sports, games, and pursuits.
So, although Jack Russell Terriers/ Russell Terriers may no longer be accompanying the hounds to bolt a fox for a chase, they have not lost their instinctual skills as working terriers, and many conformational champions enjoy their ‘off’ weekends competing in other events.
Queen Camilla showed her love for her own ‘rescued’ JRTs with her coronation gown. Getty Images; Design by Michael Stillwell
The Australian National Kennel Council’s Jack Russell Terrier, the FCI Jack Russell Terrier, the Royal Kennel Club’s Jack Russell Terrier, and the American and Canadian Kennel Clubs’ Russell Terriers are all the same dogs, developed as a BREED in Australia from terriers originating in England. From the early 60s on, pedigrees are well documented and no white Lakeland type blood or blood of other breeds have been mixed in with these terriers that formed the kennel club recognized BREED. Now, nearly 60 years after the first import into Australia, the breed can be said to be ‘purebred’. Despite the name of Jack Russell, this breed did not originate with Reverend John Russell’s female named Trump, not by way of any pedigrees that can be documented nor by matching her ‘look’.
Terriers that were shorter, both in overall height and in leg length, were the ones imported into Australia for development of the JRT BREED. In England, these shorter ones may have been favored for carrying in the terrier bags during the fastest sporting chase-hunts or used by the terrier-and-spade men hired to rid the farms of vermin. Sealy blood was likely mixed in on some of these small terriers, which is also discussed in the history of the Sealyham Terrier. Photos of what were called Working Russells/Sealys are common. It can’t be discounted that some bully blood also may have been introduced into hunt terriers of all sizes in the U.K., especially in those used on badger (as discussed by Heinemann) and those winning in the rat pits.
Reverend Russell did play a key role in the development of the early Wire Fox Terrier and the smaller working-fox terrier (13” to 14” light, leggy), the latter of which bears his name as the Kennel Club recognized Parson Russell Terrier. It was the breed standard drafted by badger-digger Arthur Heinemann and Heinemann’s dogs acquired from Nicholas Snow, which may have been from Reverend Russell’s stock, which formed today what is called a Parson Russell Terrier by the dog show enthusiasts and an ‘over’ JRT (meaning over 12 inches) by the working-terrier enthusiasts.
The JRT / Russell Terrier that we know as the kennel club approved BREED is not simply a smaller Parson. The two breeds were developed on different continents. And although the Australian-developed Russell Terrier bears the name of the vicar, his 'line', if he had one, and the terrier called TRUMP were not instrumental in its development.
What’s in a name? A whole lot of confusion in the case of the Jack Russell Terrier, it seems. But in the end, we all love our own dogs, no matter their name!