Jack Russell Terrier and text - History of the Jack Russell Terrier

LEARN – History of the Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russel Terriers are a strain or type of working terrier. Jack Russell Terriers are small but smart dogs and were created over 200 years ago for fox hunting. These dogs are mainly white-bodied. Their coats can be smooth or broken and of any colour. More often than not, the Jack Russell Terriers are confused with the Parson Russell Terrier and Russell Terrier variants. People often mix up these terriers with other small and brown coated terriers.

Even though the small build of Jack Russell Terriers often fooled people into believing that these are good house dogs, the truth is precisely the opposite. The highly energetic Jack Russell Terrier dogs require a high level of stimulation and energy to stay healthy and happy. These dynamic dogs do not suffer from many health issues as well.

In the 19th century, Reverend John Russell bred and used these dog breeds for hunting. That’s why the dog breed is named after him. These energetic dogs have a similar origin to the modern Fox terrier. Over the years, the Jack Russell Terriers, however, went through different changes to meet the different working requirements and to fulfil the standards of varying kennel clubs across the world. Jack Russell Terriers are known for making various appearances in television, films, and print. While these dogs are intelligent and affectionate, they can be a handful to manage.


Reverend John Russell first bred the small, energetic, and peppy working terriers that we love today. The origin of the Jack Russell Terriers can be traced to the now almost lost breed of English White Terrier. These dogs were mostly used for hunting foxes; the breeder needed to focus on the colour of the coat. It is the white colour of the dog that helped the owners differentiate it from the animals they pursued.


Jack Russell Terrier dog - 1819
History – 1819

This was the last year for Reverend Russell in Exeter College, Oxford. In this year, he bought a small tan and white terrier female dog from a local milkman. The name of the dog was Trump. Being a hunter himself, Reverend understood the necessity of the white coat of the terriers than anyone else. Trump was able to fulfil all his requirements.

During this time, any terrier that shooed foxes away from its burrows were called fox terriers. While describing Trump, Reverend Russell wrote that she was white with patches of tan over her eyes. A small patch in the size of a penny marked the root of the tail of Trump.

Davies, a friend of Reverend Russell, wrote that Trump was the kind of animal that Reverend has seen only in his dreams. She acted as the cornerstone of a breeding program that concentrated on creating terrier with high stamina, as well as courage, which is a necessary quality for hunting. Reverend Russell also focused on the physical form of the dog to ensure it can chase out the foxes that have taken refuge into their burrows.


Jack Russell Terrier dog - 1850-1883
History – 1850-1883

By this year, the Jack Russell Terriers were so popular that they got recognised as a distinct breed. One of the crucial characteristics of the Jack Russell Terriers is that they have just the right amount of aggressiveness, which is required to drive and pursue the fox.

However, these dogs are not overly aggressive and never inflict any physical harm to the fox, which is considered unsporting. It is said that Russell used to pride himself that about the fact that none of his terriers had ever tasted blood.

It is one of the reasons why the hunters liked the Jack Russell Terriers and often chose them as their partner. However, it is hard to find a Jack Russell Terrier today that is a direct descendent of Trump. The reason behind this is that John Russell had to sell all of his dogs for more than one occasion due to severe financial problems. When he died in 1883, he had only four aged and non-breeding terriers left.

While it is accepted that the Jack Russell Terriers and the Fox Terriers of today are the descendants of the dogs of this time, the documented pedigree was not found till 1862.

Between the 1860s and 1882, John Russel kept different documents of breeding. When the Fox Terrier Club was created in 1875, the breeding standards of the club were their aspiration. It was not the description of the breed as it appeared at that time.


Jack Russell Terrier dog - 1884-1900
History – 1884-1900

Following the death of John Russell, only two men made any serious effort to continue the breeding lines of the Jack Russell Terriers. One person, known as East, was situated in Chislehurst, and the other man, named Archer, lived in Cornwall. At one point East had several couples of Jack Russell Terriers, all of which were direct descendants of one of John Russell’s dogs. The type that he created was not as big as the show Fox Terriers and generally weighed less than 7 Kgs.

It was Arthus Blake Heinemann, who created the first breeding standard for Jack Russell Terriers. He also founded the Devon and Somerset Badger Club in 1894. This club aimed to promote the badger digging abilities of the dogs, rather than the fox hunting ones.

The breeding of the terriers suited the purpose of this club perfectly. For this purpose, terriers were acquired from the Nicholas Snow of Oare. It is said that Reverend Rusell used to hunt with the hunting club of Snow and provided some of the original hunting terriers of the club. By the end of the nineteenth century, the name of Reverend Russell was attached to the dog breed inseparably.


Jack Russell Terrier dog - 1901-1938
History – 1901-1938

By the beginning of this century, the fox terrier started to change their appearance and showed all signs to become the modern breed. However, in some parts of the world, the old style of John Russel’s terrier remained, and from one of those dogs, the modern Jack Russell Terriers descended.

During this time, the name of the Devon and Somerset Badger Club was changed into the Parson Jack Russell Terrier Club. There is no doubt that badger digging required some specific strengths in the dogs. Due to this reason, the bull Terrier stock was brought to bolster those characteristics in the Russell terriers. That created a shorter-legged version of the Jack Russell Terriers that started appearing during this period.

At the same time, there was a split between the show terriers and the working fox terriers. Another division started to appear during this period between two different types of white terriers. Both of these were carrying the name of Jack Russell. After Heinemann’s death, the reign of the club shifted to Annie Harris, but the club completely shut down shortly before the second world war.

Recommended Read: Does A Jack Russell Shed A Lot?


Jack Russell Terrier dog - 1945-1975
History – 1945-1975

After World War II, the requirement for hunting dogs decreased severely. With that, the number and popularity of the Jack Russell Terriers started dwindling. The dogs were started being used as companions and family dogs. Further crossbreeding took place with the Chihuahuas, Welsh Corgis and other smaller breeds of terrier. The crossbreed of these dogs was known as the pudding dogs or Russell Terriers.


Jack Russell Terrier dog - 1976-1990
History – 1976-1990

The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America was formed in this year by Alisa Crawford. She was one of the first Jack Russell Terrier breeders in the United States. The size range of these dogs was kept broad. The ability of the working dogs was more awarded than the qualities that the conformation shows require. The club started maintaining an open registry along with a very restricted line of breeding. Registration’s of the Jack Russell Terriers was made at the adulthood of the dogs, rather than at birth, this is to make sure that the qualities of the breed are meeting the standards set by the club.

In 1983, the Parson Jack Russell Club of Great Britain (PJRTCGB) was restored to seek the breed recognition of the UK Kennel Club. Even though the application for recognition was initially rejected, it was accepted later. A new standard for PJRTCGB was set following the standards of the South East Jack Russell Terrier Club. The name Jack was dropped from the breed, and it was renamed as the Parson Rusell terrier.


Jack Russell Terrier dog - 1991-1999
History – 1991-1999

During this time, American Kennel Club started contemplating the chance of acknowledging the Jack Russell Terrier. This move was resisted by the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America, as they did not want the breed to lose the working qualities.


Jack Russell Terrier dog - 2001
History – 2001

The members of the Jack Russell Terrier Breeder’s association petitioned the AKC, which granted the admission of the breed in 2001. The AKC recognised standards narrowed the previously recognised standards, and the name of the Jack Russell Terrier was also changed into Parson Russell Terrier.

The Australian National Kennel Council and the Newzealand Kennel Club are some of the international organisations that recognise both the Jack Russell Terriers and the Parson Russell Terriers.


The Jack Russell Terrier has been around now for over two hundred years. On this date 1st January 2016, The Jack Russell terrier was recognised by the Kennel Club(KC) as a pedigree breed.

No matter what the true origin story and the breed is, the Jack Russell Terriers are one of the most fearless and happy companions that you can get for yourself. If you lead a reasonably active life, then the Jack Russell Terriers can be your best companion. You have to give them at least one hour of exercise each day to provide the right outlet for all those extra energies.

Without this outlet, the Jack Russell Terriers can be restless and show destructive behaviour while indulging in hunting instincts. While sharing your life with a Jack Russell Terrier can be an incredible experience, you should remember that these dogs might get intolerant of children and become aggressive towards other household pets. If you understand the nature of the dog before adopting it, there is no doubt that you will be able to form an incredible friendship with the happy and energetic Jack Russell Terrier.


Hope you enjoyed learning about the history of the Jack Russell Terrier we certainly enjoyed researching, we owe thanks to Reverend John Russell for them, going back to 1819 he really did wonders with the breed.


Want to learn more about the Jack Russell Terrier Personality?

Sharing is a good thing to do!

Scroll to Top