Dog Breed: Jack Russell Terriers
Jack Russell Terriers are a small breed of Terrier originating from Great Britain. Modern day Jack Russell’s are characterized by two-tone or tri-color patterns of white, brown, and sometimes black. Modern day Jack Russell’s are also stocky, muscled, and usually have a very short legs.
The Jack Russell breed was originally named the Fox Terrier. The breed was renamed in the late 1800’s after the world renowned hunting enthusiast and breeder, Reverend John Russell. From 1830 to 1870 Russell carefully bred Fox Terriers to meet the needs of British hunters. The original breed was a larger, black and tan colored dog which was lanky and closely resembled their enemy, the fox. When a Fox Terrier would run into a burrow and chase a fox out, hunters would often mistake the dog for a fox if it came bounding out first. Many hunters accidentally shot their own dog. For this reason the Reverend began his own breeding program to breed the terriers with the British White Terrier in order to achieve new coloring patterns. These new patterns would set the breed apart from the foxes it hunted. This is where the coloring of the modern Jack Russell evolved from. Since the 1800’s the British White Terrier has gone extinct, but several Fox Terrier lines were created that were almost entirely white, and many of those bloodlines still exist to this day.
Over time the Jack Russell became nearly obsolete and the sport of fox hunting itself lost popularity, in many cases leaving the Jack Russell without a job or purpose. Twentieth century breeders saw potential in the Jack Russell as a pet breed and a welcome companion to mankind. Those breeders continued to experiment with Jack Russell breeding, altering the breed to make white the dominant color of most patterns as well as the short height and more muscular build. Several different lines or versions of the breed exist today. There are wire haired Jack Russell’s, smooth haired Jack Russell’s, Long-Legged Jack Russell’s, and various combinations of those as well. In fact the Long-Legged, wire haired Jack Russell has even been split off into its own breed, called the Parson Russell Terrier.
Because of their history Jack Russell’s are natural hunters, and known for surprising larger animals by being tougher than one would assume by their size. Jack Russell’s do not often respond well to larger dogs trying to dominate them. They are also known for being able to wander the bush and kill any animal that they are strong enough to drag home. Because of their instinct to chase down and attack small running animals many experts recommend that Jack Russell owners should not own any cats, as a Jack Russell will often mistake them for prey. In many cases if a Jack Russell is raised from an early puppy in a home with a dominant adult cat the Jack Russell will become accustomed to the cat, even playing with it and getting along well with other cats in general. However it is highly cautioned to never bring a cat into a home with an adult Jack Russell who is not accustomed to the creatures.
Jack Russell’s can be a handful. They are full of energy and love to run in the wilderness all day. They are best suited to a life with regular access to the outdoors, much like their ancestors. Jack Russell’s are natural swimmers and can often begin swimming at a very young age. Jack Russell’s have been given a bad reputation at times for being perceived as yappy or over excitable. Like any breed these characteristics are not consistent with every dog and are often determined by early training and environment, not the overall breed of the dog itself. Because of their short attention span Jack Russell’s do take a lot of work to train, more than many other breeds. If an owner is able to spend the time and keep up the consistency, they can often train their Jack Russell to display the traits that the owner desires. Jack Russell Terriers can be good with children if the children around them are taught to have the proper respect for the animal as well. A Jack Russell Terrier that is tormented or teased by young children, or even larger dogs, can soon become cross and aggressive. This may present a problem when socializing with other children and pets in the future.
In short, no pun intended, Jack Russell Terriers can be great pets as long as they are cared for by a responsible owner who can devote the time and attention the breed of dog needs. Owners who enjoy Jack Russell’s often become very attached and often regard them as children because of their unique and individual personalities. With Jack Russell’s living as long as into their late teens the breed can bring a dog lover many years of enjoyment and companionship.