10 Energetic Facts About the Jack Russell Terrier

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It’s hard to keep up with this bold, lively dog. Learn more about the lovable terrier that charmed its way onto television and into our hearts.

1. There are a lot of variations. 

The Jack Russell terrier, Parson Russell terrier, and Russell terrier are actually three different breeds, despite sharing a common ancestry. These dogs were bred to hunt foxes and needed to be ferociously fierce and confident. The terrier’s job was to drive the prey out of its burrow for the hunters to catch. As a result, the dog is lean and small but packed with courage. 

The Jack Russell Terrier is smaller than the Parson but larger than the Russell Terrier. The Parson was bred from the JRT when hunters in hillier terrains decided they needed a dog with longer legs. As the breed split, the Jack Russell was then bred to be more of a companion dog that would keep watch and catch prey in barns. The Parson is more intense and hunt-focused, while the JRT knows when to relax. 

2. But they all come from one man (and one dog). 

John Russell (also known as the “Sporting Parson”) was a priest from Devon, England. He loved a good foxhunt and was always on the lookout for the perfect terrier to serve as his hunting companion. In 1819, he found just what he was looking for when he met his milkman’s dog, a British White Terrier named Trump. 

The little white dog had a thick wiry coat with tan spots on her eyes, ears, and nose. The spunky pup became the matriarch for the breed Russell went on to create. Although the records are murky as to what other dogs were used in the process, most believe it was a collection of white terriers (a type of dog that is now extinct). 

3. The JRT is not registered with the American Kennel Club.

The AKC originally recognized the breed in 2001, but changed the name to Parson Russell Terrier in 2003 after some pressure from the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America. The JRTCA wanted to preserve the integrity of the breed and keep its working class status. There was concern that the AKC standard would put emphasis on conformity instead of athletic ability. 

4. They can get some serious air. 

The JRT can leap five times its own height. That means a 12-inch-tall Jack can easily jump five feet in the air

5. Expressive faces make them perfect for television. 

There were more than 100 candidates for the role of Wishbone, a time-traveling canine literature expert on a children’s show of the same name. Despite the stiff competition, Soccer, a Jack Russell terrier, got the job. The little dog got his name thanks to the small dots on his ear resembling a soccer ball. He went on to star in more than 50 episodes of Wishbone and even a movie called Wishbone's Dog Days of the West

6. Even Kelsey Grammer was jealous of their charm. 

Anyone who watched Frasier will probably remember Eddie, the charming Jack Russell. The charismatic little dog was played by Moose, a JRT who also played Skip in My Dog Skip. Fans loved him so much that the canine got more fan mail than anyone else on the show. 

This widespread attention and admiration rubbed one Frasier actor the wrong way. Kelsey Grammer—possibly feeling upstaged—was annoyed that anyone would consider an animal a real actor, and at one point slammed his hand on a table exclaiming, “That’s it! He’s not an actor, he’s a dog!” 

7. Beware of their high energy. 

Jack Russell terriers need a lot of structured training early in life. The intelligent dogs tend to outsmart the average dog owner, so the breed is not for everyone. Regardless, no amount of training can get rid of the dog’s natural instinct to hunt. They love to run and need a lot of space to move around in. Despite being small, these dogs are not ideal for apartments or small homes.

8. Grab some sunscreen. 

Just because dogs have fur, doesn’t mean they are safe from the sun’s harmful rays. Even canines can get sun-burned, and Jack Russells are particularly sensitive due to their light colored coats. A thick slathering of sunscreen will protect your dog from sun damage. If your dog gets a little pink, there are specific kinds of aloe you can buy just for dogs. 

9. The breed has three different coats. 

Jack Russell terriers come in three different kinds of waterproof coats: smooth, rough, and broken. Smooth coats have short hair that clings closely to the body, rough coats have long hair, and broken coats have a mix of both. 

10. One has done a lot of travelling.

British explorers Ranulph and Ginny Fiennes travelled to the far ends of the Earth, often with their Jack Russell terrier, Bothy, in tow. In 1982, Bothy became the first dog to go to both the North and South Poles. The terrier had a plethora of experiences most little dogs could only dream of, including a run-in with Arctic wolves.