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Parson Russell Terrier
A Very Quick And Clever Dog!

What does a Parson Russell Terrier have in common with a clergyman? The answer, just in case you don't know, is his name. Parson John Russell, of Devon, England, is credited with the development of this breed in the 1800s, as well as its name.

young jack russell terrier sitting outside in rural terrain

As the story goes, the Parson, who had a passion for the hunt, set out to create a dog with the physical characteristics and temperament best suited for the sporting ventures of the day. The details of his cross-breeding are not known, but it is speculated that the Bull Terrier and the Pocket Beagle were likely contributors to the outcome.

This breed was formerly known as the Jack Russell Terrier and many still refer to it by this name. But in 2003, the AKC, changed this to his present name at the request of the Jack Russell Terrier Association of America, who also changed the name of their association to PRTA of America, to coincide.

The Parson Russell Terrier was developed as an ideal dog to work with the hounds and horsemen on foxhunts: Long legs for keeping up with the hounds and a fearless demeanor for facing off with a fox.

His specific job, once the hounds had driven the fox underground, was to bolt the fox from the den using a repertoire of skills. He started by baying and barking, alerting the hunters to the location of the fox and then continued his vocal pursuit as he entered the den.

Fearlessly and expertly he would dig his way through the den to flush out the fox. To do this, he was bred to have a narrow flexible chest that would allow him to squeeze into the hole and move around without too much difficulty once inside.

Normally, all of this ruckus would flush out the fox, but if these heroic efforts failed, the terrier would be located by his barking and dug out of the hole, so that the hunt could continue.

parson russell terrier lying down outside in the grass and flowers

Personality and Traits:

The Parson Russell Terrier has an exuberant and playful personality. He is ready to join into any game or activity at a moment's notice and has impressive athletic skills. He retains stronger hunting traits than other terriers.

Property lines should be well secured to prevent burrowing or fence jumping

He is loyal to his master, courageous and most affectionate. Ever alert, no stranger will approach your door without being announced while he is on duty!

The Russell is very active - working is his game, and he will appreciate a steady stream of jobs to accomplish. This is not a dog to leave alone for long periods, unsupervised. He likes mental interaction and companionship.

Highly intelligent - with consistent training he can excel in agility, obedience, earth dog and tracking.

Housetraining works best if you don't give him free rein during the process. Being highly curious, he will investigate every nook and cranny under your roof and you may never find those accidental puddles!

Appearance and Coat Care

parson russell terrier side view standing in neutral background Height: 14 inches
Weight: 13-17 lbs
Color variations: Predominantly White, with tan or black markings.

Appearance-wise, the Parson Russell Terrier is a handsome dog that resembles the Wire Fox Terrier. His endearing good looks and trainability, have won him fame in the entertainment industry - remember Eddie in the Frasier sitcom?

The weatherproof double coat can be broken, rough or smooth. It is worn tightly to the body, giving a smooth appearance.

Regular brushing and combing is necessary for maintenance.

Show dogs have their coats routinely hand stripped for the best appearance.

Parson Russell Terrier Health

jack russell at the beach signed art print

The PRT is generally a healthy and robust dog with a life expectancy of up to fifteen years, with good care and regular veterinary check-ups.

Health disorders that may affect this breed include:
  • Eye disorders - lens luxation, an inherited disease and cataracts
  • Patella luxation
  • Deafness

However the following tests can be done on puppies and their parents to check for these conditions:
  • BAER (hearing)
  • OFA Patellas
  • CERF and PLL (vision)

  • If you are looking to acquire a puppy, check out the Parson Russell Terrier Association site where you can find a puppy buyer's guide.

    Activity Level - Are You Ready?

    If you are a family on the move and always physically active, the Parson Russell Terrier has more than enough stamina to keep up.

    In fairness to the breed, he needs a home with Terrier experience, or owners who fully understand his lively temperament.

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    Ideal Space For the Russell

    This breed is adaptable to house or apartment, with room to run being the ideal.

    The key is exercise, which the Russell likes to have in abundance.

    The Parson Russell Terrier and Children

    The PRT has a good reputation with children who have been taught how to be considerate with pets.

    Just keep in mind that terriers don't like to be mistreated so be sure to always have an adult supervise interactions between pets and children.

    Seniors or Less Active Families?

    The Parson Russell Terrier is a dog that could be a handful for elderly or sedentary owners who might not appreciate the energy level of the breed. But, I wouldn't rule them out because they are good companions and a lot of fun, and some seniors may still enjoy being active and be well able to handle the exercise requirements.

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    Further Reading

    Jack Russell Terriers Complete Owner's ManualJack Russell Terriers Complete Owner's Manual

    Jack Russell Terriers Complete Owner's ManualJack Russell Terriers Complete Owner's Manual
    Information about breed history, characteristics and standard, puppy selection, feeding, training, health care and behavior of the breed. Also includes advice about puppy-proofing the home, preparing for the puppy's arrival, housetraining and preventing puppy problems. Substantial full-color photos.

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    2. AKC Breeds
    3. Terrier Breeds
    4. Parson Russell Terrier



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