Confusion swirls around the Jack Russell terrier, the Russell terrier, the English Jack Russell terrier and the Russell terrier due to the number and similarity of names and the variety of appearances associated with them. In part, the confusion stems from the dog registering bodies that recognize these breeds. “Parent” clubs that support these breeds are also partially responsible for the confusion, due to name changes that accommodate club preferences and breed politics.
English Jack Russell Terrier
The English Jack Russell Terrier Club Alliance, Inc., bills itself as being “the largest club and registry exclusively for the under 12-inch Jack Russell terrier that is longer than tall.” According to its standard, the English Jack Russell terrier is a working breed that stands between 8 and 12 inches at the shoulder and is slightly longer than “length of leg.” Its legs are short and straight. The standard calls for a balanced, flexible body with a deep chest that can be “spanned by two hands behind the shoulder blades.” Like all other Jack Russell terriers, the English Jack Russell terriers can have either button or drop ears and can have either broken, rough, or smooth coats. The English Jack Russell terrier is not recognized by any all-breed registry. Like the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America, the parent breed club maintains its own registration records.
Jack Russell Terrier (Russell Terrier)
The United Kennel Club registers a breed referred to as the “Jack Russell Terrier.” It is similar to the English Jack Russell terrier, listed above. Like the English Jack Russell, the UKC Jack Russell Terrier is measured by length of leg, which should be one-half the dog’s height at the withers. The UKC Jack Russell Terrier was registered as the “Russell Terrier” until 2009, when the UKC aligned its breed standard and breed name with the European kennel clubs.
Parson Russell Terrier (Jack Russell Terrier)
The Parson Russell terrier is the breed formerly known as the “Jack Russell terrier.” It is the longer-legged of the two breeds and is supposed to be descended directly from the Rev. John Russell’s fox terriers. Other than leg length, the Parson Russell terrier is extremely similar to the shorter Jack Russell. The Parson Russell Terrier Association of America, then known as the Jack Russell Terrier Breeder’s Association, requested a breed name change. The club suggested that following the Rev. John Russell’s death, Welsh Corgis and short-legged terriers were used to create a breed more suited for carrying to fox settes than for riding horseback as they had when Russell was alive. The breed name was eventually changed as requested in both the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club.
The Russell terrier is of British origin, from the Rev. Russell’s stock, but was developed in Australia. The Russell Terrier is similar to the short-legged dog now known as the Jack Russell Terrier. While similar, the Russell terrier developed off of a distaff line of dogs and is unique unto itself. It does, however, share many traits with the other breeds that carry the Russell name. The standard and the history of dog formerly known as the UKC Russell terrier does not mention Australia for its origin, so it can be assumed that they are unrelated, thus necessitating the name change.
Jack Russell Terrier Club of America Position
The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America is an independent breed registry devoted to preserving the historic Jack Russell terrier. The club acknowledges all of the variants registered under different names as being “Jack Russell terriers,” including the short-legged Russell terrier, the long-legged Parson Russell, the Jack Russells that closely resemble their fox terrier ancestors and everything in between. The JRTCA website states that, “they are simply variants of the Real Jack Russell Terrier" and that various groups have cherry-picked size or types to suit their own "special interest groups." The JRTCA’s position, then, is that there are no genetic differences between these dogs--and for that reason, all “Russell” dogs are brothers under the skin with nothing but a few physical traits to separate them.
By Jo Chester
About the Author
Jo Chester holds a certificate in pet dog training from Triple Crown Academy for Dog Trainers. She has trained dogs for competition in conformation, Rally and traditional obedience and agility. Chester has two goats, chickens, rabbits, a collie and a pet rat, in addition to several much-loved Toy Fox Terriers.