Parson Russell Terrier and Jack Russell Terrier

Breed Group: Terrier

Temperament and Behavior

A Parson Russell Terrier is more standardized version of the Jack Russell Terrier. Both are a whirlwind of activity in an inquisitive, brashly feisty package. Not intended to be a house pet, they require a great deal of attention, exercise, and a purpose to fulfill. Able to dispatch a fox on the farm or rodents to raccoons in a suburban environment, any small animal that is furry or flutters won’t last long around a Parson Russell Terrier / Jack Russell Terrier. Their brashness can be so excessive, they sometimes need to be rescued from situations of their own making. Never keep multiple dogs together without constant supervision because the combination of their possessiveness and feisty nature can quickly lead to combat. When kept as a pet, they demand to be fully engaged in all family activities plus vigorous daily playtime of his own, with chasing a ball frequently favored. Equally active both inside and out, their curiosity may lead them to climb on top of bookshelves, into cupboards, or through almost anything including the laundry. Without adequate activities, they will amuse themselves, and be assured it will not be doing what you would have chosen. They are good with older well-behaved youngsters but neither a Jack Russell Terrier nor a Parson Russell Terrier will endure a young child’s innocent poking and prodding; they’ll administer a nip when they feel discipline is appropriate. Outside either dog is completely aware of his surroundings. With his high prey drive, he must be kept on leash or in a securely fenced area which is easier said than done. If determined to escape, he is just about impossible to contain. He will stay by a hole in which a small animal is hiding for days– or just dig him out as many dig for enjoyment. With his vigilance, he makes an excellent watchdog but often sounds the alarm for too long. However, once they are introduced, he accepts strangers. But barking can be a problem, especially if bored. Clearly, they are not for inactive people nor for an apartment or condominium lifestyle.

Physical Characteristics

Parson Russell Terriers are 12 to 15 inches high at the top of the shoulder weighing between 13 and 17 pounds. The Jack Russell Terrier is more variable in its size and appearance. They are not pure bred in the sense that they have a broader genetic make-up, a broad breed standard, and do not breed true to type. This is a result of having been bred strictly for hunting since the early 1800’s. Both dogs have a similar coat. Their coats are predominately white with any combination of black or tan markings. There are three types of coats: smooth, broken, and rough. The smooth coat is flat and hard and does not have trace hair. The broken coat is harsh, straight, tight, and close lying, with a modest amount of trace hair on the head, face, legs, and body. The rough coat is harsh, straight, tight, and close lying, and has an excess of trace hair. The fur is also longer than on a smooth or broken coat. All three coat types are coarse with a short, dense undercoat that provides protection above and below ground. All three coats shed, with the smooth coat shedding throughout the year. Any of the three coat styles allow them to do well in any moderate temperature.

Trainer's Notes

Socialization and obedience training are crucial for this breed. Their natural desire is to hunt independently rather than to please. As a result, their nature is not to look to a human companion for guidance. Basic obedience can be a challenge for the trainer, especially one who lacks a sense of humor. Firm, consistent, training works best. Terriers can be stubborn and dominant, making you prove you are worthy of their attention. Patience and upbeat training are required to make progress. If you physically chastise a terrier beyond what they believe is fair, they are more likely than other dogs to retaliate. A neither a Parson Russell Terrier nor a Jack Russell Terrier is a good choice for a first-time dog owner. With a dog so intelligent and willful, owners must be able to think and act faster than the dog. The most appropriate owner is familiar with dogs and understands how to establish control in a human-canine relationship with a dominance seeking dog.

Public Domain and freely available
Jack Russell Terrier / Parson Russell Terrier

Jack Russell Terrier / Parson Russell Terrier


In spite of having a more defined breed standard, few genetic diseases have been well documented in the Parson Russell Terrier Terrier. About 8% of dogs tested have some issue with their thyroid gland. Another 4% have problems with Hip Dysplasia. The Jack Russel Terrier has almost a 17% incidence of Hip Dysplasia while almost 10% suffer from Patellar Luxation. Life expectancy for both the Parson Russell Terrier and Jack Russel Terrier is 13 to 15 years.


Terrier 75th in popularity. About 1,200 Parson Russell Terriers are registered with the American Kennel Club in a typical year.

Breed History

The English fox hunt provided the motivation for creating a number of dog breeds – each best suited to pursuing a particular kind of prey and bred to perform a particular job during the hunt. Huntsmen bred hounds; Terriermen were responsible for developing terriers. Best known of these Terriermen is the Parson John Russell, considered by many to be the father of the early Wire Fox Terrier. Russell had one goal in mind when he created the Jack Russell Terrier: a dog that would hunt the European red fox over- and underground. The qualities of the terrier he developed earned such respect it was given his name: the Jack Russell Terrier.

Additional Information

Many authorities believe after Parson John Russell’s death some of his dogs were crossed into other terrier breeds. This would explain the many individuals seen with short legs, long bodies, and big chests, known as the “Jack Russell Terrier”. The Parson Russell Terrier Association of America, parent club for the breed, requested a name change from Jack Russell Terrier to Parson Russell Terrier to distinguish their Parson Russell Terrier from this Jack Russell Terrier form. The AKC approved the name change in 2003. Notables who are, or were owners of the Jack Russell Terrier or the Parson Russell Terrier include Sandra Bullock, Mariah Carey, Michael Douglas, Audrey Hepburn, and Bette Midler. The National Breed Club of the AKC recognized Parson Russell Terrier is the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America. The National Breed club for the original Jack Russel Terrier is the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America.

Is A Jack Russell Terrier or Parson Russell Terrier THE BEST Dog For YOU?

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