10 Things You Might Not Know About Jack Russell Terriers

Picture of a Jack Russell Terrier on the grass

Jack Russell Terriers…those who love them, really love them. And those who don’t, well…they really don’t. Whether a fan or a foe of the breed, Jack Russell Terriers are one canine whose distinctive good looks and penchant for being in constant motion makes him easily recognizable worldwide. The Jack Russell Terrier has a reputation for being a bit of a canine badass, swiftly killing rodents with one efficient shake of his head all the while stubbornly refusing to learn any obedience commands. He is most definitely a dog that likes to march to the beat of his own drummer. Intelligent almost to a fault and fiercely loyal, the Jack Russell Terrier is a charming, affectionate, and funny friend. Though many people fall in love with the breed from catching a glimpse of Marty Crane’s Eddie on the hit TV show Frasier or Wishbone, the hero of many famous stories given new life through a handsome canine addition, Jack Russells, though adorable, are not a breed for the novice owner. A breed often misunderstood and often rehomed as a result, the Jack Russell Terrier enjoys only moderate popularity, and in some countries, is on the endangered list of dog breeds. Though the public has come to know a lot about this breed, he still has a few surprises up his sleeve. What are some less commonly known facts about Jack Russell Terriers?

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A highly recognizable breed, many people feel they are already well acquainted with the Jack Russell Terrier. Here is a list of some lesser known facts about the breed:

  1. According to their breed standard, the purebred Jack Russell Terrier should be 51 percent white at a minimum.

The Jack Russell Terrier’s coloring is of particular importance to his function. The breed was developed by Reverend John Russell who fancied a small working terrier with the ability to easily traverse the English countryside on fox hunts without succumbing to fatigue. However, color played an important part in this role. To this point, there were many earth dogs in hues which blended well into their surroundings. The disadvantage to this is an eager hunter could easily mistake their dog for prey and accidentally injure his dog on a hunt. A white-bodied terrier stood out against the landscape, making him an easy distinction for the hunter.

  1. The Jack Russell Terrier has a confusing name.

Though many people can easily identify the appearance of a Jack Russell Terrier, few realize that when it comes to the name of this little white dog, there is plenty of confusion. Today, there are three breeds that are similar in appearance but that all take different names: the Parson Russell Terrier, the Russell Terrier, and the Jack Russell Terrier. All of these dogs descended from the Rev. Russell’s original fox hunting terriers in the early 19th century.

Though the Jack Russell Terrier and the Parson Russell Terrier are nearly identical in appearance, they both have their own unique registries. The Parson Russell Terrier is a listed breed under the Canadian Kennel Club and a recognized breed with the American Kennel Club. The Jack Russell Terrier who primarily differs in appearance from the Parson by the height allowances only is registered under the Jack Russell Terrier Association of America. Though it is difficult to explain why these two seemingly very similar breeds must bear different names and be registered under separate bodies, it has been asserted that the Jack Russell Terrier Association of America believes that the Parson Russell Terrier is a milder version of the Jack Russell Terrier who has been gentrified for the show ring and has lost its ability to function as a true working dog. In this case, the primary difference between the two breeds would be working ability.

The Russell Terrier differs from the Parson and the Jack in that he is shorter in stature and longer of body. In temperament, he is less game though his primary role was also to function as a hunter. While the Jack and the Parson were developed primarily in England, the Russell Terrier’s prolonged developmental period occurred in Australia.

To add to the confusion; in all other countries except for the United States and Canada, the Russell Terrier is referred to as the Jack Russell Terrier.

  1. The Jack Russell Terrier has its own body that recognizes its status as a purebred breed.

As mentioned above, the Jack Russell Terrier is a purebred breed that maintains its own registration body, the Jack Russell Terrier Association of America.

  1. Jack Russell Terriers are a baying breed.

Contrary to popular belief; though a Jack Russell Terrier is a dog that will “go to ground,” this dog is a baying breed. Baying breeds make use of their voices to help drive quarry from within the earth above ground to continue the hunt. This explains why many Jack Russells are vocal in their homes. It is an instinct that has been bred into them and is hard for them to deny.

  1. Jack Russell Terriers have excellent longevity.

Jack Russell Terriers typically enjoy good health and experience excellent longevity. The average life expectancy for a Jack Russell Terrier is between 14-19 years of age. Best of all, even senior Jacks enjoy excellent quality of life well into an advanced old age.

  1. Jack Russell Terriers don’t slow down until their senior years.

Though many Jack Russell Terrier owners look forward to the day when their dogs begin to “settle,” most Jacks don’t begin to slow down until well into their golden years. This often occurs around age 12 or even later.  

  1. Jack Russell Terriers love to jump.

Jack Russell Terriers are the original Mexican jumping bean. An enthusiastic dog, Jacks love to repeatedly jump as if their little legs have springs. This penchant is both endearing and entertaining to all they meet.

  1. Jack Russell Terriers have attitude to spare.

There is no question that Jack Russell Terriers are big dogs in little bodies. In a pack of dogs, the Jack Russell just assumes he is in charge and will often have the largest dog in the group acting as his “bitch.” This big dog attitude can lead to problems if the dog decides to take on a dog that is much larger and stronger than him. It truly would never occur to the Jack Russell that his body didn’t match the size of his attitude.

  1. Jack Russell Terriers view the mailman as their personal enemy.

Jack Russell Terriers are not a fan of the mailman. No matter how friendly your mailman may be, no matter how yummy the treats he carries around for your Jack, your dog will still view him as someone attempting to penetrate his home and potentially harm his family.  Jack Russell Terriers can be very territorial and make it their business to protect their home and the people who live in it. This unfortunately means that Fido and the mailman are not likely to become friends.

  • Jack Russells view staying inside fences as optional.

Most reputable breeders of Jack Russell Terriers will not sell them to homes that do not have a fully fenced in yard. Why is that? The leading cause of death in Jack Russell Terriers results from being hit by a car. The Jack Russell Terrier is a fearless little dog with an intense instinct to follow his prey drive. This means he has no knowledge of cars, and thus, does not understand the dangers of bolting out in front of them, leaving him in peril should he escape the safe confines of his yard.

Unfortunately, Jack Russell Terriers are experts at outsmarting their owners. Even the most carefully designed fencing system is merely a game to a Jack Russell. If the Jack Russell can’t jump it, he will resort to other escape attempts such as digging under it or climbing it.

Yes, it’s hard to resist the charm of a Jack Russell Terrier. Though not for an inexperienced owner, adding one to your life is an experience you’ll never forget!

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11 Responses

  1. On my third Jack Russell and absolutely love the breed! They are very entertaining and stubborn, fierce and feisty, loyal and loving. Once you go Jack you can never go back!

  2. Daisy is our first. So far we’ve survived year 1. I’m still reading and learning about the breed. I can definitely see her in some of the comments. We also have 2 Shih Tzu’s who are 8 yrs old. Max is Daisy’s hero. He has taught her a lot from 6 wks old to her first birthday. Unfortunately now sometimes I have to “rescue” him because she is full of P*ss and Viniger wanting to play and he’s tuckered out. The other thing I’ve noticed is how she responds to training. I treat her the same as my Shih Tzu’s firm but fair. If I ask them to do something and they don’t I just have to say NOW in that tone and they’ll do it As parents we all have “that tone”, lol. Unfortunately Daisy’s human Dad is a big softy and he lets her get away with murder. She knows when I’m doing the talking. We’re learning and loving her everyday.

  3. I like that Koby (Jack Russel) and my cat Grey are finding unique ways to live in harmony. Some days I think Grey will attack Koby but to my dismay, both are boys so I believe when we get bigger space they will be playing. Both are very active animals that loves to chase. It’s going to be interesting when we do move to bigger space what develops between these two rambunctious boys.

  4. My Long Haired Jack Russell lived to 16-17 yrs…best dog I ever had.
    You have to let the dog know who’s boss at times….they are full of energy, colourful personalities…very independent and have very strong hunting instinct.
    So most the time the dog has to be on the lead if away from home….after about 5 years I was able to let her run free on the beach.
    They are fearless so don’t let them near aggressive big dogs….mine was attacked and almost killed by a free ranging Bull Mastive.
    4 stitchers latter to her neck, was very great full to the stranger that pulled the Bull Mastive off…otherwise she would have been killed.
    One other time she escaped from a show ground when she found an opening to the road, I heard a car scratch, but fortunately she was not hit.
    They have absolutely no road sense or the dangers a car can be.

  5. We accidentally adopted our JRT aged 10, and within 24 hours – possibly less – we found all aspects of the article to be very accurate! It took about 3 days to fall head over heels in love with him, but fortunately on day 3 I began training as a dog therapist, and by the end of the day of being my first “patient” he turned from an absolute nightmare into the most amazing pooch we have ever had the pleasure to share our lives with. All our dogs have been wonderful over the 69 years that I have shared my life with dogs, but this one is something else.

    I too am grateful for the skills of the driver who managed to miss my beloved Bazil on a blind bend at 11.30 pm on our first night together, when he got out of our dog proof garden and was just returning to an empty house – the home where his previous owner had died.

    For those of you having a spot of bovver, I strongly suggest you take your dog to an Emmett4Animals therapist, where you will see miracles happen before your very eyes….provided of course you are not the one who needs the therapy!

  6. Just adopted a neglected dog with a very long and matted coat. When he was groomed we saw what he really was OMG it’s a Jack Russell poodle mix and the only thing poodle about him is the coarse curly white coat. He’s a monster but he has gotten used to his environment and schedule. I walk him 3 miles a day to burn him out and it kinda works. It’s a love hate relationship but with more love than hate. But he’s awfully cute and can be very sweet at night when sleeping. He’s a keeper!

    1. I’m a disabled Nam vet – I take Maggie (she is a shorty with powerful legs) for runs , I take her to a backroad – open the door , let her out and take off – (she knows the game) she will either decide to lope behind – or keep up – she can get up to 20 mph for about 50 yards but sustained 15 for a long way – she loves it and it wears her out – for a little while 🙂

  7. Murphy aka Steve McQueen (Great Escape) lived to 18 – we fish a lot up north (MN) and we have had to chase game wardens down on the lakes – when they would check us on the water – Murph would have to inspect their boat – He was a sweet dog – lots of tricks easily learned. Now Maggie – oh my she is the boss of ANY dog , and anything that moves in the yard. We have skinny squirrels now – I have a video of her “herding” a turtle into the water – fun to watch – she never tried to hurt it – just got behind it and barked. She has a huge vocabulary – she does her tricks on her time – I’ll say roll-over , she just stares at me – until she thinks we might be going for a ride – or the kitchen. Love these dogs ! They love back.

  8. I have a short legged Jack named Dexter. He was a terror when he was a puppy, but he is The smartest, most gentle, well behaved dog now. He’s super happy and his nub is always wiggling. He used to come to work with me when I worked in Assisted living, and sit in all the resident’s laps, they absolutely adored him. He’s super empathetic and if I’m feeling sad he’ll put his front paws on my shoulders and hug me, and if I’m crying he licks away my tears. He is absolutely my best friend.

  9. I had a jack russel terrier a my 1st dog, at age 6-he was the most loving boy-had him til i was about 19 or so. Wonderful dogs. Getting another asap.

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