What Qualities Does the Parson Russell Terrier Have?

by Betty Lewis
In his quiet moments, the Parson Russell terrier can be a very affectionate friend.

In his quiet moments, the Parson Russell terrier can be a very affectionate friend.

Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

Don't call him Jack -- this little terrier's proper name is the Parson Russell terrier, named for the man who developed the breed in England. Rev. John Russell bred a dog who could flush foxes and keep up with horses. Well-known in popular culture, this dog is smart and mischievous.

What's In A Name?

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the Jack Russell terrier in 1997. Rev. Russell bred his dogs to be workers in the hunting field in the mid-1800s. As terriers became popular in television and movies, the public began to view working terriers in general as Jack Russells, without regard to shape and size. In an effort to distinguish the breed, Rev. Russell developed his dog from other terriers, and the name of the breed was changed to Parson Russell terrier in 2003.

Not A Couch Potato

No shrinking violet, the Parson Russell terrier has many great qualities. He is energetic and alert, with a rousing sense of fun, making him a lively companion for older children. This guy is also confident and very intelligent, so he'll respond well to training. Training is important because his sense of adventure can get him into trouble -- he'll chase, wander off to find new adventures or dig whenever he has the chance. His prey drive may compel him to give chase to rodents or the family cat. If there are toddlers in the house or if he'll have to spend a lot of time indoors, you may want to take a pass on the Parson. However, if you are looking for an athletic, engaging pal, he might be the dog for you.

Built to Hunt

This little fellow stands about 14 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs an average of 15 pounds. He's not delicate or stocky, but has a medium build with relatively long legs, allowing him to keep up with bigger animals during a hunt; however, he's slender enough to squeeze into tight spots when he's chasing prey. Even his color helps during the hunt: white, white with tan or black markings or a combination of all three colors, so he won't be confused with the fox he's chasing. The texture of his coat may be smooth, with a flat, hard surface, or broken, sporting straight, tight hair.

Living the Parson Life

Generally, the Parson Russell is a healthy dog and can expect to live 13 to 15 years. The breed is more prone to glaucoma, deafness, Legg-Perthes disease, ataxia and patellar luxation than some other breeds. He's low maintenance in the grooming department, requiring a weekly brushing; however, if he has a broken coat, he'll also need hand stripping every two or three months. For everyone's sake, mental and physical exercise are critical for him; a daily game of fetch or a long walk followed up by a brief training session will keep him on his best behavior and provide you with the engaged partner you've been seeking.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images