Fox Terrier and Jack Russell

Fox Terriers c 1860Fox Terriers c 1860Prior to 1800 the generic name 'Fox Terrier' was given to any Terrier that was used to bolt foxes out of their burrows, particularly associated with the sport of Fox Hunting. Those which remained working Terriers whose ground colour was white were later developed into two separate breeds with differing leg length - the Jack Russell Terrier and the Parson Russell Terrier, both named after one man, the Parson Jack Russell. Meanwhile the name Fox Terrier became one of the first show dogs both in England and Australia. In England 1913 Fox Terriers were split into two separate pure-breeds separated by coat type - the Fox Terrier (Smooth) and the Fox Terrier (Wire).

Fox Terriers become a Pure-Breed

Fox Terriers c 1890Fox Terriers c 1890

Classes for Fox Terriers of the old fashioned type like those of the Reverend Parson John (Jack) Russell were held at Shows from 1863 and their pedigrees recorded in the First English Stud Book published in 1874. At that time dogs' names were based on show entries. The Reverend Jack (John) Russell was on the first board of the Kennel Club (UK) and one of the first Kennel Club judges despite his own dogs being specialized Fox Hunters rather than show dogs. At this time coats on both the show Fox Terriers and Jack Russell's Terriers ranged from smooth through to the rough we see on Jack Russell to this day.

Fox Terriers as Show Dogs

Fox Terriers (Smooth) c 1910Fox Terriers (Smooth) c 1910

In England, by 1900 Fox Terriers had become pure show dogs, and bred quite separately from the Reverend Jack Russell's working terriers. As a show dog, a winning Fox Terrier could be worth more than a hunting man or farmer could earn in a whole year. As Fox Terriers became show dogs, they were protected from the possibility of disfigurement that working terriers were exposed to. Then in 1913 the Wire Fox Terrier Club of England was formed and Fox Terrier gene pool was split  into the two separately recorded registries we know today, the Fox Terrier (Smooth) and the Fox Terrier (Wire).

Fox Terrier (Australia) c 1910Fox Terrier (Australia) c 1910

In Australia Messers Bancroft exhibited Fox Terriers at Melbourne's first dog show in 1864[6]. Then when a Fox Terrier (Smooth) bitch named 'Careless' was brought to Sydney by Leonard Fosbery in 1868[7] , a flood of imported Fox Terriers began. By 1910 an amazing 88 Fox Terriers had been imported into Melbourne and Sydney. In Melbourne, 13 of these went to Chas Lynott, 40 went to Walter Beilby, and another 11 went to NSW of which 7 went to Harry Moses[5]. This supplied a sound beginning from which 135 were recorded in Australia's first stud book. Smooth Fox Terriers bred in this country have since held their own against stiff competition with many of our most famous breeders and judges involved with them.

Fox Terrier (Wire) imported 1897Fox Terrier (Wire) imported 1897

In Australia, unlike England the earliest Wires were already split into a separate variety with the earliest importations recorded as coming from the Rev 'Jack' Russell's kennels with another 15 following and 48 separately listed in the Stud Book prior to 1912[5].

Fox Terrier Smooth and Wire Today

Today, a relic of the Fox Terrier's history is written into its breed standard where it is described like the horse called a hunter with which it used to work. The General Appearance says they should

" stand like a well made, short backed hunter, covering a lot of ground"

Fox Terrier (Wire)Fox Terrier (Wire)

Opinions vary as to whether the Fox Terrier (Smooth) and the Fox Terrier (Wire) are two varieties of the same breed or are two separate breeds. But having been show dogs for a century and a half, breeders and judges alike have selected for exaggeration whilst still maintaining the basic construction of the long legged terriers. The modern Fox Terrier has an extremely short back compared to his ancestors and his head and neck have also become much longer.

Fox Terrier (Smooth)Fox Terrier (Smooth)

Whilst in both breeds an elongated head is sought, a flat skull topped off with button ears set high on the skull, combined with the long strong foreface make the Fox Terrier head very distinctive. They should move at a trot with balanced reach and drive. Both mention a weight of 18 pounds, but only the Wire mentions a height of not exceeding 35 cm (15 and a half inches).

The major difference between these two is the coat. Whilst the Smooth is smooth coated, the Wire has a broken coat which makes his outline outwardly appear similar to the Welsh and Lakeland Terriers (see the table below). Permissible colours are similar, the Fox Terrier being a white dog with tan, black or tri-colour markings. But differences in conformation between the Fox Terrier (Smooth) and Fox Terrier (Wire) can be observed by diligent students and enthusiasts.

Jack Russell Terriers

Reverend Jack (John) RussellReverend Jack (John) Russell

The Reverend Jack (John) Russell was a founding member of the Board of the first Kennel Club (UK) and a terrier judge. As outlined above, while the Fox Terriers were becoming show dogs, the Reverend became more famous for his working terriers that bear his name to this day. His dogs came in varying leg lengths. The longer legged terriers ran with the hound packs and therefore had longer legs. But the shorter legged terriers were carried to the fox dens by the hunter or a terrier man whose jacket had pockets large enough to carry these small terriers.

A Terrier ManA Terrier Man

The Reverend kept his own records of his dogs. These were not recorded in the Stud Books of the Kennel Club (UK).  So, Jack Russell Terriers were therefore never technically pure-breed dogs. The gene pool was never split by either leg length or coat type. Terriers that would do the required job were simply selected as puppies and trained as required.

The following is a quote from Hugh Dalziel's 'British Dogs'[2] 

"The Rev. J. Russell, who is certainly the father of fox terrier breeders, tells us that he has bred his dogs since 1815, and their pedigree has been kept quite pure, except that he once admitted an admixture of old Jock, a high compliment to the old dog".

During his lifetime, the Reverend John (Jack) Russell witnessed the gene pool of his original working Fox Terriers split from the showdog. But it is indisputable that his respected old fashioned working type of terrier bearing his name has remained to this day. The following quote is from his obituary published in the 1883 Kennel Club Gazette:

"As the oldest Fox Terrier breeder in England, Mr Russell's connection with the Kennel Club was an honour to that body"

The Legacy of Reverend Jack Russell

"Trump" 1815"Trump" 1815

The Reverend Jack Russell began his lifetime passion with Fox Terriers in 1815 with a bitch called 'Trump'. T.H.Scott wrote in the 'Sportsman's Repository' in 1820 that there were other Fox Terriers at that time that were as perfect point for point as "Trump"[4] who laid the foundation for the Reverend's strain of working Fox Terriers. The Reverend succeeded in developing a terrier that had legs of sufficient length to hunt with his hounds, yet had a chest so small and flexible it was able to wriggle along and squeeze through the incredibly small earths or tunnels where the fox lived. For this reason, to this day the  chest  of a Jack Russell Terrier should be sufficiently small that its girth behind the elbows is capable of being spanned by average sized hands. This practice is called spanning a terrier.

Whilst Fox Terriers had been pure-breeds for more than a century, Jack Russell Terriers continued working with the hound  packs of England, bolting foxes. But towards the end of the 1900's, there was a movement against fox hunting as a sport. So by the middle of the 1900's, Jack Russell Terrier enthusiasts began looking to develop these wonderful working Terriers as a separate recognized pure breed.

Jack Russell and Parson Russell Terriers Today

Jack Russell (Smooth Coat)Jack Russell (Smooth Coat)

When the famous Australian equestrians, Bill and Mavis Roycroft visited England in 1964 and fell in love with the Jack Russell Terriers that were assigned to Hunt Clubs in the UK. They brought a dog and two bitches back to Australia and from there, Australia developed the Jack Russell Terrier. The Jack Russell Club of Australia was subsequently formed in 1972 to record of their pedigrees. On January 1st 1991, the ANKC recognized the Jack Russell Terrier as a pure breed in Australia with a height of 10" - 12" (inches)[1].

Parson Russell TerrierParson Russell Terrier

Meanwhile in England, the 'old type' Fox Terriers continued to be bred from the Reverend John (Jack) Russells' working lines selected for brains and a sound constitution. Although a Parson Jack Russell Terrier Club has existed in England right through the 1900's, a breed standard written and even a class for 'Working Fox Terriers' provided at Crufts, the Parson (Jack) Russell Terrier was not separately recognized by the Kennel Club (UK) until 1990. Firstly it was called the Parson Russell Terrier and later the name was changed to the Parson Jack Russell Terrier. It differs from the Australian Jack Russell in that its ideal height is 14" for dogs and 13" for bitches.

Both the Jack Russell's and the Parson's working background is acknowledged in their respective breed standards with the requirement for them to be spanned. This process is called spanning a terrier.

Jack Russell (Rough Coat)Jack Russell (Rough Coat)

Whilst the flat skull has been retained from its Fox Terrier background, the ears of both the Jack Russell and the Parson are lower set than the Fox Terrier and must not be carried above the level of the skull.  Rather the ears should be carried somewhere between that of a button ear and a side placement ear. Additionally, neither the Jack Russell nor the Parson should have the elongated head so admired in the Fox Terrier. Instead, in order to be assured of retaining the strength of muzzle for working purposes, the foreface is required to be no longer than the length of the skull, with more stop between the skull and the foreface than its Fox Terrier predecessor.

Parson Russells Working Parson Russells Working

It is also interesting to note that although the height has split the original type of terriers kept by the Reverend John (Jack) Russell into the two separate breeds of the Jack Russell Terrier and Parson Russell Terrier, the coat type has been retained in its original form which ranges from smooth through to rough and all the coat types in between.

Parson hunting fox up treeParson hunting fox up tree

So historically the Jack Russell and the Parson were the same breed. But their Breed Standards were written by different groups of enthusiasts in different countries. So today, despite the major difference between these two breeds being their height at shoulder, both breeds still retain their strong instinct to search for all types of quarry that live beneath the ground.

Our DVD 'Terriers Then & Now' contains more about the Fox Terrier (Smooth and Wire), the Jack Russell and the Parson Russell Terriers

Comparison between Fox, Welsh and Lakeland Terriers

These 3 Terriers are directly compared here because although they appear alike, they differ not only in origin but also in several physical aspects. So it is important to compare these differences.

Terrier Fox Terrier (Wire) Welsh Terrier Lakeland Terrier

Fox Terrier (Wire)Fox Terrier (Wire)

Welsh TerrierWelsh Terrier

Lakeland TerrierLakeland Terrier

Background Old English White Terrier (rough coated) Old English Black and Tan Terrier (rough coated) Terrier of the Border Region
Head Proportions Little difference in length between skull and foreface Medium length from stop to end of nose. Jaws rather deep. Length of head from stop to tip of nose not exceeding that from occiput to stop
Ears Top line of folded ears well above level of skull (Button Ears) Set in fairly high and carried forward close to cheek Set neither too high or too low on head
Chest Deep not broad Good depth and moderate width Chest reasonably narrow
Body Proportions Back short Back short Back moderately short
Height and Weight Dogs not exceeding 15.5 inches at shoulder, bitches slightly less. Ideally 18 lbs. Not exceeding 15.5 inches at shoulder. 20 - 21 lbs. Not exceeding 14.5 inches at shoulder. Dogs 17 lbs, bitches 15 lbs.
Colour White predominates with black, black and tan or tan markings Black and tan or black grizzle and tan Black and tan, blue and tan, red, wheaten, red grizzle, liver blue or black

References and Further Reading

Jane Harvey, DVD "Terriers Then & Now" (Rangeaire Vision 2002, 2004) ISBN 978-0-9804296-4-0

[1] William C. Kinsman (Secretary ANKC) "Jack Russell Terrier approved by the ANKC" Editorial in the KCC Kennel Gazette Vol 56 November No 11 Page 1

[2] Hugh Dalziel "British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, and Exhibition" ("The Bazaar", London) 1879-1880 Chapter XVIII Page 304

[4] R Makeef "Parson Russell's Terrier A short history of the origin of the breed in 1825 and the foundation of the Club in 1895" (VCA Gazette 1993 Vol 59 No 5 Page 21)

[5] 'Tyzack's Annual' Compiled by T. W.Tyzack and C.S.Turner  Published by the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club 1912 by Bellamine Bros. Printers, 66-70 Flinders Lane Melbourne Pages 93-96 (Importations) and 60-71 (Stud Book).

[6] Catalogue of the First Exhibition of Sporting & Other Dogs, Thursday & Friday April 7 & 8, 1864 promoted by the Council of the Acclimatisation Society, printed in Melbourne by Mason & Firth, Printers, Flinders Lane West

[7] W.R.(Bill) Polley 'The Fox Terrier' self-published NSW circa 1980

Also published in 2012- Jane Harvey, "Fox Terrier and Jack Russells" in Lets Talk Terriers (Tracy Murphy, Dean Park NSW) Vol 8 No 2 2011 Pages 16 -18