Jack Russell Terrier

Parson Russell TerrierParson Russell Terrier

As explained on the previous page, until the mid-1800's the pedigrees of the working terriers were kept in a register by the Reverend Parson Jack Russell. Today they still bear his name. By the late 1900's these working terriers were also developed into two different pure breeds. One is the Parson Russell Terrier developed in England and the other is Jack Russell developed in Australia.

History of the Jack Russell Terrier in Australia

Jack Russells in London, UK c1920Jack Russells in London, UK c1920

After World War Two ended, the popularity of sheep farming grew, especially in the West of Victoria. Then some horse riding farmers became aware of the value of small terriers for hunting introduced species like rabbits and foxes that terrorized their stock. Hunt Clubs were then established in fox infested areas. This sparked the need for courageous small dogs that could fit down the fox dens and bolt the troublesome inhabitants.

Consequently, around 1960, when the famous Australian equestrians, Bill and Mavis Roycroft visited England, they witnessed working Jack Russells that were assigned to Hunt Clubs in the UK. Recognising that these little dogs were ideal for use by Australian farmers, the Roycrofts brought some Jack Russells back to Australia. This generated publicity which created a market for these dogs here.

The Jack Russells the Roycrofts imported into Australia were:

1. 'Hardy' (male) gifted from the Duke of Beaufort (Beaufort Hunt Club)
2. 'Kiss me Kate' (female) gifted from the Duchess of Bedford
3.'Judy' (female) gifted from the Eastleigh Hunt Club.

Then 'Skipper Saville' was imported, gifted from the Cowday Hunt. He came complete with his 3-generation pedigree. In 1963 when the new Governor of Victoria, Major-General Sir Rohan Delacombe, brought his family and their two Jack Russells into Victoria, their photographs were splashed across the newspapers. This inspired local breeders to breed this small terrier which, with their outgoing personalities, had captured the imagination of the Australian people.

Formation of the Jack Russell Club of Australia

Erica Wilkens with her last JackErica Wilkens with her last Jack

By 1972 the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Australia was established to formalise the Breed Standard, Breeders and Members Code of Ethics, Hunting Code of Ethics, Stud References and Breeders Directory. After much research, a Stud Book was created. By 1980 breeders Prefixes had become compulsory.

A great friend of the Roycrofts, Erica Wilkens who was also an accomplished horse woman, became an active participant in fox drives within a Hunt Club in the Western District of Victoria. Erica never lost sight of the working characteristics of the breed. Under her prefix 'Malung', her involvement with Jack Russells pre-dates ANKC recognition which began in the early 1970s. Because Erica was also a very successful breeder of horses and stud sheep, it was natural that she would become a breeder of Jack Russell Terriers. Ironically, Erica's maiden name was Russell - a sheep breeding family who took up vast pastures across the Western District and established Wurrook, one of Victoria's largest and oldest merino studs.

Malung Mulga

Malung MulgaMalung Mulga

In the late 1970s Erica began breeding Jack Russell Terriers seriously under the Malung prefix. By 1986, she had bred 'Malung Mulga' who she considered had the ideal temperament and construction to do his job. In 1988 she bred a litter from him that contained Ch Malung Jim Beam and Ch. Malung Orinoco both of which had a great influence on the development of the Jack Russell as a pure breed in Australia[6].

Ch Malung Jim Beam

Ch Malung Jim BeamCh Malung Jim Beam

Always generous to everyone interested in Jack Russells, Ch. Malung Jim Beam was given to Pam and 'Curly' Sullivan as a wedding gift. Pam and Curly had a long involvement with ANKC breeds and were active in gaining ANKC recognition for the Jack Russell Terrier. Malung Jim Beam was used as the blueprint for the Breed Standard. He also became our first Australian Champion as well as the first Jack Russell to be awarded Best Exhibit in Show all-breeds.

Ch Malung Orinoco

Ch Malung OrinarcoCh Malung Orinarco

Meanwhile Jim Bean's litter brother, Ch. Malung Orinoco went to Noel Wetherhall in New South Wales. Noel had already imported several Jack Russells from UK including Johnnie 500 who was also very influential sire in the development of the Jack Russell in both NSW and Queensland.

At first the Jack Russell Club of Australia, which was first formed in 1972 recorded pedigrees in a Breed Register. This was the first Jack Russell Terrier Breed Register formed in any part of the world.

The Jack Russell Terrier becomes a Pure Breed

In the mid-1980s the first competition was held for Jack Russells was held in a small town called 'Elaine' which was situated between the Victorian rural cities of Geelong and Ballarat. After that, many other gatherings were held all over Australia. These were enthusiastically attended by Jack Russell owners from across the country and judged by many experienced Terrier judges including me!  

The ANKC drew up a Breed Standard and on January 1st 1991, the ANKC recognised the Jack Russell Terrier as a pure breed with England as its country of origin but Australia the country of development. The ANKC then accepted pedigrees from the Jack Russell Club of Australia until June 1994[5]. However, these original prefixes had to have the letters JR added to them when registered on the ANKC register.

The Jack Russell and Parson Russell Today

Parson Russelll TerrierParson Russelll Terrier

The main difference between the Parson and the Jack Russell today is the proportion of body length to leg length. The Jack is 60:40 while the Parson is 50:50. Note the Jack's leg length is half it's height at shoulder while the Parson is a more squarely built terrier. The Jack Russell's legs from elbow to ground should be equal in length to half its body height, enabling its chest to be spanned. This is a process which measures the circumference of the chest. Spanning should be done while examining Jack Russell Terriers and Parson Russell Terriers on the table. This procedure also acknowledges both the Jack Russell's and the Parson's working background.


Jack Russell TerrierJack Russell Terrier

Whilst the flat skull has been retained from their 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.

Parson Russell TerrierParson Russell Terrier

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. Consequently, there should be more stop between the skull and the foreface than its Fox Terrier predecessor.

Coat Type

Parsons Rough and SmoothParsons Rough and SmoothIt is important to understand that the original coat type of rough through to smooth and all variations in between have always been equally correct. Parsons and Jacks have never been split into different breeds by coat type like the Fox Terrier (Smooth) and the Fox Terrier (Wire). The two extremes of coat type illustrated on the left demonstrate coat limits.

Historically several authorities preferred the rougher jackets to more smooth ones. They believed a hard, close rough coat gave the dog more protection against all types of weather as well as safeguarding it better from encounters with the fox and other quarry.

Jack Russell TerrierJack Russell Terrier

Today the coat should never be excessive, encouraging trimming and modern sculpturing techniques which detract from the workmanlike appearance of both these breeds. Variations between these coat types are equally correct.

Other subtle differences in conformation between the Jack Russell and Parson Russell Terriers can be observed by diligent students and breed enthusiasts.

References and Further Reading


We have now published a unique Terrier book 'Terriers Unveiled' Available at our sister site: https://rangeairevision.com/terriers-unveiled/

Also published as

  • 2020 - Jane Harvey - 'Jack Russell and Parson Russell Terriers' - Published in 'Dogs Victoria Magazine'  (The Victorian Canine Association Inc. Cranbourne, Vic) Volume 97 No. 12 Page 5 - 7
  • 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

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

[3] 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)

[4] Eddie Chapman, "The Real Jack Russell" self published 1993 Chapter 2 'Interview with Dan Russell September 24th 1990 Pages 10 - 14

[5] Dr. Julie Tilbrook BVSc 1992 republished in in National Dog, the Ringleader Way ((Published by Sahjobe Pty Ltd, Menangle Park NSW ABN 86 075 412 761), Menangle Park NSW) Ringleader Fox Terrier and Jack Russell Breed Feature Volume 10 Number 8 2009 Page 10

[6] Curly Sullivan and Jocelyn Cansdell 'The History of Purebred Dogs in Australia' published by OzDog Newspaper 1997 The Jack Russell Terrier Page 196