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Jack Russell Terrier History | Davmac Kennels | Terriers, Jack, Russell, Terrier, Were

Jack Russell Terrier History | Davmac Kennels | Terriers, Jack, Russell, Terrier, Were

Jack Russell Terrier History


History and Origin of the Breed

The Reverend John "Jack" Russell was born in Devonshire, England, in 1795 and died there in 1883.

As a young man, he won an exhibition to Exeter College, Oxford, and obtained his degree despite the fact that the authorities considered that he spent too much time and money on fox hunting.

It was during Russell's time at Oxford that he purchased his first "Jack Russell" terrier, a bitch called Trump. 

John Russell was ordained in 1819. Although he was a highly intelligent man, henever rose higher in his chosen profession than curate. This was probably due to the fact that his immediate superior, the Bishop of Exeter disapproved of sporting parsons!

Nevertheless, Russell appears to have been a good, hardworking minister as well as enjoying a reputation as a sportsman, Master of Foxhounds and breeder of hunt terriers.

Jack Russell moved with his family to Swymbridge. He had a small pack of hounds, which he hunted regularly. He also judged at Agricultural and Hound Shows, and was a founder member of the Kennel Club. He enjoyed a lifelong friendship with the Royal Family, and after his death the Prince of Wales bought a portrait of Trump which still hangs in the Harness Room at Sandringham today.

Russell's terriers were mostly what we today would call broken-coated, although they would occasionally throw a smooth coat. They were longer on the leg too, as they were expected to run with the hounds. The terriers were not used to kill the fox, merely to bolt, with their strong jaws, often ripping out the undergrowth, roots and earth. The temperament had to be steady, as working and living in a pack (and amongst hounds) there was no room for fighters or cringers.

The modern Australian Jack Russell Terrier probably has a smattering of other breeds in it. Some say Sealyham, some Bull Terrier, and a few even say Italian Greyhound! It is likely that the original terriers bred by Jack Russell were fox terriers, with his particular strain remaining the working terrier.   

  By the late 1960s, early 1970s, the most common Jack Russell Terrier stood between 10" and 12" at the shoulder. There were those over 12", but these were in the minority. In the United Kingdom, each hunt had its Hunt Terriers made up usually of an assortment of Jack Russells, Borders, Lakelands and "Patterdales". Even now, the size of the Jack Russell in a hunt kennel will vary depending on its usage. Where the terriers are expected to run with hounds, they will be longer in leg, and where the terriers are taken to the earth, in a saddle bag, or more likely today in the back of a station wagon, they will be the shorter variety. In the hunts' closed season the kennels usually has an open day, accompanied by a Hound Show, Terrier Show and Terrier racing. There are always classes for Jack Russells along with other working terriers and competition is fierce amongst the terrier men from the local hunts. These days are also great fun.