Parson, Russell, or Jack?
Updated: Jun 20
Well...Westminster should once again be in the books. But...it seems we have started Season Three of the Covid Chronicles, so the prestigious event is having to be postponed. That all said...
As happens every year, the question comes up during these big, televised dog shows about the difference between the Parson Russell, the Russell, and the Jack Russell Terrier. Also, as per normal, there is never a real answer given and what is given is a fairly...political sort of answer that does not quite tell the story.
I get it. I totally do. It is a super short TV spot to try to talk about it and, ultimately, it isn't all positive light.
Here is what they don't tell you. The Jack Russell Terrier breeders, by in large, did NOT want kennel club recognition. Why? Well...the same reason the Border Collie folks are against it...it takes focus off of the working aspect of the dog. Did you know that when the Fox Terrier (smooth and wire) were accepted into the kennel club, that they were the very same dogs known as Jack Russell's foxing terriers? The same dogs that started in the KC as Fox Terriers have the very same ancestors as our JRTCA (Jack Russell Terrier Club of America...so as not to be confused with any other club in the world) Jack Russell Terriers. And look at how much they have changed. Shoulders much too upright, chests much too deep to make fox hunting effortless...and in many cases, makes it impossible. So the breed itself has morphed away from it's working base. Many of us did not want to see that happen to the Jack Russell Terrier.
So...a couple of decades ago, there was a court case. In a very oversimplified explanation, the trademarked name "Parson Terrier" was sold to the KC and stipulations put on that the breed standard must be different. The JRTCA standard allows for terriers between 10" and 15"...realizing that there is a need for different tools for different jobs and terrain. The Parson Standard is the taller half...12"-15". The Russell Terrier has come along and filled the void for those shorter terriers and the standard is 10"-12". So...there are three breeds stemming from all of this. Five, if you consider the smooth and wire coated Fox Terriers.
This is not to say that there are no Russell or Parson Terriers that go to ground to hunt. Just as this is not to say that every JRTCA Jack Russell Terrier hunts or is able to fit. I would never speak in those absolutes. There may even be some Fox Terriers that still hunt. And I do not mean ratting....I mean legit earthwork. I am also not saying either club is the "Debulllll" or either is perfect. The focus of the two, however, is different. Every breed was started with a purpose...and that purpose is the reason for the differences in appearance, personality, trainability in the breeds that we love. To completely ignore the core purpose for a breed is to risk losing the very traits that make it what it is. The AKC is not all bad and the JRTCA is not perfect. There are pros and cons with each club and there always will be because perfection is just not ever going to happen. Yes, the JRTCA has shows. Yes, some folks will argue that those shows are also taking the focus away from the purpose of the breed. However, many of the conformation judges we have are also working judges who have spent many hours in the field hunting with terriers and understand the reason for the conformation standard. But the bottom line is that there are three breeds now and many times these televised shows lump the JRT in with the other two or make it sound like it is simply semantics. The Jack Russell Terrier is registered and recognized by the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America and has been for decades prior to either the Parson or the Russell being recognized by the AKC. There are three....their breed standards are different even if they all look mighty similar right now.