Jack Russel

The Amazing Jack Russell Terrier History

Jack Russell Terrier

A Unique Origin

When I set out to write this page on Jack Russell Terrier history, I began to study the typical books and articles that dealt with this rather controversial biography.

I even created part of the page with the same old information as every other Jack Russell site...that is until my nephew, who has bred Jack Russells, saw the page.

He introduced me to a book he said would give a more accurate and honest account, an account minus the usual sensationalism and mythology that often follows these accounts.

I read the book and found it quite awesome and totally unique from all other Jack Russell Terrier history books I've read.

But if the reader is looking for more fluff than fact where the origins of this breed are concerned, this book may not be for you. But I found it completely fascinating.

complete jack russell terrierThe name of the book is The Complete Jack Russell Terrier by D. Brian Plummer and its pages cover much more than Jack Russell history.

The author, who owns, breeds and works Jack Russells and obviously relishes the association, has created "an essential reading for all Jack Russell owners who wish to understand the true character of their animals."

And indeed, after reading this book I have acquired a greatly more enlightened insight into my dog Jimbo. It has made me love, respect and understand him even more.

In short, I strongly recommend the book.

The following are excerpts from Chapter 1 which exposes the true origins of the Jack Russell Terrier history. These clips will give the reader a taste of the rich content this book offers.

jack russell terrier history The Legend

It is said that Parson John Russell, Vicar of Swimbridge in Devon, acquired his first terrier while studying at Oxford.

The dates of this supposed acquisition vary between 1815 and 1819, and story has it that John Russell purchased his first terrier from a milkman, supposedly in the village of Marston in Oxfordshire.

Russell's purchase - a type of fox terrier - was said to be roughly fourteen inches at the shoulder, rough of coat and predominantly white, approximating in size to a fully grown vixen.

john russell bookGet Parson John's great biography... A Memoir of the Rev. John Russell. An integral part of understanding Jack Russell Terrier history.

Story further has it that this terrier, a bitch called Thump, was to be the ancestor of all of the parson's virtually legendary strain of terriers.

What the parson used to 'cover' this terrier to produce his strain is open to speculation, and frankly of no importance to the modern Jack Russell breeder.

Sufficient to say that, by the 1850s, Parson Jack Russell was one of the leading breeder/dealers of fox terriers in the West Country."

jack russell terrier history


"Russell was an almost obsessional hunter and stories are legion concerning his expulsion from schools on account of his predatory menagerie of ferrets, terriers and hounds which were his lifelong pets and companions.

When he eventually obtained a position as curate of George Nympton, he quickly set about putting together a pack of hounds and hunted firstly otter, spending his winters assisting another hunting parson, The Reverend Jack Froude of Knowstone, in the pursuit of fox."

In exploring this unique Jack Russell Terrier history the author continues in describing life in the Devonshire of the Victorian era and where "time seemed to have stood still and characters more at home in the chimes of a century earlier still abounded there - bizarre, eccentric and near lunatic were common enough in the West Country" of England.

He tells of some of those bizarre characters, some of which were close associates of Parson John's, such as Templar of Stowe, who hunted with a monkey strapped to his saddle.

Then Reverend Froude, as referred to above, "ran a gang of disreputables who terrorized the villages near Russell's parish, burning, stealing and looting."

Not your typical parsons and vicars as we might have imagined I dare say.

In this amazing Jack Russell Terrier history the author goes on to say "these roughnecks were dwarfed by another, the awesome Jack Radford, Vicar of Lapworth". This guy was said to have a 54 inch chest with "arms like oak saplings" who was well known for his wrestling skills.

The author continues...

"So fascinating were these villainous parsons, more at home in a London rookery than a sleepy Devonshire village, that R.D. Blackmore, author of Lorna Doone, used Froude and Radford as models for his ferocious and infamous characters, the Reverend Chowne and Rambone, in his little-known but highly readable book, The Maid of Sker. Clearly Russell would not have seemed at all an odd-man-out in the social climate of his times."

(I must recommend The Maid of Sker as well as Lorna Doone as great reads. They are not only readable but enthralling stories.)

Now to continue with more of this fascinating Jack Russell Terrier history with the excerpts from The Complete Jack Russell Terrier...

"The great fad during the nineteenth century was to cross the various terriers of Britain with bulldogs to produce an extraordinary tough and hard terrier, but Russell disapproved of this since the inclusion of bulldog blood ruined what Russell called 'the gentlemanly characteristics' of his strain. He is reputed to have preferred rough-coated terriers, as most of the smooth fox terriers of the time had bulldog blood in their ancestry. Perhaps it is true that he did prefer rough-coated terriers but he certainly also bred many smooth-coated dogs at his kennels in Swimbridge."

(A little side note in this Jack Russell Terrier history... John Russell preferred the undocked tail on his Russell dogs. He claimed the natural undocked tail made it easier to grab hold of to pull the dog from the ground when it had latched on to the prey.)

jack russell terrier history

"Whether or not John Russell kept a strain of rough-coated fox terriers will continue to be debated for years to come. Many accuse the parson of having been simply a dealer, buying and breeding from any terrier that took his fancy, supplementing his meager income by wheeling and dealing in livestock. One thing is fairly certain, however: that he did much to popularize the wire-haired fox terrier - now one of the most popular breeds in Britain, but at that time a Cinderella, a poor relation of the smooth fox terrier. Russell was, in fact, one of the founder members of the Kennel Club."


To continue with exploring this unique Jack Russell Terrier history and see the excerpts from the second part of Chapter 1...The Facts Behind the Legend... just click here.


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