Jack Russel

The Jack Russell Terrier Breed Standards

According to Wikipedia..."The Jack Russell Terrier is a type of small, principally white-bodied, terrier that has its origins in fox hunting.

The name "Jack Russell" has been used to describe a wide array of small white terriers, but is now most commonly used to describe a working terrier.

A Jack Russell Terrier is not the same as a Parson Russell Terrier, which is a breed recently created by narrowing the Jack Russell standard.

The Parson Russell Terrier is principally a show dog, and is rarely found in the hunt field.

The Jack Russell Terrier is also not the same thing as an Australian Jack Russell Terrier or Russell Terrier, which are dogs first brought into the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 2000 and the United Kennel Club in 2001, and which are maintained under a different breed standard and described as having been developed in Australia out of dogs originating in England.

jack russell terrierA Jack Russell Terrier is a working terrier, and the most important physical attribute of a working terrier is not coat color, gait or expression, but chest size.

If a terrier is too large to get to ground it is virtually worthless as a working dog.

The red fox is the traditional quarry of the Jack Russell Terrier, and the quarry pursued by the Reverend John Russell himself.

Red fox may den in a wide variety of locations from old badger settes and drain pipes to building crawl spaces, old rabbit holes and groundhog dens, but in all cases the working Jack Russell Terrier must be small enough to get up to its quarry, which is to say a Jack Russell's chest should be no larger than that of the animal it is pursuing.

Red fox size are variable, but across the world they average about 14 pounds in weight and have a chest size, on average of 12-14 inches in circumference when measured at the widest part of the chest.

As Barry Jones, the founding Chairman of the National Working Terrier Federation noted in comments directed to those in the UK who were intent on pulling the Jack Russell Terrier into The Kennel Club as a Parson Russell Terrier:

The chest is, without doubt, the determining factor as to whether a terrier may follow its intended quarry underground.

Too large and he/she is of little use for underground work, for no matter how determined the terrier may be, this physical setback will not be overcome in the nearly-tight situations it will encounter in working foxes.

It may be thought the fox is a large animal - to the casual observer it would appear so. However, the bone structure of the fox is finer than that of a terrier, plus it has a loose-fitting, profuse pelt which lends itself to flexibility.

I have not encountered a fox which could not be spanned at 14 inches circumference - this within a weight range of 10 lbs to 24 lbs, on average 300 foxes spanned a year.

You may not wish to work your terrier. However, there is a Standard to be attained, and span-ability is a must in the Parson Russell Terrier.

Jack Russell Terriers are predominantly white (more than 51%) with black, tan, or tri-color markings commonly found on the face and at the base of the tail.

Jack Russell Terriers have small V-shaped ears that should fold downward, and strong teeth with a scissor bite. The body shape is approximately square.

Jack Russell Terriers come in three coat types: smooth, broken, and rough. In all cases, the coat should be dense and not soft, feathery or linty.

A smooth coated dog should be smooth coated all over, with a dense topcoat that is approximately 1cm long. A rough-coated dog should have a double coat with fur as much as 10cm long, and should be rough-coated over its entire body.

A broken-coated dog is any dog with a topcoat of intermediate length, or a dog that is largely or partially smooth with longer hair on some parts of its body.

Jack Russell Terrier tails are straight, held high and upright. Traditionally, tails are docked to around five inches -- the length of a hand grip.

It is not a serious fault to leave a tail a little long, but too short a tail creates a less useful dog in the field and a dog that looks poorly balanced.

A Jack Russell's legs should be straight. Dogs with crooked or "benched" legs resembling Queen Anne furniture are often a sign of Achondroplasia." Courtesy of Wikipedia

A lot to be said about this unique breed of dog. Below are the different Breed Standards according to the different authority sources for your information.

I've used Sheila Atter's great book Jack Russell Terriers Today for these table guides and the first two denoting the breed standard of the Parson Russell Terrier and the last denotes the Jack Russell Standard.

The first formal Standard was drawn up in 1904 by Arthur Heinemann for the Parson Jack Russell Terrier Club.

The Heinemann Standard

Head - Skull flat, moderately broad, gradually decreasing to the eyes. Little stop should be apparent. Cheeks must not be full. Ears v-shaped and small, of moderate thickness and dropping forward close to cheek, not by the side. Upper and lower jaws strong and muscular of fair punishing strength. Not much falling away below the eyes. The eyes dark, small and deep set, full of fire, life and intelligence and circular in shape. Teeth level, i.e. upper on the outside of lower. Neck - Clean and muscular of fair length gradually widening to the shoulders.
Shoulders - Long and sloping, well laid back, fine at points, cleanly cut at withers. Chest - Deep but not broad.
Back - Straight and strong with no appearance of slackness. Loins - Powerful, very slightly arched, fore ribs moderately arched, back ribs deep. The jack russell terrier should be well ribbed up.
Hindquarters - Strong and muscular, free from droop, thighs long and powerful, hocks near the ground, dog standing well up on them. Not straight in the stifle. Stern - Set on high, carried gaily but never over the back or curled. Of good length and strength. A 'pipe-cleaning' tail, or too short, is most objectionable.
Feet - Round, compact, not large, soles hard and tough, toes moderately arched, turned neither in nor out. Coat - A trifle wiry, dense and abundant. Belly and undersides of thighs not bare.
Color - White with acceptable tan, grey or black at head and root of tail. Brindle or liver markings are objectionable. Symmetry, Size and Character - Terrier must present a gay, lively and active appearance. Bone and strength in a small compass are essentials, but not cloggy or coarse. Speed and endurance must be apparent. Not too short in the leg. 14 inches at the withers ideal for a dog, 13 for a jack russell terrier bitch. Weight when in working condition about 14 pounds but a pound more or less entirely acceptable. Conformation that of an adult vixen.
Male Animals - Should have 2 apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum. Faults - Too short, too leggy, legs not straight. Nose white, cherry or spotted considerably with these colors. Ears prick or rose. Mouth under or over shot. Excessively nervous or savage.

The British Interim Jack Russell Terrier Standard

General Appearance - Workmanlike, active and agile; built for speed and endurance. Characterisitics - Essentially a working terrier with ability and conformation to go to ground and run with hounds.
Temperament - Bold and friendly. Head and Skull - Flat, moderately broad, gradually narrowing to the eyes. Shallow stop. Length from nose to stop slightly shorter than from stop to occiput. Nose black.
Eyes - Almond shaped, fairly deep-set, dark, keen expression. Ears - Small v-shaped, dropping forward, carried close to the head, fold not to appear above top of skull.
Mouth - Jaws strong, muscular. Teeth with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaw. Neck - Clean, muscular, of good length, gradually widening to the shoulders.
Forequarters - Shoulders long and sloping, well laid back, clearly cut at withers. Legs strong, must be straight with joints turning neither in nor out. Elbows close to body, working free of the sides. Body - Chest of moderate depth, capable of being spanned behind the shoulders by average size hands. Back strong and straight. Loin slightly arched. Well balanced, length of back from withers to root of tail equal to height from withers to ground.
Hindquarters - Strong, muscular with good angulation and bend of stifle. Hocks short and parallel giving plenty of drive. Feet - Compact with firm pads, turning neither in nor out.
Tail - Strong, straight, set on high. Customarily docked with length complementing the body while providing a good handhold. Gait/Movement - Free, lively, well co-ordinated; straight action front and behind.
Coat - Naturally harsh, close and dense, whether rough or smooth. Belly and undersides coated. Skin must be thick and loose. Color - Entirely white or with tan, lemon or black markings, preferably confined to head or root of tail.
Size - Height minimum 33 cms. (13 ins.), ideally 35 cms. (14 ins.) at withers for dogs, and minimum 30 cms. (12 ins.), ideally 33 cms. (13 ins.) at withers for bitches. Faults - Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree. (Note) - Male dogs should have 2 apparently normal testicles descended into the scrotum.

The American Standard: Jack Russell Terrier

General Appearance - The Jack Russell Terrier was developed in the south of England in the 1800s as a white terrier to work European red fox, both above and below ground. The terrier was named for the renowned hunting parson, the Reverend John Russell (1795-1883), who fox hunted on horseback, and whose terriers bolted the foxes from dens in fields and hedgegrows so the sport could continue.

To function efficiently as a working terrier, he must be equipped with certain characteristics: a ready attitude, alert and confident; balance in height an length; medium size and bone, suggesting strength and endurance. Important to breed type is a natural appearance: harsh, weatherproof coat; compact construction; and clean silhouette. He has a small, flexible chest to enable him to follow the fox underground and sufficient length of leg to run with hounds. John Russell himself said it best: "(the) ideal terrier should resemble the conformation of an adult vixen red fox, approximately 14 ins. at the withers and 14 pounds in weight."

Any departure from the ideal described in the standard should be penalized in exact proportion to its degree. Structured faults common to all breeds are as undesirable in the Jack Russell Terrier as in any other breed, regardless of specific mention. No single point of the standard should be over-emphasized.

Note: Old scars and injuries, the result of work or accident, should not be allowed to prejudice a terrier's chance in the show ring, unless they interfere with movement or utility for work or breeding.

Size, Proportion, Substance

Size: Both sexes are properly balanced between 12 ins. and 14 ins. at the withers. The ideal height of a mature dog is 14 ins. at the withers, and bitches 13 ins. Terriers whose heights measure either slightly larger or smaller that the ideal are not to be penalized in the show ring provided other points of their conformation, especially balance and chest span, are consisted with the breed standard. The weight of a terrier in hard working condition is usually between 13-16 lbs.

Disqualification: Height under 12 ins. or over 15 ins.

Proportion - Balance is the keystone of the terrier's anatomy. The chief points of consideration are the relative proportions of skull and foreface, head, and frame, height at withers and length of body.

Substance - The jack russell terrier is of medium bone, not so heavy as to appear coarse or so light as to appear racy. The confirmation of the whole frame is indicative of strength and endurance.


Expression: - Keen, direct, full of life and intelligence.

Eyes: - Almond shaped, dark in color, moderate in size, not prpotruding. Dark rims are desirable. Faults: Light or yellow eye, round eye.

Ears - Button ear. Small "V"-shaped drop ears of moderate thickness carried forward close to the head with the tip so as to cover the orifice and pointing toward the eye. Fold is level with the top of the skull or slightly above. When alert, ear tips do not extend below the corner of the eye. Faults: Hound ear, fleshy ear, rounded tips. Disqualification: Prick ears.

Skull: - Flat and fairly broad between the ears, narrowing slightly to the eyes. The stop is well defined but not prominent.

Muzzle: - Length from nose to stop is slightly shorter than the distance from stop to occiput.

Jaws: - Upper and lower are of fair and punishing strength.

Nose: - Must be black and fully pigmented. Disqualifications: Liver color.

Bite: - Teeth are with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaws. Faults: Level bite, missing teeth. disqualifications: Four or more missing teeth. Overshot, undershot or wry mouth.

Neck, Topline, Body

Neck: - Clean and muscular, modestly arched, of fair length, gradually widening so as to blend well into the shoulders.

Topline: - Strong, straight and level, laterally supple, the loin slightly arched.

Body: - In overall length to height proportion, the dog appears approximately square and balanced. The back is neither short nor long.

Chest: - Narrow and of moderate depth, giving an athletic rather than heavily-chested appearance; must be flexible and compressible. The ribs are fairly well sprung, oval rather than round, not extending past the level of the elbow. Faults: Chest not spannable, barred ribs.

Note: To measure a jack russell terrier's chest, span from behind, raising only the front feet from the ground, and squeeze gently. Directly behind the elbows is the smaller, firm part of the chest. The central part is usually larger, but should feel rather elastic. The chest must be easily spanned by average size hands. This is a significant factor and a critical part of the judging process.

Tail: - Set high, strong, carried gaily but not over the back, or curled. Docked so that the tip is approximately level to the skull, providing a good handhold.

Shoulders: - Long and sloping, well laid back, clearly cut at the withers. Elbows hang perpendicular to the body, working free of the sides. Legs are strong and straight with good bone. Joints turn neither in nor out. Pasterns firm and merely straight.
Feet: - Round, cat-like, very compact, the pads thick and tough, the toes moderately arched pointing forward, turned niether in nor out. Faults: Hare feet.

Strong and muscular, smoothly molded, with good angulation and bend of stifle. Hocks near the ground, parallel, and driving in action. Feet as in front.

Broken: Double coated. Coarse and weatherproof. short, dense undercoat, covered with a harsh, straight, wiry jacket which lies flat and close to the body and legs. There is a clear outline with only a hint of eyebrows and beard. No sculptured furnishings. Cast does not show a strong tendency to curl or wave. Belly and undersides of thighs are not bare.

Note: The jack russell terrier is shown in his natural appearance; excessive grooming or sculpturing is to be penalized. Faults: Soft, silky, wooly or curly coat. Lacking undercoat.

White, white with black or tan, or a combination of these, tri-color. Colors are clear. Markings are preferably confined to the head and root of tail. Heavy body markings are not desirable.

Disqualification: Brindle markings. (Note: Brindle is defined as a color pattern produced by the presence of darker hairs forming bands and giving a striped effect on a background of tan, brown or yellow. Brindle is not to be confuse with grizzle.)

Movement or action is the crucial test of conformation. The terrier's movement is free, lively, well coordinated, with straight action in front and behind. There should be ample reach and drive with a good length of stride.

Bold and friendly. Athletic and clever. At work he is a game hunter, tenacious and courageous. At home he is playful, exuberant and overwhelmingly affectionate. He is and independent and energetic terrier and requires his due portion of attention. Faults: Shyness or overaggressive behavior.
Note: Shyness in a Jack Russell Terrier should not be confused with submissiveness. Submissiveness is not a fault.


Height under 12 ins. or over 15 ins. Prick ears, liver nose. Four or more missing teeth. Overshot, undershot or very wry mount. Brindle markings. Crytorchid.

A Controversial Breed

The Jack Russell Terrier origin and ancestry, I fear, will be a subject of controversy for decades to come.

I don't attempt to pretend I am a Jack Russell Terrier expert in the matter, and in my research for trying to narrow the different opinions down to the truth, I can only admit, I must leave it to the experts to hash out.

For my own part, my dog Annie is disqualified from the get-go with her big fox ears. But she has the Jack Russell Terrier personality down to a tee. And my interest in and love for Jacks is not limited to any Breed Standard.

But I hope the tables above are helpful to those of you interested in that aspect and need to know just what is the consensus of how a Jack Russell Terrier should look, walk and act.

Below, and again taken from Sheila Atter's must-have book - Jack Russell Terriers Today, is the Breed Points Graph for a quick reference look at this really neat dog.

If you are still asking the quesiton "is this a Jack Russell", feel free to submit your pictures and descriptions to our readers who will comment on your dog.

Breed Points
Illustrated by Mindlen Mosquito
Photo: Michael Trafford

jrt standard


1. Stop: Shallow 8. Elbows: Close to body
2. Skull: Flat, moderately broad 9. Hindquarters: Strong and muscular
3. Ears: Fold not to appear above the top of the skull 10. Hocks: Short and parallel
4. Neck: Gradually widening to shoulders 11. Tail: Strong and straight
5. Loin: Slightly arched 12. Feet: Compact with firm pads
6. Shoulders: Long and sloping, well laid back 13. Coat: Naturally harsh
7. Ribs: Capable of being spanned 14. Color: Markings only on head and tail

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