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.
A 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
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
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
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
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
The British Interim Jack
Russell Terrier 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
||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
||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 American Standard: Jack
|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
|Temperament - Bold and
||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
|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
|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.
|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
|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
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
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
Muzzle: - Length from nose to stop is
slightly shorter than the distance from stop to occiput.
Jaws: - Upper and lower are of fair and
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Illustrated by Mindlen Mosquito
Photo: Michael Trafford
|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
||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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