Parson Russell (Jack Russell) Terrier

AKC Terrier Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

NOTE: The AKC changed the name of this breed from Jack Russell Terrier to Parson Russell Terrier in April 2003.

Developed in nineteenth-century England by Parson John Russell, this feisty little terrier was used to hunt small game, particularly fox, by digging the quarry out of its den. Breeders have emphasized working ability, so physical characteristics vary, encompassing a wide range of accepted body types. On English hunts, they were supposed to be long-legged enough to keep up with the hounds. Later, short-legged Jack Russells became very popular, but controversial, as they are not according to the AKC or JRTCA breed standards. This energetic and playful terrier makes a good family companion.


This small, compact, athletic dog looks like a less refined, working Fox Terrier. It is slightly taller than long, of medium bone. The double coat comes in white, or predominately white with black, tan, or black and tan markings. Markings tend to be on the head and tail. The skull is flat between the ears, then tapers slightly. The stop is defined, but not abrupt. The nose is black and the almond-shaped eyes dark. The V-shaped ears fold forward. The teeth should meet in a scissors bite. The feet are round and catlike. The Parson Russell has a flexible body and fairly small chest (easily spanned by the average man’s hands) to enable him to go to ground after his prey. The tail is carried gaily, but not over the back, and is set fairly high. Comes in smooth and broken coated varieties.

Key Facts

  • Height:  12 to 14 in.
  • Size:  Small
  • Weight:  13 to 17 lbs.
  • Availability:  Widely available
  • Talents:  Hunting, tracking, earthdog, agility, and performing tricks


Likes to chase and explore. Be careful not to let off lead unless very well trained. Tends to get restless and destructive if not kept fruitfully occupied and well-exercised. Prone to a type of dwarfism where the dog has deformed shortened legs. To show, owners must strip the coat. There are several Jack Russell Terrier or Parson Russell Terrier clubs which have each set up slightly different breed standards and registries. The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America is not affiliated with the AKC but is a major registry for the breed. The Parson Russell Terrier Association of America is the breed parent club affiliated with the AKC.


Perky, spirited, and loving. Absolutely fearless. Cheerful, clever, and amusing. Enjoys games and playing with toys. Friendly and generally kind to children who have been trained not to tease or strike the dog. Intelligent, yet willful and determined. Needs firm, experienced training. Can be aggressive with other dogs if not well trained and socialized. Some have killed or been killed in dogfights. Early socialization can help substantially moderate this trait. Strong hunting instinct—do not trust with small animals.


  • Children:  Good only when raised with children from puppyhood
  • Friendliness:  Moderately protective
  • Trainability:  Slightly difficult to train
  • Independence:  Not particularly dependent or independent
  • Dominance:  High
  • Other Pets:  Might be aggressive with dogs of the same sex; do not trust with non-canine pets
  • Combativeness:  Very dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Likes to bark
  • Indoors:  Very active indoors
  • Owner:  Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming:  A little grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  Some trimming or stripping (little skill required)
  • Coat:  Short coat
  • Shedding:  Average shedder
  • Docking:  The tail is customarily docked
  • Exercise:  Vigorous daily exercise needed
  • Jogging:  A good jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space:  Best with at least an average-size yard
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Long (15 or more years)

Useful Links

AKC® Parson Russell Terrier Breed Standard

Parson Russell Terrier Breed Profile

Parson Russell Terrier Breed Profile

Parson Russell Terrier Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Parson Russell Terrier

Parson Russell Terrier Gifts