Jack Russell Terrier: An Owner’s Guide
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AN OWNER’S GUIDE
This book is dedicated to my friend Clive Hoyle, a master breeder of Welsh cobs and working Jack Russell Terriers under his prefix ‘Llangybi’. I thank him for showing me the way with Llangybi Mister Chips, the most maddening but loveable Terrier I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a few!
I feel well placed to write this foreword and was delighted to have been asked. The first thing that makes me suitable is my Jack Russell experience; everyone knows how demanding they are and to have one is a challenge – well, I have four! Each one is totally different, in your face, bright as a button, ahead of the game and completely beguiling. I would not be without them. Secondly, I am suitable through knowing the author, Robert Killick. For some years we have worked together on dog charity projects at Crufts and it is not only his love of dogs but also his encyclopedic knowledge of them that has enabled him to write seven books.He is the right man to write this book and I commend it to anyone who wants to know the real Jack Russell.
Bill Roache MBE
The Jack Russell Terrier is one of the most important Terrier breeds because it has scarcely changed since its beginnings 150 years ago. Early photos and paintings show this to be true; indeed a photo of my dishevelled Jack Russell could be the litter brother to Trinity Jim, a famous Jack of around 1901. In this book we will present the quintessential modern Jack Russell from puppyhood through to adulthood.
I will be using the words ‘Jack Russell’ because the average member of the public does not know or, I suspect, care about the split in the breed. Whether he is called a Parson Russell Terrier or a Jack Russell, the names are synonymous with a happy, small, vibrant dog whose fame has spread through Europe, Australia and America as a worker and showdog.
Arguments rage about this Terrier, particularly his size, but a real Jack Russell is a running machine, slim, muscular with legs in proportion to his body – the short-legged round Terrier is not a proper Jack Russell.
Of all the many Terriers I have owned and bred in 35 years, my Jack Russell is the most intelligent and affectionate dog I’ve ever had – his zest for life is remarkable. He is not noisy or quarrelsome but he is self-willed and not easy to train. However, success will reward your patience and kindness. In the home he is good with children, playful and amusing, and, as a bonus, he is a great guard dog – no sound escapes him. As a country dog, he will walk you until you fall over and then want more. As a working Terrier he has no equal, being feisty, courageous and persistent, and yet he is flexible and will be at home in the town or city with sufficient exercise and mental stimulation.
The breed’s creator, Reverend John (Jack) Russell, was a legend in his lifetime, his Terriers were his legacy and they are a legend in our time.
Owning a dog is a huge responsibility but an extremely rewarding one. When you decide to welcome a Jack Russell Terrier into your home, you have to consider not only how he will fit into your lifestyle but also what you can offer him in return. He will need regular exercise, feeding, games and companionship as well as daily care.
There are two strains of the same breed, which are prevalent in Great Britain. The Parson Russell Terrier, which is officially recognized by the UK Kennel Club, is, largely speaking, a show dog and pet, although many are working dogs. The other strain, which is more numerous, is simply the Jack Russell Terrier, a working Terrier and also a pet, as recognized and supported by the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Great Britain. Both have their roots in the same stock, that of the Reverend John (Jack) Russell (1795–1883), who, from 1815 until his death, developed his own strain of hunt terriers which suited his style of hunting and the terrain over which he hunted.
Evolution of dogs
We will never know exactly how, why and when wolves morphed themselves into domestic dogs; it was part of the evolutionary process and could have been over a period of 500,000 years or more. Those of us blessed with a vivid imagination can picture in our minds a family of primitive men sitting round a fire eating the results of the day’s hunt. The glittering eyes of wolves can be seen watching from the bushes, waiting for the bones that will be tossed into the undergrowth. Wolves, being intelligent, realized that primitive man was a source of food, and because they went hunting as a group, they would skulk along behind the humans in the hope that when they killed their prey there might be enough left over for them.
Early Man may have thought of wolves as a source of food – they were edible, especially when young. Primitive children may have liked the look of wolf puppies when they were brought back to the cave as living store food, and perhaps they found that the puppies kept them warm at night, so they kept them and became attached to them. Slowly, over many years, the two species came to trust each other and Primitive man realized that domesticated wolves could help him find his prey and then kill it. With their superior hearing, they also made good guard dogs, warning of the approach of any other humans or animals, and this type probably became sheep and cattle dogs as men became agronomists. The early association between primitive man and wolves has been proved by the discovery of wolf bones found buried with human ones, dating back 500,000 years old.
The Parson Russell Terrier is easily recognizable with his longer legs. Like all Jack Russells, he is an excellent ratter and loves to scent and hunt in the garden or countryside.
We know that breeds of dog were bred for specific purposes even in ancient times and were respected in many early civilizations in the Middle East, ancient Egypt and China. An enormous number of ancient artefacts depicting dogs have been found in what are now Iraq and Iran as well as the Egyptian pyramids. It is not easy to recognize which breeds are portrayed in these ancient sites, mainly because they were not as sharply defined as they are today. Canophilists can find aspects in early statues and frescos of heavy war dogs, slim hunting dogs and small companion animals, but they seldom identify terriers because they probably did not exist in any way as we know them nowadays.
The spread of dogs
There is no mystery as to how breeds of dogs were distributed around Europe. Armies, moving on foot for thousands of miles, were usually accompanied by their own dogs and captured indigenous dogs as they travelled. They needed war dogs, watch dogs and herding dogs to control the herds of animals they took with them. During campaigns, invasions and occupations, they left behind and sold some of these dogs. Another mode of distribution was by coastal sea traders, notably the Phoenicians who sailed the Mediterranean and reached the coast of the British Isles. Dogs were probably sold and even survived shipwrecks, later mixing and breeding with the local canine population. Sheep traders from Europe also brought dogs to Britain, which they would have left behind or perhaps traded with the locals.
Advent of the Terrier
The Terrier was most likely a late addition to the British Isles. Early man saw rats as a food source but later, when he had discovered how to keep the crops he had grown, they became a nuisance and he needed smaller wolf-like dogs to catch and kill them. For reasons not understood, every breed of Terrier emanates from the British Isles, and even though a few new breeds have been developed, they came from British breeds originally. The German Hunt Terrier (Jagdterrier) and the Czech Cesky Terrier are two examples. For millennia, small, feisty dogs of no particular type were kept around British homesteads to control rats and other small mammals considered vermin. These dogs doubled as farm guards. We can only assume that it was from an amalgam of many breeds that the first Terrier types evolved.
History of Terriers
Very little was written on Terriers in ancient times, although Oppian wrote in the third century of small dogs used by the rough natives of Britain to scent and hunt game. Later, in 1486, Dame Juliana Berners mentioned ‘terours’ among other breeds of ‘dogges’ in her Boke of St Albans. Dr Johannes Caius presented terriers as we would recognize them today in his book on dogs, De Canibus Britannicis (1570). In 1686, Richard Blome described the working Terrier, which was indicative of a change in the attitude of huntsmen and the development of Terriers.
It is a Jack Russell’s instinct to hunt and to dig. Like most other Terrier breeds, these dogs were developed to keep down vermin.
In pre-medieval and medieval times, the aristocracy hunted deer for pleasure and the larder, so the development of hounds was their priority. Terriers were for the peasantry and interested the nobility only when they were engaged in dog fights, bull baiting and badger hunting. Medieval laws even forbade peasants from owning hunting dogs and disabled any suspect dogs to prevent them being used for deer hunting. Gundogs became a necessity when guns were introduced – Setters were used to indicate where the birds were, and Retrievers to bring back the dead.
This sport started to be popular in the fifteenth century when hunters discovered the pleasure of a long run on horseback in pursuit of the fox. They divided their time between stag hunting for food and fox hunting for pleasure and used the same staghounds for both. They soon realized, however, that the staghounds were too heavy and slow for hunting the fox and replaced them with lighter, faster animals.
Because foxes were adept at hiding, the lowly Terrier came into his own. Hitherto the peasant’s yard dog, he was now valued by the aristocracy. He was small with a wonderful sense of smell, feisty and courageous enough to go to earth and either mark where the fox was lying by barking or force him to leave the safety of his lair. If the former was the case and the Terrier was marking the fox, he was expected to keep barking, so the huntsmen could dig out the fox, release it, give it a head start and then pursue it again.
Parson Jack Russell did not want his Terriers to kill foxes, although most were quite capable of doing so; they needed to defend themselves against a fox that was desperately trying to escape. Therefore a Terrier had to be brave and sufficiently skilled to take on a fox fighting for its life in darkness in an unfamiliar, small underground chamber.
Many huntsmen began to develop their own strain of Terriers. In the early days, they favoured the ubiquitous Black and Tan Terrier, which although now extinct is still present genetically in many familiar breeds. The colour white was introduced, because in bad light and heavy undergrowth the hounds could easily mistake a dark-coloured dog for the fox, and many a fine Terrier was killed in that way.
Only with knowledge of the Reverend John (Jack) Russell, his life and times can we have a better understanding of the breed that carries his name and has done so for more than 150 years. The rural society in which he was born and lived was one of poverty, with many livelihoods dependent on the whims of land owners. Work was long and arduous and there was little to do in the way of entertainment. Hunting was a way of life, and the very existence of a hunt could sustain whole communities.
John Russell was born in 1795 in Devonshire, and from boyhood showed an exceptional interest in the countryside and animals. His father, a well-known hunting parson, who, at one time, kept a pack of hounds, encouraged his son to follow in his footsteps. At that time it was not unusual for men of the cloth to be keen on hunting. Indeed, many had their own packs, and they were often admired by their parishioners and overlooked by the church hierarchy.
Young John Russell was a tough, strong country lad, who was not easily put down and was always ready to fight his corner, which was just as well for his second school, Blundell’s, a public school in Tiverto, Devon, had a harsh regime, and bullying was rife. He kept ferrets and in his spare time would go ratting for local farmers, who were amused by the boy’s keenness and agreed to keep four-and-a-half couple of hounds (nine hounds) on his behalf.
Today’s Jack Russells are all descended from the original Terriers owned by the Reverend John Russell in the nineteenth century. Feisty and fun-loving, these dogs make great family pets as well as being superb workers.
At Oxford University, Russell was not interested in cock fighting and heavy drinking like the other young gentlemen undergraduates. Instead, he used every opportunity to hunt with the best packs. Foxhunting became the story of his life, and he was obsessed with hunting until his eighties, riding phenomenal distances to join a famous hunt.
The Jack Russell Terrier
The tale of how Russell found his first Terrier is well known, but it will lose nothing in re-telling. He was taking an early morning walk in Oxford when he saw the local milkman delivering milk with a white Terrier at his heel. Russell fell for the dog and could not rest until he had bought her. Her name was Trump and she became the foundation bitch of his kennel.
A famous Terrier man
In 1873, Russell became one of the founder members of the Kennel Club, but although he showed dogs for a short period he believed that dogs bred for the show ring would lose their working characteristics and he was only interested in function. Writing about him in 1904, H. Compton stated, ‘For where shall you find any Terrier strain, or for that matter any strain of dogs, as honoured and renowned as that of the Devonshire Parson whose distaste for show dogs was almost as profound as his admiration for working ones’.
Although he was said to be ‘the father of Fox Terriers’, which he kept within his own stud, there were some people who claimed he would buy up any likely looking Terrier and breed him or her. Unfortunately, we will never know the full truth because few of his records have survived, but, to use a stockman’s expression, ‘he had an eye for a dog’ and by a process of selective breeding became the most famous Terrier man in Britain. His fame extended far and wide, not only for his hunting prowess but also for his knowledge of country matters.
The Reverend John (Jack) Russell died on 28th April 1883, and, to illustrate how greatly he was esteemed and loved, over 1,000 people attended his funeral, including 24 clergymen, the mayor of Barnstaple and many hunting celebrities. Even the Prince of Wales sent a wreath of wild flowers celebrating Parson Jack’s love of the countryside.
Supporters of the breed
Two other men who should be named because of their support of Parson Jack and his strain of Terriers are Arthur Heinemann and Squire Nicholas Snow of Oare. Heinemann acquired his original stock of Jack Russell Terriers from the squire, and his kennel woman, Annie Rawle, was the granddaughter of the Parson’s kennel manager, Will Rawle. It was Annie who managed Heinemann’s kennels when the master was serving in World War I. Heinemann was also an obsessive huntsman and a student of Parson Jack’s breeding methods. He wrote the original Standard for the breed, which has been preserved virtually intact to modern times. He also built up a strong kennel of Terriers, and on his death in 1930 his stock passed to Annie Rawle, thereby ensuring the continuation of the type.
Using the Parson’s dogs as their patterns, the early show enthusiasts began to ‘improve’ on the originals. They developed their dogs to win in the show ring, but, in the view of many hunting people, they changed the priorities, making perceived beauty the most important criteria instead of function. They thought that the show Terrier would never be called upon to prove his metal in the field and therefore was not worthy of consideration.
Today’s working Jack Russell Terrier is a game little dog with all the instincts of his ancestors. He loves to dig and hunt.
Fox Terrier Club
At the time the generic name for terriers bred to run with Fox Hounds was ‘Fox Terrier’, and even the Parson’s dogs were alluded to as Fox Terriers. Indeed, to some he was the father of the breed. However, other gentlemen, wishing to stabilize the breed, created the Fox Terrier Club and sought recognition from the Kennel Club, which they achieved in 1872. Parson Jack Russell would have none of it and would not register his strain of Terriers with the Kennel Club, believing that it would dilute their hunting qualities. Many enthusiasts followed him, continuing to breed their working terriers in the time-honoured way – only from dogs that showed prowess in the hunting field – and called them Jack Russell Terriers.
However, in 1894, Heinemann formed the Devon & Somerset Badger Club, which later changed its name to the Parson Jack Russell Club and became one of the 28 clubs affiliated to the Fox Terrier Club in the 1930s. Sadly, they folded just before World War II.
By the turn of the century, dog shows were becoming very popular, and at the same time the Kennel Club’s registered Smooth Fox Terriers became the most popular Terrier exhibits. In some litters of Smooths, Wire-haired puppies appeared, which, although they were not favoured at the time, overtook the Smooths in popularity several years later. From photographs of the time it is easy to see that the Fox Terriers were not so very different to those of today.
Popularity of the breed
The one major problem that has haunted the breed, since its superb working qualities were recognized, is the spread of what can only be described as ‘counterfeit’ Jack Russells, because few people adhered to a Standard. During Word War II, food was scarce and it was difficult to feed kennels of dogs, so many were forced to close down and numerous dogs did not survive.
After the war, when the servicemen started returning home, there was a renewed demand for puppies, and many dog breeders, who were quick to seize the opportunity, began their operations again, producing so-called Jack Russell Terriers, which were acvtually a mishmash of types.
Puppy farmers and backyard breeders, seeking only to make money, would mate any Terriers together and call the resultant progeny Jack Russells. Farmers bred Terriers with small sheepdogs and described the puppies as Jack Russells. Although some of these dogs could work foxes or rats with varying degrees of efficacy, in reality they bore little or no resemblance to the real thing, and their puppies would not reproduce the Jack Russell Terrier’s characteristic type. Anyone with a scant knowledge of the breed could recognize major type faults, such as heads that were too wide, weak jaws, too big around the chest, long coupled, short front legs (Queen Ann legs) with turned out stifles, together with a lack of balance and symmetry. Other faults might include protuberant eyes, incorrect coat texture and colour, big pricked ears and roached backs.
Jack Russell Terrier Club
In 1974 a group of Terrier enthusiasts gathered together to form the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Great Britain (JRTC of GB) and to write a Standard in an attempt to stabilize the breed. A constitution was drawn up, with rule No. 1 being ‘To promote and preserve the working Terrier known as the Jack Russell’. To maintain the perceived difference between the working dog and the Kennel Club registered dog, Rule 2f of their constitution reads: ‘History has shown that Kennel Club recognition to be detrimental to the physical structure and working capabilities of a variety of working breeds, therefore this club is opposed to the Kennel Club recognition of the Jack Russell Terrier’.
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