Russell Terrier Breeds: Meet Jack, Parson and Russell

Smart enough to outfox a fox, the Russell terrier dog breeds are extremely clever, quick and somewhat independent. Known diggers, the Russell terriers can’t help themselves. They were originally bred as companions to fox hunters, so they’re adept and fearless diggers! What’s the difference between Russell terriers, Jack Russell terriers and Parson Russell terriers? According to, which is the website for the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTCA), all three are Jack Russells. There is no “real” Russell terrier, and the Parson Russell and Russell are variants of Jack Russells. However, the AKC doesn’t actually recognize the Jack Russell terrier as a breed (by choice of the JRTCA), and it does recognize Parson Russells and Russells as separate breeds. Doggie Designer blog helped us understand the oh-so-subtle differences among these three breeds.

Parson Russell terrier

The Parson Russell terrier was bred in England as a companion to fox hunters by a man named — you guessed it — John Russell, who was a clergyman. Hence, the name “Parson.” Parson Russell terriers are known for their mostly white coats, sometimes marked with patches of reddish-brown. The AKC officially recognizes Parson Russells as a pure breed.

Jack Russell terrier

A close relative of the Parson Russell, the Jack Russell terrier was bred as more of a companion dog, so says Doggie Designer, although they still make good hunting companions. The AKC does not officially recognize the Jack Russell terrier as one of its breeds, which DoggieDesigner says is because the breed’s club opted not to apply. Jacks and Parsons are basically the same breed with very slight differences: Jacks’ legs are shorter and their chests are slightly narrower. They might also have less white and more browns in their coat colors. The JRTCA says JRTs should have 51% or more white.

Russell terrier

To further confuse you, the Russell terrier is also known as the Irish Russell terrier or the English Russell terrier. According to the AKC, the Russell terrier dog breed was finished in Australia. Russells are smaller than their Jack and Parson cousins, and the AKC recognizes Russell terriers as an official breed. The AKC recognizes 31 types of terrier breeds, including the Parson Russell and the Russell terrier.

Do Russell Terriers and Jack Russell Terriers Bark a Lot?

Yes. This is a breed with high tendencies to bark. They’re high energy, so if you give them at least an hour of daily exercise, they’ll be less driven to bark. A tired dog is a good dog, right? Russell terriers make for good watchdogs, but because of their smaller size, they might not be the best guard dogs. (Small dogs are less intimidating to intruders, some say.) They’re protective of their domains, so they’ll bark their heads off until you issue a command (the ultrasonic bark trainer works great with Russell terriers).

Facts About Jack Russell, Parson Russell and Russell Terriers

There really isn’t a lot of differences among these three breeds, although their devotees might argue otherwise. All three breeds are energetic and need an hour of exercise every day, which can be broken into shorter walks, rounds of fetch and tug of war.

  • Size: Parson Russells stand 13 to 14 inches tall and average 13 to 17 pounds. Russells are the smallest of the three and stand 10 to 12 inches and weigh 9 to 15 pounds. Jack Russells stand 10 to 15 inches tall and weigh 13 to 17 pounds.
  • Life expectancy: Parsons live about 13 to 15 years. Russells average 12 to 14 years. Jacks live 10 to 15 years.
  • Coat: Parson Russells have two coat types — smooth and broken. Jack Russells and Russells have three types of coats — smooth, broken and rough.
  • AKC group: Parson Russells and Russells both belong to the AKC terrier group.
  • Are Russell Terriers Easy to Train?

Any dog breed that was bred to hunt can prove difficult to train. These Russell terriers have a high prey drive, so they should be leashed on walks or allowed to run in fenced yards. You might also think twice about adopting a Russell terrier if you have cats, small dogs or other animals.  The prey drive in this breed is high, but they aren’t known “killers.” Hunters trained terriers to flush — not kill — their game and vermin from their hiding places. Russell terriers are fox hunters, so they like to dig. If you’ve got a yard, you’d do well to designate an area that your Russell terrier can freely dig. Otherwise, enlist the aid of a training device, voice commands and delicious rewards (train, treat, repeat) to teach this breed when to stop digging, barking or doing other unwanted behaviors.

Do Russell Terriers Make Good Pets? Are They Hard to Train?

Jack Russells, Parson Russells and Russells are not for low-key households or couch potatoes. They do well in homes with older children and active adults. They’re smart dogs, playful and full of personality. They are affectionate and friendly, especially when they’re socialized at a young age, and often. So yes, Jack Russell terriers make good pets, as do their Parson Russell and Russell terrier relatives. Here’s the thing with some hunting and herding dogs: They’re bred to work independently, which can be frustrating for us regular folks (non-hunters or non-shepherds). It’s not that they’re not intelligent (Russell terriers are very intelligent) or stubborn. They’re just independent thinkers, so practice patience when training them.

Do Russell Terriers Need Grooming?

Russell terriers have three types of coats: Smooth, rough and broken. Smooth coats are just as they sound, with the coat laying smooth and flat. Rough coats have looser hair all of their bodies. Broken coats are a combination of smooth and rough, with the looser hair being around the face and legs, but it could be anywhere on the dog’s body. No matter which type of coat your Russell terrier has, weekly brushing should suffice.  Weekly nail trims are a must for this active dog breed. Jack Russell terriers’ nails grow quickly, and overgrown nails can lead to injuries. This dog breed does well with the Nail Pro nail grinder, but you can also use scissor-style nail clippers, both of which are available in the BarxBuddy online store.

Do Jack Russells and Russell Terriers shed a lot?

Russell terriers are moderate shedders that require minimal grooming. They need only occasional baths, if they get into something stinky. Otherwise, they do well with weekly brushing or rub downs with a grooming mitt.

What If My Breed Is a Jack Russell Terrier Mix?

Sometimes, in an effort to create a dog that combines the best of both worlds, a breeder might mix a Russell terrier with another breed that might be lower key, more trainable, and less of a barker. Truth is, you never know what you’ll get with any dog — pure breed, cross breed or mixed.  Research breeds’ histories and, if possible, get to know the parentage of your cross breed to get an idea of their temperament.  Early socialization will make your dog a better pet, along with consistent training.  Here are some popular Jack Russell breed mixes

Resource Links for More JRT, PRT and Russell Terrier Info

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