Dkrainwater’s Weblog

The Heredity And Breeding Of The Jack Russell Terrier

Posted on: October 20, 2008

The original Fox Terrier breed that Russell started with was much different than its modern day counterpart. In the early 1800’s the breed was slender and lanky. It was taller, larger and the coloring was predominantly black, tan and reddish brown, very much resembling the fox that it hunted. One of the major issues that Reverend Russell wanted to address is that the dogs were often mistaken for the prey being hunted, and many a time was accidentally shot by their owners when involved in a fast paced chase.

After he completed his studies at Oxford, John Russell was ordained as a minister in 1819 by Dr. Pelham, Bishop of Exeter and one of the clergy favored by King George the Fourth of England himself. He started a family and lived in Swymbridge for a time before settling in Devonshire where he would spend the rest of his days preaching and breeding Fox Terriers. Reverend Russell made careful plans to start a new line of Fox Terrier that would fix the previous problems with the breed by breeding Trump, and later other British White Terriers into the Fox Terrier gene pool. In doing this Russell was careful to only introduce enough of the White Terrier’s genetic stock into the Fox Terrier gene pool to differentiate it from a real Fox, but not enough to carry the many defects of the White Terrier breed onto the new Fox Terrier line.

The British White Terrier was known as a lap dog to most dog enthusiasts of England at the time. The breed was completely white in most cases and ranged in size from 10 to 20 lbs. Although stocky and muscular the breed was rarely, if ever, used for any type of work, they were regarded as too small and fragile to be of much use for anything. Also detracting from the breed’s popularity was its reputation for being prone to partial or complete deafness, among other deformities caused by in-breeding.

It took several generations of careful breeding, but within twelve years Reverend John Russell had created the ideal form of the Fox Terrier. This new line became wildly popular among hunting enthusiasts and British aristocrats, soon replacing the old black and tan standard of the breed completely.

Although the British White Terrier proved useful for improving the Fox Terrier and several other breeds, the breed itself held very little regard among English society. Thanks to the unpopularity of the White Terrier, the breed was completely extinct by the year 1900. It is important to note however, several of Reverend Russell’s experimental breeding lines of Fox Terrier exhibited almost a completely white coloring pattern as well as other British White Terrier traits. Many of those breeding lines still exist today.

Kellie Rainwater and her husband Don are avid lovers of the Jack Russell Terrier. Through the love of the bred they have written a book on how to train, breed, and show this tenacious dog. is a site that features this book signed and sold by the author along with Jack Russell products, toys, watches and other Jack Russell gear


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