The Jack Russell Terrier is one of the most recognized dog breeds around, and yet, they are not one of the 175 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club. When a new breed is officially recognized, stud books are closed by, the AKC, which means the gene pool is closed, and there can be no new breeding stock brought into the bloodline. Once the gene pool is closed, every pup born will be related to another dog in his breed. The politics of dog breeding seems to be a contributor to why the Jack Russell Terrier isn’t recognized by the AKC.
In the 1800’s, the Reverend John “Jack” Russell, wanted to create a tough, and spirited fox hound to flush out fox that went to ground during a hunt. The Reverend was determined to develop a capable, smart, energetic, and feisty dog with longer legs. During a hunt, his terriers needed stamina to followed men on horses, and hounds, and still have the energy, and strength to go to ground when necessary. If the hounds chased a fox into a hole, the terrier followed him to flush him out of the hole so the hunt could continue. After his death in 1883, other hunters began breeding for traits they desired. If a pup was born with short legs, they were given away or used at home as watchdogs and rat catchers around the barns. However, hunters eventually found these shorter legged terriers useful on a hunt because they could get into the smaller underground dens. The smaller dogs were carried in terrier sacks slung over a hunter’s shoulder or carried across their saddle over rougher sections of land.
It wasn’t long before the Jack Russell Terrier began to evolve into two different breeds, the Parson, and Jack Russell. Today, there’s three different Jack Russell Terrier breeds, the Parson, the Russell, which are both officially recognized by the AKC, and the Jack Russell, which isn’t recognized. Although, there’s very little difference between the three breeds. The Parson is the tallest and has a square shaped body. The Russell is the shortest of the three breeds, and referred to as “the Shorty JRT,” and both the Jack Russell, and Russell have rectangular shaped bodies.
The Reverend Russell was more interested in creating a dog based on temperament, and wasn’t concerned about the dog’s appearance. During a hunt, if the fox took to ground to avoid the hounds, that was when it ended. Russell was careful to breed his dog without the killer instinct, and paid close attention to make sure his dogs had a consistent temperament. Trump, a female terrier purchased, according to the story, from a milkman Russell met while at Oxford University waiting to take an exam, is considered the foundation stock for the JRT breed. She was described as similar to a Wire Fox Terrier, with a wider head, and shorter legs, and was likely a mix between a Fox Terrier, and a Black and Tan Terrier. During the process of developing the working dog Russell, and other hunters sought, other breeds used in the JRT developed most likely included Beagle, Fox Terrier, Dachshunds, Corgis, and other toy and terrier breeds. This gave the JRT breed a wide variety in size, shape, and type.
In order to be recognized by the AKC, each breed has a standard it must conform to. This is where the politics of dog breeding comes in. In the early 1990’s, the AKC began to consider the possibility of adding the Jack Russell Terrier to their list of recognized breeds, but when the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTCA) heard about it, they objected. Some breeders feared that if the JRT was officially recognized, the breed would be in jeopardy of losing its working ability. Their fear was the AKC was more concerned with appearance, and not with why a breed was developed. So, the AKC dropped their plans until 2001, when the issue was once again raised, this time by the Parson Jack Russell Terrier Breeders Association that had developed their own breed standard. The group filed a petition asking AKC to recognize the breed, and they complied with the request in 2004. Jack Russell Terriers that met the breed standard set by the Parson Jack Russell Terrier Club were renamed Parson Terrier.
Because the Jack Russell Terrier is a popular small dog, this breed is a favorite for puppy mills to raise, and sell. Never buy a puppy online, or from someone who refuses to let you visit their kennel, and pick out your own pup. Do your homework to make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate, and responsible breeder. The JRT is a great dog to add to your home, but he’s not a dog for everyone. He has lots of energy, and needs plenty of exercise to stay out of trouble.
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