Parson Russell Terrier

Other names: Parson Terrier, Parson, Parson Jack Russell Terrier

Parson Russell Terrier

Parson Russell Terriers are small dogs with large personalities. Being members of the Terrier group, they were originally bred for hunting rats, badgers and foxes. This dog has abundant energy levels and can keep working all day. It’s just not possible to fool a Parson Russell Terrier, as he is a very intelligent dog and brilliant at solving problems. These small dogs don’t appear to be afraid of anything and have very independent minds.

Key facts about the Parson Russell Terrier

Life expectancy :





Temperament :

Playful Intelligent Hunter

Size :

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Origins and history

The Reverend John Russell, a keen country sportsman, was the originator of the Parson Russell breed. It was bred for the first time in the early 1800’s, with a bitch named Trump, who was thought to have been purchased from a milkman. With a white body and tail and head markings, the first line of Jack Russell Terriers began. The breed later became recognised as the Parson Russell, (as opposed to the Jack Russell who has slightly shorter legs) with KC recognition following several years later in 1990.

FCI breed nomenclature

FCI Group

Group 3 - Terriers


Section 1 : Large and medium sized Terriers

Physical characteristics of the Parson Russell Terrier

  • Parson Russell Terrier
    Parson Russell Terrier

    Adult size

    Female : Between 12 and 14 in

    Male : Between 13 and 15 in


    Female : Between 11 and 18 lb

    Male : Between 11 and 18 lb

    Coat colour

    Type of coat

    Eye colour



    The characteristics of this small terrier show that he is built for endurance and stamina. With an agile and very active temperament, he is always prepared to begin work. He has a wedge-shaped head, black nose and muscular, strong jaws. The dog’s ears are quite proportionate to his head, dropping forward and are V-shaped.

    If the dog’s tail hasn’t been docked, it will have a straight appearance of moderate length. It has previously been customary to dock the tail to a desired length. His legs are moderately longer than his counterpart’s, the Jack Russell Terrier.

    Good to know

    Although the Parson Russell breed isn’t as well-known as its counterpart, the Jack Russell Terrier, they are still very popular with the country sporting fraternity. Trump, the first known parent of the breed, has her image immortalised as a portrait which in still on display at Sandringham House, the home of King Edward VII, who bought the painting following Reverend Parson’s death.

    There are no known cross-breeds with a Parson Russell Terrier, although there are many for his fellow dog, the Jack Russell. The Parson Russell Terrier is a close family member to the Jack Russell Terrier. Similarly, both breeds have been used for fox-hunting, are confident, alert and very enduring dogs. Although this dog might be a quick-tempered rascal at times, it’s impossible to deny his cuteness.


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      Even though they are quite mischievous, these small terriers make brilliant companion pets. They thrive on human interaction, and are always ready for an adventure or a game. Be prepared though, he won’t enjoy lazing around on the sofa too much.

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      Having boundless energy, this dog will always be wanting to play another game of fetch the ball. They do, however, get bored quite easily. One of their worst habits is digging. They are bred to dig and go underground chasing vermin, so if he gets the chance to dig a hole, he is in his element.

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      Famous for their antics and mischievousness, these little dogs like to be on the move. Very high-spirited, they love raising a laugh with their owners.

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      Although amusing and entertaining, this breed is known for its intelligence and high energy.

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      This breed of terrier has a very playful and mischievous temperament. Over many years they have been bred to hunt out all types of vermin from underground. Because of this high prey drive, they are quite unsuitable for living with cats and other small pets.

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      Fearful / wary of strangers

      It’s not very often that a Parson Russell Terrier shows any signs of aggression towards humans. They are quite happy when any strangers visit their home, although they will probably bark when someone knocks at the door.

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      This little dog loves nothing more than to be involved in whatever is going on around them. Even going so far as to look for escapades, especially if it involves digging in the garden.

      Behaviour of the Parson Russell Terrier

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        Tolerates solitude

        You will quite often find your Terrier following you around as you go about daily tasks. Not really suited to solitude, this friendly little pup loves to be around people. Being left alone for long periods will cause boredom and destructive behaviour such as digging or chewing.

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        Easy to train / obedience

        Early training and mixing with people from a young age will produce a happy, sociable pet. Although the Parson Russell is a very intelligent dog, they do get easily bored. Because of this, short training sessions, without much repetition, are advised. Patient, consistent and firm training methods are required.

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        If your dog is alarmed by someone at the door, he will bark, but otherwise is quite a serene canine.

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        Tendency to run away

        As a result of his hunting leanings, when you are out walking and he sees or smells any vermin, he will chase off after it without hesitation. Because of this, in certain situations its best to keep him on a long leash to prevent him from running off. As a digger, he will be prepared to dig an escape route under the garden boundary, in search of new adventures.

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        Not normally a destructive character, but given his predisposition for digging out his prey, he will quite happily dig under the garden fence without a second thought. Likewise, when bored, he will chew on anything in his reach.

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        Greedy / Gluttony

        Although these are small terriers, they do need sufficient food intake to match their energy levels. Although not greedy pets, they do love treats as rewards when training.

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        Guard dog

        Although he will bark to warn you of anyone approaching the home or knocking at the door, he isn’t likely to ward off any threats or attack anyone. His voice is certainly louder than his bite, except when it comes to the postman approaching your door!

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        First dog

        Given his strong and sometimes stubborn personality, the Parson Russell Terrier is only recommended for owners who already have experience in training dogs, and know how to assume their position as pack leader. It is not a first-time owner breed.

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          Parson Russell Terrier in a flat

          Don’t be fooled by the small size of this terrier. He is an active dog who is always on the move, certainly not suited to apartment living. If he is cooped up in a small space, he can easily become bored, which can lead to destructive behaviour. Any outside space must be fenced off, as the Parson Russell Terrier is prone to chasing anything that moves, such as cats, rabbits, squirrels and even motorbikes.

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          Need for exercise / Sporty

          Parson Russell terriers are very active pets that absolutely love chasing balls. In fact, this is one activity that he will never tire of playing.

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          Travelling / easy to transport

          These small dogs are very happy to travel in a car, or even in the boot space for small journeys.


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            Parson Russell Terrier and cats

            As this breed of dog have high hunting instincts, they don’t generally get along too well with small pets, particularly from the rodent family. However, if a puppy is trained from an early age to respect and live with cats and other small pets, they can generally get along together.

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            Parson Russell Terrier and dogs

            This spirited little dog will happily get along with and live in the same home as other dogs, especially if they have been raised together from a young age.

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            Parson Russell Terrier and children

            Although they love being with family, he won’t be happy with lots of pulling and teasing. Because of this, they aren’t really suited to families with young children.

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            Parson Russell Terrier and the elderly

            Although this terrier is happy as a companion pet, he does need lots of exercise and daily walks, so perhaps not suited to an elderly owner.



            Expect to pay anywhere between £450 to £650 for a dog, depending if he is KC registered or not.

            Taking into consideration the cost of pet insurance and vaccinations, together with feeding costs, a Parson Russell terrier will set you back around £50 to £70 per month.


            As the Parson Russell terrier has a short, dense coat, regular brushing will keep him looking prim and proper. It will also help if the coarse type of broken haired coat is stripped once or twice a year.


            There are two coat types of the Parson Russell Terrier. The smooth-coated type do shed hair quite often, whereas the roughs and broken-coated dogs don’t lose their coat, but do need to be stripped.

            Nutrition of the Parson Russell Terrier

            As these are quite energetic dogs, they do have very healthy appetites. Two small meals a day, of a well-balanced diet should meet their digestion and energy needs.

            Health of the Parson Russell Terrier

            Life expectancy

            13 to 15 years.

            Strong / robust

            A very wiry, wilful constitution makes this small terrier quite hardy and strong.

            Withstand heat

            Even though this terrier has a dense coat, he is quite happy to live indoors.

            Withstand cold

            Never seeming to stay still for very long at all, the high energy levels of this small dog keep him on the move for most of the day. Although quite happy to be a house dog, he is equally content to be outdoors, digging in the hedgerows or fields, in search of vermin.

            Tendency to put on weight

            Because of their agility and constant energy levels, these small dogs don’t tend to gain weight.

            Common illnesses

            Some possible problems that this breed can inherit are:

            • Cataracts – cloudy opacity of the eye lens
            • Lens luxation – eye issues when the lens dislocates
            • Luxating patellas – kneecap problems
            • Canine Hip dysplasia
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