It is easy to confuse Jack Russell, Parson Russell and Russell Terrier. These three distinct breeds share similar origin and ancestry and they are extremely similar in their appearance and temperament. But still, they are not identical.
There are definitely more similarities in these three breeds as they all share the same background. The roots of all three breeds can be traced to the first half of 19th century to avid hunter reverend John Jack Russell, who was also known as Parson Russell.
Reverend Russell bought small white and tan terrier female named Trump from a local milkman. Trump was used to bolt foxes out of their burrows and she was just amazing at it! Because Trumps character and personality was just incredible for hunting, mr. Russell decided to start a breeding program around her and indeed, Reverend Russell created exceptional hunting dog for the terrain and environment of his home region, Devonshire, England, which was very confident, fiesty and strong dog with slightly longer legs.
When Mr. Russell passed on, other breeders continued developing the breed. But different lines were developed in different parts of the world with different terrain, which caused slight differences between each lines. These dogs were bred for hunting purpose and thus, somedogs had shorter legs and stockier body than the original Reverend Russells dogs.
The official FCI breed standard states, that over the time, two varieties of this breed evolved with almost identical breed standards with only subtle differences. One variety was recognized as Parson Russell and the second as Jack Russell. But for example the AKC only recognizes the Parson Russell Terrier, as the Jack Russell club of America preferred to remain their own entity and refuse to join the AKC.
So now you know the common origins of the Jack Russell, Parson Russell and Russell Terrier, but what are the actual differences between them?
Lets start with the Parson Russell and JRT differences, as those two dogs are extremely similar. The main differences are size and body type. According to the breed standard, the Parson Russell Terrier height is between 12-14 inch, which is 31-36 cm, while the Jack Russell height is between 10-15 inches, which is 25-38 cm.
So according to the breed standard, the Jack Russell could be larger than the Parson, but on average, the Parson Russell Terrier is slightly taller dog, with longer legs and it should have more squarely built body. On the other hand the JRT is on average slightly smaller and its body is more rectangular. The Parson Russell can also have slightly larger head, but the difference is very small.
The coat types, color, eyes, ears, tail and virtually every other appearance aspect of those two breeds is the same, so as you can see the difference is not really that huge.
When it comes to temperament, it is also very similar. Both dogs are energetic hunters with higher prey drive, which are very bold, courageous, alert and confident. They are very friendly with its own family, but they are pretty watchful around strangers.
Some people claim, that Parson Russell Terriers are better suited for hunting purposes, while the Jack Russell Terrier is better as companion dog, while other people say that the temperament of those two breeds is almost identical. Overall, even if there would be some differences in temperament, they would be very small.
To make it even more confusing, there is also the third breed, the Russell Terrier, but luckily, in this case the difference is very clear.
The Russell Terrier, in some parts of the world also known as Irish Russell Terrier or English Russell Terrier is just a smaller version of the two breeds mentioned before with shorter legs. This physical difference exists mostly because the Russell Terrier was further developed in Australia to dive straight into fox dens where the original breeds could not go that easily.
The Russell Terrier height is only between 10-12 inches, which is 25-30 cm. Other than that, there are no big differences from the other two breeds.
All three breeds share the same, predominantly white color, three different coat types, the smooth, rough and broken, and the same purpose – to be excellent fox hunters. The differences between them are not huge and if you are looking for smaller, but active companion with boundless energy that is always ready for outdoor adventure, then these breeds might be excellent for you.
But make sure it is really a right dog for you! They are hunters and they are not best suited for families with other smaller household pets, because they might try to chase them down. You also must provide them with enough daily physical and mental stimulation, otherwise they might develop some unwanted behaviour, such as destruction.
They need constant interaction with the world around them – sniffing, listening, chewing, playing, running. They are just big dogs, in small package and i can guarantee you, that you will never be bored with neither of these three breeds!