Parson Russell Terrier

The Parson Russell Terrier:
A High-Energy, Happy-Go-Lucky, Very Lively Pet Perfect for Children

The Parson Russell Terrier is a high-energy, happy-go-lucky breed. Spry, lively and not afraid to stand up to the most aggressive Rottweiler if need be, the Parson Russell Terrier is a perfect choice for those with a spacious home who will provide this special dog with plenty of exercise and companionship.

With its ancestry in fox hunting, the Parson Russell has a similar heritage to that of the modern Smooth Fox Terrier, originating from dogs bred by Reverend John Russell in the early 19th century. The working terriers which are mostly white in color today can be traced back to the English White Terrier, a breed that is now extinct. In the early 1800s, Russell purchased a small white and tan terrier in the small hamlet of Elsfield. This little female, who was named “Trump,” epitomized Russell’s Fox terrier, a term loosely used during that time period to describe any terrier used for the purpose of bolting foxes out of their burrows.

By the 1850s, Parson Russell Terriers were recognized as a distinct breed, after Trump was used as the basis of a breeding program developed to produce a terrier with not only the high stamina necessary for the fox hunt, but the courage and formation to bolt foxes that had gone to ground. Russell had an ambition to develop a breed of dog that would be aggressive enough to pursue and bolt a fox, but not cause physical harm or bring blood. The result was what we know today as the Parson Russell Terrier.

After John Russell's death, only two men made serious efforts to continue the strain of the Fox Terrier. A man with the surname of East from Chislehurst was one of the men; Archer from Cornwall was the second. In 1894, the first breed standard was created by Arthur Blake Heinemann, who founded the Devon and Somerset Badger Club. This club was meant to promote the breeding of terriers suitable for badger digging rather than fox hunting. Following World War II, the Parson Russell Terrier breed gradually diminished as the demand for hunting dogs took a drastic decline. The breed then became more popular for use as a companion or a family dog.

Until the early 1980s, the Parson Russell Terrier breed shared a common history with the Jack Russell Terrier who today remains ostracized by the AKC while both the Russell Terrier and the Parson Russell Terrier enjoy full recognition.

The Parson Russell Terrier has noticeably longer legs than its close relative, the Jack Russell Terrier. Standing at a height of about 12" to 15" when mature, Parson Russell Terrier puppies may grow to have a coat which is smooth or broken. This breed is known for its natural appearance, with its clean silhouette and compact construction. Its harsh, weatherproof coat was necessary for pursuing the "hunt" in the early 19th century, and remains popular today as Parson Russell Terriers are not excessively groomed. Mostly white with tan or black markings, solid white or a combination of all three, the colors are clear, with white being the dominant color.

The Parson Russell is defined by a relatively balanced outline. With a slightly larger body, longer head and larger chest than the Jack Russell Terrier, the Parson Russell Terrier has some resemblance to the Smooth Fox Terrier, except for its lower set ears. The Jack Russell Terrier has a slightly greater range of body size, spanning between 10 - 15 inches.

The Parson Russell terrier has strong, muscular hindquarters and long, sloped shoulders which are well laid back. The neck is of average length, moderately arched and muscular, widening gradually to blend into the shoulders. With a strong head which is in balanced proportion to the body, this breed has small "V" shaped ears, dark, almond-shaped eyes and a black, fully pigmented nose with a strong, rectangular muzzle.

Compared to its two closest relatives, the Parson is known as the dog with the square body, while both the Russell Terrier and the Jack Russell Terrier have rectangular bodies. The Jack Russell Terrier is 10-12 inches in height, while the Russell Terrier – also known as the “Shorty JRT” – is 8 -12 inches in height.

If you're looking for a high-energy dog that's a great pet for children, then the Parson Russell Terrier may be ideal. In a word, these little guys can be described as "feisty." One word of caution here, though: if you're not a lively person yourself, you may find the energy level of your pet a bit overwhelming. As long as you can give your pet plenty of daily exercise and keep this dog occupied, you will get along just fine. Parson Russell Terrier puppies function well both as workers or as companions, so your pet will be equally happy whether challenged by a ball-chasing game, or killing mice in the shed.

Not easily intimidated, the Parson Russell is bold and fearless, willing to go up against other breeds of dogs regardless of their size if they feel threatened. As mentioned above, this breed is wonderful with children as long as the children are gentle and not abusive.

Appropriate Environment
Because of their high energy levels and tendency to play, romp, and hunt almost obsessively, it's important that you provide plenty of room for your new pet. A large, fenced-in yard is ideal for this breed, as being on a leash inhibits your pet from getting the proper amount of exercise and letting off steam. An apartment is not a suitable environment for the Parson Russell, a breed that needs room to roam, hunt, and dig. Be sure to keep your eye out for your pet if your property is not fenced, as this dog could easily disappear for days in pursuit of its prey!

This breed is prone to a variety of health issues, although most dogs remain healthy and strong. Cataracts and lens luxation are some of the eye problems your pet may face. Lens luxation is common in Parson Russells, and occurs when the lens of the eye becomes dislocated.

Heart and kidney disease, heartworms and Leptospirosis are other conditions from which your pet may suffer, although they appear infrequently. Leptospirosis (a bacterial blood disease which can be transmitted to children as well) is a more common threat to your pet's health, and one against which it should be vaccinated as a puppy.

Unless you're showing your pet, grooming the Parson Russell Terrier puppy is quite basic and simple. Whether your pet's coat is smooth or broken, all that is required is a weekly brushing to remove loose hair. Bathe only when required, which is very rarely with regular brushing. If you have a Parson Russell with a broken coat, it will need to be stripped once or twice each year to maintain coat texture.

Cleaning ears occasionally using a cotton ball and gentle cleanser is also recommended; be sure to check your pet's ears for infection and wax buildup. If your pet is an inside dog, trim nails monthly. Outdoors, they will usually wear down naturally and require little trimming.

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