The Jack Russell Terrier is a small dog that was originally bred for fox hunting. The breed was created from the now extinct English white terrier by a pastor with a keen interest in hunting, the Reverend John Russell. The key qualities looked for in this new breed were colouring; the characteristic white and tan patterning of the modern Jack Russell helped the hunt masters distinguish the dogs from the foxes they were hunting; tempered aggression so they could be trained to challenge the fox out of its den without killing it; and small size and speed. After the second World War the use of dogs in hunting declined and now the Jack Russell is a family dog. 

The breed has the typical qualities of a hunting dog with a small but sturdy frame and a stubborn, driven attitude to everything! They are predominantly white, with black/brown/tan markings, and true Jack Russell always looks alert and well balanced physically. As they are a working Terrier, they should be athletic, fearless and vocal, which can put some owners off, but they are trainable. 

It is not unknown for these dogs to be moody and they can have destructive tendencies if left alone and bored. Socialisation with other dogs and people when they are young and throughout their lives is important or they can become aggressive towards people or other dogs they don’t know. Obedience training is a good idea to keep them interested and stimulated and to curb their stubborn nature.

Due to their interest in most things, and huge energy, this breed is best suited to a family with lots going on, a garden, and access to parks or the countryside. A Jack Russell without proper stimulation and room to burn off energy can become moody and destructive!

They love children if socialised properly from a young age, but as they are small, they are best suited to families with children older than toddlers to minimise the risk of accidents.  

Pet profile

An energetic, sturdy working dog that will love a home where there are plenty of things to do and places to go.

  • Size: 10-15 inches (20-30cm) height, and longer than it is tall.
  • Weight: 14-18lb (6.35-8.2kg)
  • Life Expectancy: 13-15 years.


Exercise and nutrition

It’s a good idea to train your Jack Russell to walk to heel on a lead and to come back when called. A daily walk of half an hour to an hour with energetic games chasing a ball will give them all the exercise they need daily. Ball games are adored by this breed and you may find yourself in a contest of endurance before the game ends! As they are an intelligent dog, the Jack Russell will also enjoy more challenging exercises such as obstacle courses and retrieving frisbees, balls and almost anything else! 

Letting your Terrier run around the garden is also important. Supervision is needed but allowing them to blow off steam on their own is positive for both their physical and mental wellbeing.

As with all pure -bred dogs if you purchase your Jack Russell from a breeder, it is advised that you stick to the feeding schedule supplied. If you wish to change it, this should be done gradually to avoid stomach upsets. 
Older dogs are not fussy eaters but should be fed a good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements twice per day; once in the morning, and once in the evening. Obesity needs to be avoided but portion control and lots of ball games should keep you Jack Russell lean and happy!

Common health problems and illnesses 

Most Jack Russells are healthy robust little dogs but occasionally some individuals may develop health issues which could be linked to their breeding. Here are some of the more common complaints seen in Jack Russells which can be costly to treat. Consider taking out pet insurance when you first get your Jack Russell to make sure you have the maximum cover you can buy. It’s the best way to ensure your decision about any treatment your beloved Jack Russell may need is not based on the cost of treatment but the best treatment for the illness or condition they have.  

Patellar Luxation is a condition where the Patella (kneecap) does not stay in the groove it usually sits in, causing strain on the bones. In some cases, the kneecap may slip out of its groove entirely and move from side to side as the dog tries to walk. Dogs with this condition may limp or stumble. 

The main treatment for this condition is a plan designed to help manage the condition, involving physical therapy and lifestyle changes. Consult your vet for advice on a management plan if you think your dog might be suffering from this condition.

This disease is a particularly nasty affliction seen in many small dog breeds, which results in the degeneration of the head of the femur bone in the dog’s thigh, which in turn results in the hip joint itself falling apart. It is rare and has no known cause, although it is thought poor blood supply to parts of the femur may contribute to the condition.

Watch out for lameness, your dog preferring to carry their limb rather than put weight on it, muscle loss on the thighs, and pain around the hip joint. 

Treatment with painkillers and cold packs can help the dog’s pain, but surgery is typically recommended, followed by physical therapy, and exercise.

If you notice your dog has any problems with their movement please visit your vet for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Lens Luxation is the most common hereditary disorder suffered by Jack Russell Terriers. The lens in the eye of a dog suffering from this disorder moves from its correct position either forward or backwards in the eye. This typically occurs when the threads holding the lens in place develop abnormally and are weak. 

The lens can be displaced forwards pushing into the iris and front of the eye ball increasing the pressure in the eye, or backwards potentially damaging the retina.

This condition makes the eye red and sore looking which might be mistaken for conjunctivitis initially but them your dog might become reluctant to exercise and the condition can quickly lead to blindness. You might also see the eye has a bluish tinge. 

Surgical removal of the lens is usually the best treatment option for preserving sight and preventing pain and blindness. Most pets will cope just fine without the lens but will need time to adjust to their new sight. Preventative treatment is also possible in cases where one eye is affected but is less developed in the other eye.

If you notice any of these symptoms or suspect your dog may be suffering from lens luxation, it is important to consult your vet on the best course of treatment.

Fun facts

  • The first Jack Russell Terrier was a female, named Trump!
  • The Jack Russell has two “sister” breeds; the Parson Russell Terrier, and the Russell Terrier. All are descended from Trump.
  • The Jack Russell can leap five times its own height!
  • Jack Russells are well known as stars of film and television, due to their expressive faces and personalities. One notable star is Uggie, star of the 2011 film The Artist who published his memoir, Uggie, My story in 2012.
  • The first dog to visit the North and South Poles, Bothy, was a Jack Russell Terrier, owned by British explorers Ranulph and Ginny Fiennes!

Jack Russell