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Parson Russell Terrier
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Parson Russell TerrierParson Russell Terrier

The Parson Russell Terrier is a fantastic breed for very energetic and patient people. There is a lot of confusion and controversy between the Parson Russell and the Jack Russell.

Parsons are admitted to AKC and the Jack Russell is not. JRT’s have shorter legs in general and were not bred to breed standard like the Parson. 

Both breeds have a similar background, and were originally coined the Parson Jack Russell Terrier, but had to be split up because the person who coined the name did not want to give up their trademark, therefore the taller type is a Parson and the shorter type is a Jack.

With that confusion cleared up and out of the way, let me tell you about the amazing Parson Russell Terrier.

These furry friends are amazing companions and natural performers. They were bred for hunting red fox originally, which is why they have a few distinct characteristics. This includes their small V-shaped ears that fold over onto themselves. The reason they fold over into a ‘V’ shape was to protect the ear from debris in fields and underground when they were hunting and chasing red foxes.

They also have tight, narrow, and flexible chests that were useful when squeezing and burrowing into tight spaces underground. These AKC recognized characteristics were specifically bred to breed standard, which is what differs them from a Jack Russell.

Parsons are extremely lively and a very loyal companion. They are also extremely adaptable and sturdy which makes them ideal for almost any temperature and living situation.

They can be quite noisy and have a couple bad habits that need to be kicked, but despite the usual stereotype with terriers, if you’re looking for a quirky and exciting dog that is bursting with energy, the Parson Russell Terrier will not disappoint.

Quick Facts About the Parson Russell Terrier:

Other Names Used: PRT, Parson, Parson Jack Russell Terrier (AKC recognized 1997-2003)

Affiliation: Terrier group; AKC recognized in 1997


     Height: 12-14 inches tall at the shoulder

     Weight: 14-18 pounds

Coat Type: Smooth, Rough

Colors: they can range in color from pure white to white with black or tan markings, to a mixture of all three

Country of Origin: England (southern)

Activity Level: High

Life Expectancy: 15+ years

Good with Children: Parsons do better with children over the age of 6 whom knows how to properly handle them, but with proper training and supervision, they can adapt to living with smaller children as well. They do not do well with rough handling from toddlers, and may growl at a child who is mishandling them.

Good with Other Pets: It is extremely important to make sure your Parson is well socialized due to their strong hunting instinct (stronger than other terriers). This being said, they cannot be trusted alone with other small animals, but do okay with larger animals, such as larger dogs etc., and also get along with other Parsons.

History of the Parson Russell Terrier

The Parson Russell Terrier originated in Southern England in the 1800s and got its name from the fox hunting enthusiast and preacher, John Russell.

They were developed from a strain of white terriers, now extinct, to hunt red fox above and below ground. They were to chase red fox into tunnels and burrows to then flush them out for the hunter. Parsons were bred with certain physical characteristics, creating one of the finest strains of dog for hunting.

Some say that after John Russell died, the breed he created was bred with other terrier breeds, which made up what we now call the Jack Russell Terrier.


The Parson Russell Terrier is a live wire. Bred for speed, they can actually pop 100 balloons in less than a minute. Crazy right? These dogs are hyper and crazy and they love to run, bark, bounce and climb. This being said, they will climb over fences and run out open doors and gates, so keep this in mind when bringing in the groceries, or leaving a gate open.

Originally bred to dig and hunt, also keep an eye on your Parson when taking them on a walk. If they see another pet or small animal, they have the tendency to want to pursue it. Also keep a close eye on them while they are outside, especially fenced in backyards, because they might try and dig their way out of the yard.  

These quirky dogs are natural performers and will keep you entertained for hours on end, if given the opportunity to. They are extremely cute and spontaneous, which makes them a natural choice and favorite for TV and cinema. They are bursting with energy, strong willed and very independent, but let’s lay it out on the table; these dogs are NOT for everyone.

They require a ton of exercise, which could be problems for some people. Parsons are very adaptable and sturdy which means they can live in almost any home and endure pretty much any temperature. However, wherever they end up, it is vital that they get enough exercise. These little guys need a daily outlet to release their wild energy. If they live in an apartment, they need at least an hour run every single day to keep them healthy and happy. If they live in a house with a big backyard, they can run around for hours out there, especially with other Parsons or dogs.

Like all dogs, they do need supervision during times where they are outside. As silly as it sounds, they can have sensitive skin, and sunscreen needs to be applied to their skin before going outside in the heat.

Parsons are extremely intelligent, but are not that easy to train. Training is essential though because without it, they can wreak havoc on your home, eating the couch, tearing up the walls, etc. If a Parson is left to its own devices, it will find ways to get itself into trouble. Keep this in mind when leaving your little guy alone for an extended amount of time. With all this being said, with proper training, they can be the perfect little companions.

They are lively and loyal and will be by your side whenever you need them too. If you’re an experienced trainer then the Parson is the perfect dog for you, but if you are not then you may have to be careful because they are known to outsmart the average pet owner. Parsons are very smart and always thinking.

They seem to always be one step ahead and they want to do what they want to do and they might try and train you. Do not let your Parson fall into Small Dog Syndrome. This means that they will try and control you because they think that they are the pack leader. You need to be strong and confident in training your Parson so this does not happen. Without proper training they can become anxious and distraught.

This is probably not the best dog for first time pet owners, or inexperienced dog owners, but if you socialize your Parson from a very young age, and keep consistent with training, you will end up with the perfect furry friend. 


The Parson Russell Terrier has 2 distinct coat textures, which include smooth and rough. They have very minimal shedding and the smooth coat sheds more than the rough coat. Their weatherproof double coat protects them from the elements and underbrush. They have minimal grooming needs and are easy to maintain.

A quick brush with a firm bristle brush will do the trick. They need to be given a bath when needed along with the other necessary hygienic routines such as: nail clipping, checking their ears, brushing their teeth, etc. If they are going to be shown, they need to have their coat stripped and the broken coat needs to be hand stripped, but other than that they are very easy to groom and maintain.

Health Concerns

This is a fairly healthy dog and they live for a very long time because of it. They only have a few health concerns that can be prominent in any small dog breed.

Dislocated Knees:


Progressive Retinal Atrophy:

Patellar Luxation:

Posterior Vitreous Detachment:

Lens Luxation:


  • Doesn’t shed a lot; easy grooming needs
  • Loyal
  • Athletic and energetic
  • Very adaptable
  • Long lifespan


  • Can bark a lot
  • Can be difficult to train
  • Feisty and assertive
  • Not good for inexperienced owners
  • Needs much daily exercise

Books & Additional Resources

Breed Club:Parson Russell Terrier Association of America

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