What Were Jack Russell Terriers Bred For? Origin Of JRTs

What Were Jack Russell Terriers Bred For? Origin Of JRTs

JRT lovers are curious about the factors behind this amazing dog breed. So, they frequently ask us what were Jack Russell Terriers bred for. 

There are different myths about the history of Jacks and the initiation of this dog breed. Therefore, I thought to clean the air and give some valuable insights about JRT’s history.

So, what were Jack Russell Terriers bred for? The main objective of breeding Jack Russell Terriers was for hunting small foxes and rabbits. Initially the purpose was to breed a working a dog. John Jack Russell had bred this small but energetic dog breed around the 1800s in England. Though they were initiated as hunting dogs, today JRTs are popular as domestic pets among dog lovers all over the world.

Through this article, let’s identify the nature of Jack Russell Terriers and the history of JRTs. Then, let’s identify why Jack Russell Terriers were bred for.

Finally, I’ll provide you with some important facts that you should know about Jack Russell Terriers. So, JRT lovers, keep on reading.

Jack Russell Terrier’s breeding history – Origin

These energetic small terriers were first introduced as fox terriers. But in the late 1800s, they were renamed by one of the famous hunting enthusiasts Reverend John Russell. There is an interesting story on it.

In about 1814, Russell experienced his very first fox hunting expedition. After this, he started loving it and searched about the breeds used for fox hunting. 

Russell thought of making a more powerful hunting dog using this Fox Terrier. So, in 1830, he established a breeding program to create a hunting dog.

His objective was to make a creature that fulfills all the needs of a British hunter. There is another backstory with this. He has seen a female British White Terrier named Trump in Oxford and bred it with a Fox Terrier. 

However, the original was so different from the modern Jack Russell Terrier. For example, they were tall, large, slender, and lean. Their colors were primarily Black, Tan, and Reddish-Brown.

And John Russell faced the issue of misunderstanding them as foxes by the hunters. Several sub-breedings occurred between the 1860s and 1880s.

Later, in 1875, the Fox Terrier club was started. But there are not enough recordings about the aftermath of these Terrier breeds. However, modern Jack Russell Terriers began to appear in the 20th century.

And there were many more breeds added to the Terrier family. Some of them were a Brazilian Terrier, a Japanese Terrier, a Miniature Fox Terrier, and a Rat Terrier.

What were Jack Russell Terriers bred for?

Simply Jack Russells are bred for fox hunting and were initially developed as working dogs. Usually, Jack Russell Terriers chase small foxes from their den and hunt. So, when hunting was popular, this breed was very popular among hunters.

In the 1930s, Jack Russells were the most popular hunting breed in the United States. Therefore many dog clubs recognized JRT at that time. But today, they are not used much for hunting.

They are now more famous as domestic pets than hunting dogs but still witnessed as athletic and working dogs. Jacks specialize in digging, playing, jumping, and running while becoming a good companion for active and energetic dog owners.

However, their original instincts remain, and their aggressiveness and hostility towards others can result from their hunting roots.

Quick insights about Jack Russell Terriers

When identifying JRTs, I will give you some basic information on Jack Russell terriers below. They will help you to create a picture of these terriers quickly. 

Jack Russell Terriers are one of the popular breeds today. Jack Russell Terriers love to play and engage with an active family. They hate solitude. As energetic dogs, they always depend on constant exercise and stimulation.

Now, let’s identify Jack Russells on different topics to make it easy to read.

  • General Information

Jack Russells have their origin in fox hunting and are well known as hyper dogs. They are most popular among families as loving and loyal pets. These super energetic creatures are stubborn players and love to dig everywhere.

They can jump high, so it is good to have a fenced yard before adopting a Jack Russell. But they are famous attention seekers in the dog world.

Therefore, Jack Russells expect time, love, and care from the family. If they keep away from the family, it may result in depression and destructive behaviors.  

  • Personality

This breed loves to work consistently, and it says Jack Russell is in good condition when it is tired. They are delighted to help in working and require active family participation.

Jack Russells love their owner very much and sometimes become overprotective too. Indeed, Jack Russell tends to bark, but they are good watchdogs with earlier instincts.

But they can be aggressive to other dogs. So, you might need to keep them controlled when the other dogs are around.

  • Health 

Normally, Jack Russells don’t get sick easily and are healthy. But there are some conditions they are concerned with. So, you need to have an idea about the overall health of this breed.

For example, Deafness/ patellar luxation/ leg calve-perthes disease/ glaucoma and lens luxation are recorded. Primarily, it’s better to buy a healthy puppy when you select a Jack Russell Terrier. 

Facts you should know about Jack Russell Terriers 

  • They must have a fenced yard or a nearby park to vibe around. And require daily exercise to burn their super energy at least 40 minutes a day. Remember, they can run fast, jump higher than five feet, and even climb trees when you arrange your yard. 
  • The owner needs a lot of patience, especially during the training period. As they are stubborn dogs, training will be hard. But they learn quickly because they are smart. A quick tip – it’s better to start training it earlier.
  • They are barkers, so think twice about the suitability of your environment and the apartment you live in.
  • JRTs are aggressive towards the other dogs, which the owner should handle accordingly.
  • They make good watchdogs.
  • It hates to be left alone at home and doesn’t like solitude. So they don’t like to live separately in a crate. Some experts advise that playing a piece of music or switching on the radio at home is also helpful when you leave it alone. Separation anxiety leads to lots of destructive behaviors in these dogs.
  • It is better to give toy bones to keep them consistent, and they love these toys and games. They love ball chasing.
  • When you train a Jack Russell, you must handle it with care, praise and give some food rewarding to keep the motivation. But if you handle them in harsh behaviors, they will also act stubborn. But if you can get along with it, JRTs become the quickest and most intelligent learners.
  • Early socialization can prevent a lot of bad behaviors.
  • When it comes to food, it is not so demanding, but we recommend 1.25 -1.75 cups of dog food daily as two meals, and it always depends on age, size, and activity level. Don’t give too much food and keep it in good health.
  • They need weekly brushing only to remove the dead hair. JRTs have two coat types: smooth and broken. But both are not wavy or curly and have slight differences. However, regular brushing needs, along with trimming its nails once or twice a month.
  • If you have children at home, make sure to teach them how to approach the dog. It doesn’t tolerate harsh behaviors and can not always be trusted.
  • Jack Russells tolerate weather conditions, cold or hot. 

Final thoughts about JRT’s origin

We answered the question “what were Jack Russell Terriers bred for?” in this post. Jack Russells are bred for hunting, especially fox hunting. But in the modern context, that purpose is primarily outdated.

And we keep Jack Russells as domestic pets. I’m sure you could understand their origin, behaviors, and some important tips that may help you learn well about them. Make sure to select a healthy puppy when you adopt and start training it from the initial days of adoption.

I can assure you that JRT will be a loving and affectionate companion for you and your family if you raise it well-mannered and trained. Good Luck with your new JRT!

Thank you for reading this article. Keep an eye on Jack Russell Owner for more informative articles about your favorite dog breed.


  • George Brown

    George B. is the founder of the JRO Organization. He believes in creating a better world for domestic animals. He believes domestic animals are more vulnerable than other animals, especially dogs, since they have been used to depending on their owners for generations. So, he started JRO to share his ideas and insights while helping vulnerable dogs worldwide. George runs multiple projects on street dogs in developing countries, especially Sri Lanka.

    [email protected]

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