The Terrier Group at AKC shows will welcome a new contender on June 27, 2012. The Russell Terrier has been in the Miscellaneous class since January 2010, and since then, the small, sturdy dogs have been seen at many shows around the country.
The Russell Terrier breed descends from the working terrier stock that the Rev. John Russell developed in the 1800s to hunt fox in England, but the breed itself was developed in Australia. There and in FCI countries, the Russell Terrier is called the Jack Russell Terrier, however, in the United States, the Russell Terrier and the Jack Russell Terrier are not the same; it is the Russell Terrier in the U.S. that follows the same type and size of the Australian Jack Russell Terrier.
The use of the same breed names in different countries for similar – but different – breeds causes a great deal of confusion. Perhaps it is easiest to remember that the English Jack Russell Terrier is a small terrier not recognized by any of the world’s kennel clubs that does have a small, loyal following in the United States as well. The Australian Jack Russell, FCI Jack Russell and American Russell Terrier are the same breed.
The Russell Terrier was bred as a fox-hunting breed that worked its game over- and underground. Russells are bred to work in packs, and thus should not scrap amongst themselves. Their hardy and fearless nature and their true working ability belie their small size. The American Russell Terrier Club often makes the statement that it wishes to “keep this wonderful old working breed true to its heritage.”
The Russell Terrier and the AKC’s Parson Russell Terrier do indeed descend from the same stock, but today’s breeds are distinctly different in height, leg length and shape. The Parson is taller, 13 to 14 inches, and of a square shape, while the Russell is shorter in height, 10 to 12 inches, with a rectangular shape.
The body proportions of the Russell Terrier call for the depth of body, measured from the withers to the bottom of the chest, to be equal in length to the foreleg from the top of elbow to the ground. Thus, depth of brisket to length of leg is a 50:50 ratio, and the brisket must never extend below the elbow.
When observing the front of the Russell Terrier in profile, the chest, or prosternum, protrudes in front of the point of the shoulder. A Russell should never exhibit the “flat” front of the Fox Terrier where the sternum does not protrude in front of the forelegs. The Russell also does not move the same way as a Fox Terrier, but instead gaits with “unrestricted motion exhibiting equality of reach to drive.”
An unusual and interesting aspect of the Russell Terrier standard says, “The neck is of sufficient length to allow the terrier’s mouth to extend beyond its forepaws when working.” Thus, although short in stature, the Russell is not to have a short or “stuffy” neck.
Like the Parson, the Russell chest is to be spannable, meaning that average-sized hands, when placed behind the elbows and around the dog’s chest, will reach all the way around with the thumbs meeting at the spine and the fingers meeting underneath the chest. The chest must also be compressible, meaning that when the hands are around the chest, it will feel somewhat elastic when gently squeezed. These qualities, of course, relate to the dog being able to first fit into a foxhole underground, and, once there, have the flexibility to maneuver through tight spots and bend through twists and turns.
The topline is level, front legs are straight, angles are balanced front to rear and hind legs when viewed from behind are parallel. The stifles and short hocks are “well angulated,” in keeping with the requirement that the breed move with reach and drive.
The Russell tail may be docked or left natural, but it is to be set on the end of a level topline that does not slope downward. When moving, the tail is carried straight up or with a “slight curve forward.”
The “blunt wedge” head of the Russell derives from a skull of “moderate width” that decreases in width to the eyes, and then narrows further to the blunt end of the muzzle. The length of muzzle is “slightly shorter” than the length of the skull, with a well-defined stop. The dark, almond-shaped eyes have a “keen expression of alertness.” In head shape and proportion as well as eye, the Russell is much like the Parson. The Russell’s ears are “small ‘v’-shaped button or drop ears.” The Parson standard calls for only a ‘v’-shaped drop ear.
In color, the Russell is to be predominately white, at least 51 percent, with tan and/or black markings. Neither tan nor black is preferred in any of the three coat types: smooth, broken or rough. The smooth coat is, as expected, a short, coarse coat with an undercoat. The broken coat is of “intermediate length,” usually with furnishings on the face. The rough coat is a longer, harsh, dense coat with an undercoat.
All in all, this diminutive breed is to be a sturdy package of lively, active working Terrier. It is called “a spirited and game hunter,” and is intelligent, playful and affectionate. The breed standard specifically says that “their intensity for life is one of their most endearing traits.”
The American Russell Terrier Club has a very useful “Amplified Guide for Judges and Breeders” and a great deal more information about the history, temperament, health and many other aspects of the breed available on its website.