What does a Jack Russell Terrier look like?

By helloBARK!
Updated on 9 July 2021
Fact Checked

What does a Jack Russell Terrier look like?

Well the odds are that you have encountered a Jack Russell Terrier at some point in your life.

These dogs originated in England but given their appearance and size have become popular worldwide.

A story in the Daily Mirror in 2018 listed the Jack Russell Terrier as the third most popular dog in Great Britain.

They dropped to 20th place in ITV’s recent Top 100 Dogs in UK in January 2019.

The United States don’t recognise the Jack Russell Terriers as independent to the Russell Terrier.

Nevertheless, the universal Russell Terrier ranked 71st in the USA’s 100 most popular dogs.

While JRT are popular worldwide, do you know what makes a Jack Russell Terrier a Jack Russell Terrier? Let’s take a look.


The Jack Russell Terrier became a Kennel Club recognised breed in the United Kingdom on 1 January 2016.

At one time the American Kennel Club recognized the Jack Russell Terrier, however as of April 2003, they changed the name to Parson Russell Terrier.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the physical characteristics of a Jack Russell Terrier before we get bogged down in details about name changes.

Well they haven’t evolved an awful lot since Reverend John Russell and his small white and tan dog Trump laid down the foundations of the breed around 1819.

These dogs were designed for hunting foxes and then burrowing in badger dens, so they have a low centre of gravity and are relatively sturdy little animals.

The Jack Russell’s coat is predominately white but it may be smooth, broken or rough. This allows for some variety within the breed between smooth and rough coated JRTs.

The smooth coat should still be able to withstand the activities and elements for which these dogs were bred. Smooth coats shouldn’t be sparse, while rough coats shouldn’t be wooly. It is important that the coat is waterproof.

White must be the dominant colour (at least 51 per cent) but with injections of black or brown colouring. According to the Kennel Club, the tan markings may range from light tan to rich chestnut tan.

Their eyes should be almond shaped. Their dark eyes are one of the distinctive features of the breed. They should have a keen expression.

A Jack Russell Terrier tends to have button or dropped ears, while these v-shaped ears should have moderate thickness.

They have very strong jaws with upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.

You will also notice that a Jack Russell Terrier’s tail will stand erect when alert but can go limp when the dog is in a relaxed state.

The Kennel Club state that the tail should be “high set, thick at base, in overall balance with the rest of the dog”.


Jack Russell sleeping on the floor at home (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Jack Russell sleeping on the floor at home (Photo: Adobe Stock)

It is vital that their bodies and their weight are in proportion to their height to produce a sturdy, well-balanced dog.

They should measure between 10–15 inches (25–38 cm) at the withers, and weigh 14–18 pounds (6.4–8.2 kg).

Given the breed was initially created to hunt foxes, a Jack Russell Terrier must be able to hold its own against these wild animals.

The average red fox weighs between 13–17 pounds (5.9–7.7 kg), which is roughly the same as a Jack Russell Terrier.

Of course, the breed have developed into companion pets rather than working dogs in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Jack Russell Terrier v Parson Russell Terrier

Different countries have varying interpretations of the Jack Russell Terrier and Parson Russell Terrier.

Australia recognised Jack Russell Terriers as a breed in their own right in 1991.

The AKC were reluctant to recognise JRT for fear of these dogs being bred for show purposes and confirmation, rather than working.

In 2001, the AKC decided that Jack Russell Terriers that meet certain size requirements would be renamed Parson Russell Terriers.

The Kennel Club in the United Kingdom recognised the breed in January 2016.

One of the biggest differences between Jack Russell Terriers and Parson Russell Terriers is height.

The height of a Parson Russell Terrier at the withers should be between 12-14 inches (30-36cm), according to the breed standard.

Alternatively, a JRT stands between 10-15 (25-38 cm) at the withers.

Parson Russell Terriers tend to have a longer head and a larger head, which equates to overall a larger body size than the Jack Russell Terrier.

Simply put, the Parsons usually have a square body, while Jack Russells are more rectangular in shape.

Parson Russell Terriers can be bred to meet a show standard, while Jack Russell Terriers are required to meet a working standard.

Some dog experts claim that Parson Russells have superior energy levels to the Jack Russells.

For this reason, they suggest that Parsons were bred to be a hunting dog, while JRTs eventually developed into companion dogs.

Jack Russell Terrier v Russell Terrier

The Russell Terrier is effectively a smaller relative of the Jack Russell Terrier. Like the Parsons, the chief difference here is size.

These dogs have an ideal height at the withers of between 8-12 inches (20-30cm). Crucially, Russell Terriers should be longer rather than taller at with withers.

Some countries call the Russell Terrier by different names, including the English Jack Russell Terrier or Irish Jack Russell Terrier.

Given the Kennel Club and Irish Kennel Club recognise Jack Russell Terrier, these smaller dogs don’t fall into their own definitions of JRT.

Famous Jack Russell Terriers

Of course, if you want to see what a Jack Russell Terrier looks like, you could just switch on the TV and check out one famous sitcom.

Arguably the world’s best known Jack Russell Terrier is Eddie, who starred in Seattle-based comedy Fraiser from 1993 until 2004.

Eddie was the faithful companion of Marty Crane and displayed some of the chief characteristics of JRT.

He could have often jump five times his height, much to the annoyance of Fraiser. He also displayed his intelligence by performing on screen tricks with Marty.

Did you know that Eddie was played by two different Jack Russell Terriers? A dog called Moose played Eddie before his son Enzo took over the role proving that the American sitcom really was a family show.

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