What To Look For In A Quality Parson Russell Terrier

The Parson Russell terrier is a small terrier dog breed that is closely related to the Jack Russell, and is named after the man responsible for creating the early stages of both the Parson Russell and the Jack Russell: Reverend John “Jack” Russell. While there are many similarities between the Jack Russell and the Parson Russell terrier, the Parson Russell, or Parson Jack Russell terrier, is the show-standard variant, and the more common Jack Russell more the pet and working variant, although the Parson Russell should be a competent working dog too!

The Parson Russell is mainly white in colour, and can have either a rough, smooth or broken (mixed) coat. They are lively, clever and energetic, and can be rather a handful, although they do make for excellent pets and companions.

Generally, people who wish to own a Parson Russell terrier may be looking for a dog that they can use for showing, or at least, a dog that is a relatively good example of the breed, and in this article we will look at the breed standard and ideal traits of the Parson Russell terrier in more detail. Read on to learn more.

What is a breed standard?

A breed standard is the set of guidelines that describes the ideal temperament, appearance and traits of any breed of dog, and is how dogs are scored for formal breed showing. Attaining the right combination of traits in any one dog at just the right level is both important and complicated, and obvious exaggerations of desirable traits are frowned upon as inappropriate.

The breed standard for any given dog should also ensure the welfare and ongoing security of the future of the breed, and not allow or encourage any traits that might work against this. The breed standards for showing purposes are drawn up by The Kennel Club, and may be reviewed from time to time.

Parson Russell breed standard basics

The overall impression of the Parson Russell should be of an active, agile and bright dog that is alert and engaged. They should be flexible, balanced and workmanlike, and interestingly, scars attained from working roles are not classed as a showing fault.

As a breed that was originally created as a working dog, the Parson Russell should be confident, bold and generally happy, and also have the fitness and conformation to be able to go to ground, or pursue prey into burrows. Their temperament at all times should be confident and friendly.

The head and face

The head itself should be wedge shaped, with a broad, flat skull that gently narrows towards the eyes. The nose should be black, and the eyes should be almond shaped and dark in colour, with a keen, alert expression. The ears should be v shaped and drop forwards, and be in proportion with the size of the head.

The Parson Russell’s jaw should be muscular and have a strong bite, with a complete closed incisor bite and well sized teeth set squarely in the jaw.

Neck, chest and forequarters

The neck should gently widen towards the shoulders and be set well, with a muscular appearance. The shoulders should be well defined and laid back, with a long, sloping angle to them, and the elbows should sit close to the body.

The forelegs should be strong and straight with flexible pasterns, and slightly longer than the depth of the body, and the chest should be moderately deep.

The trunk and body

The length between the shoulder and the point of the buttocks should be slightly longer than the height from the shoulder to the floor, and the ribs should be carried well back and in proportion to the build. The dog’s back should be strong and straight as well as supple, and the loins should be slightly arched, and reasonably long.

Hindquarters and tail

The hindquarters should be muscular and strong, with a good angulation of the stifle which is not over exaggerated. The hocks should be low and powerful, with lots of drive. The length of the tail should be in proportion with the body, moderately high set and preferably straight. The length of the tail should taper towards the tip, and should be carried reasonably high when working but may be carried lower when relaxed.

Paws and gait

The paws should be compact with moderately arched toes and firm pads. The gait of the dog should be free striding and designed to cover the ground quickly, but without exaggeration. A high-stepping or overly shortened gait is classed as a fault.

Coat colour and types

The coat may be rough, smooth or broken, and should have an undercoat, and be relatively dense. The Parson Russell should not be clipped for showing.

The main colour of the dog should be white, with markings in either lemon, tan or black or all three. Generally, the colour points should be mainly across the head and base of the tail, although a little colour on the body is also permitted.


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