Parson Russell Terriers are confident and athletic spitfires, originally bred for fox hunting in England. Parsons are small with a mostly white coat, and named for the Reverend John "Jack" Russell, who created the breed in the 1800s. Undeniably charming, PRTs are also an undeniable handful. They have bottomless reserves of energy and will go in search of adventure if you don't provide it for them. Parsons need to live with active owners who enjoy—and have time for—frequent exercise and play sessions with their dog. They are alert and eager participants in dog sports of all kinds, including agility and Earthdog trials. On the fox hunt, Parsons keep up with the horses and flush foxes. This means they are fleet of foot as well as champion diggers. Make sure you always walk your Parson Russell Terrier on leash and that your yard is secure enough to keep these escape artists safe.
Parson Russell Terriers are often shortened to Parson or PRT.
The Parson Russell Terrier's double coat may be smooth or broken. Both coats are harsh to the touch, dense, and straight, while the broken coat is slightly longer than the smooth variety. On the face, the coat grows slightly longer around the eyebrows, and in a beard around the muzzle. The coat color is white, or white with black or tan markings, or tri-color (white with black and tan markings.) The coat is always predominantly white.
Average Height: 15.5 inches
Male: 18 pounds
Female: 15-17 pounds
Breed Standard & History
Alert, tenacious, and confident are defining characteristics of Parson Russell Terriers. These traits allow them to keep up with the hunt and 'bolt' foxes from their hiding places so the hounds can follow them. Parsons are medium sized dogs with a square profile and athletic build. The chest and legs are sturdy and lean, allowing them to pick up speed quickly and turn on a dime. The tail is docked when meeting breed standards and the triangular ears fold over to cover the ear opening. PRTs have dark, almond-shaped eyes that are lively and intelligent. Their disposition is exuberant, friendly, and brave.
Parson Russell terriers are named for Reverend John Russell, a fox hunting enthusiast who developed the breed in the 19th century in Southern England. Russell wanted a dog with the speed to keep up with the horses and the wits to flush foxes from their hiding places, which is known as 'bolting.'
Long popular among English hunters, the Parsons Russell Terrier drew attention in the US in the 1930s. Originally known as Jack Russell Terriers, PRTs were separated from Jack Russells because Jack Russell enthusiasts wanted to retain a focus on the breed's hunting cred. The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America holds a trademark on the Jack Russell name and maintains a separate registry. According to the American Kennel Club, Rev. John Russell's terriers diverged into two breeds: the Russell Terrier and the Parson Russell Terrier. The Parson variety was recognized by the AKC in 1997, while the Russell Terrier was recognized in 2012.
AKC Breed Category
Parson Russell Terriers are brimming with life and smarts. They are playful companions who enjoy a good romp with their family members. PRTs want to explore in the yard, the neighborhood, and further afield. They are strong willed and will push you to keep up with them on their adventures. When not kept busy, Parsons are likely to get into mischief. They are generally friendly when well socialized, but these courageous dogs never back down from a fight.
Are Parson Russell Terriers Good with Kids? When they are socialized with children from an early age, Parsons view kids as fun playmates. Children should be taught how to play with them respectfully, however, because PRTs will not put up with mistreatment.
(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)
Are Parson Russell Terriers Good with Other Pets? Socialization with other dogs will help keep the peace when Parsons live with other dogs. PRTs are known to become aggressive with dogs they don't know. They are also hunters, so they aren't a good mix for cats or other small animals. The breed is known for being comfortable and friendly with horses, and are often found at stables.
Parson Russells are feisty, but not particularly protective.
Are Parson Russell Terriers Good Guard Dogs? Parson Russell Terriers are alert dogs who will keep a sharp watch for people approaching the house. They'll bark loudly to sound the alarm, but they are welcoming of friends and strangers alike, and so aren't reliable guard dogs.
Russell Terriers are energetic dogs who require an hour or two of vigorous exercise each day.
- Digging is an instinct; designate a section of the yard where holes are allowed.
- They are strong-willed—Russells need experienced dog owners.
- Barking is a fun pastime for this breed.
- They possess a powerful prey drive.
- They can't live with small animals.
- Russells may be combative with other dogs if they are not socialized from an early age.
- Because they tend to wander, Russells should always be walked on leash, and kept in a secure enclosure when outside.
- They get bored easily and need active owners who have the time and energy to keep them busy.
- They tend towards destructive behaviors when they get bored.
Though hearty little dogs, Parson Russell Terriers should live indoors with their families. They like attention and playtime indoors, so don't expect them to be mellow when they come home from playing outside.
Parson Russell Terriers need to spend a few hours outdoors running and playing every day. If you let them out into a yard, make sure it is very secure, because Russells have a knack for finding or creating escape routes so they can go in search of adventure.
A healthy Parson Russell Terrier requires an hour or two of vigorous physical activity each day to remain fit and calm. They enjoy challenging dog sports, including flying disk, flyball, and agility.
Like most terriers, Parson Russells have the stamina to frolic all day.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: Bred to keep up with horses and hounds during fox hunts, Parson Russell Terriers make great running partners. A healthy Parson Russell can keep you company on a two- to four-mile run. Keep in mind that they are small and you should ease into your running routine.
- Hiking Miles: A leash-trained Parson Russell will happily hike with you for five to seven miles.
Generally, this breed requires about 1½ to 2 cups of good quality dry dog food each day, given in two feedings. This will vary, however, based upon your Parson Russell 's activity level and age. Talk to your veterinarian about the optimal diet and quantity of food for your Parson.
Parson Russell Terriers don't enjoy being alone, but they'll put up with it for a few hours at a time. It's wise to crate train your Russell so they can relax in a comfortable den with their favorite dog toys. Beyond a few hours, Parson Russells will assuredly start barking and chewing on things you'd rather they didn't.
Health and Grooming
Whether it's smooth or broken (rough), the double coat of your Parson needs brushing several times each week. Broken coats need to be plucked or clipped occasionally to prevent matting. A bath every month, or when they get dirty, will keep their coat healthy and pleasant smelling. Wash your Parson's ears weekly with a gentle, dog-friendly cleanser to prevent dirt buildup that can cause infections. Brush their teeth several times a week, and trim their nails every month or so to prevent cracking.
Common Health Issues
Parson Russell Terriers may present some breed-specific health conditions, including:
- Legg-Perthes disease
- Eye issues, including glaucoma and lens luxation
- Patellar luxation
- Ataxia, a loss of coordination due to sensory dysfunction
- Compulsive tendencies
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Parson Russell Terrier by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
Though smart and willing to please, Parson Russell Terriers have their own ideas and like going at their own pace. It's helpful to make training sessions playful, and to offer an abundance of positive reinforcement.
Continuing education and dog sports are great ways to keep your energetic Parson Russell Terrier active through the day. Also, consider testing their small game hunting skills in Earthdog trials.
Sporting Dog Training
Parson Russell Terriers are naturals for the sport of fox hunting.
No. Parson Russell Terriers shed and leave pet dander in your home, which is the primary source of pet-related allergies. However, some pet owners say the rough-coated variety produces less dander than the smooth, and is somewhat hypoallergenic. Keep in mind, no dog is 100 percent hypoallergenic.
Parson Russell Terriers are barkers. They don't bark to be annoying—though it surely can be. They bark to talk to you, to ask you to play, or to alert you to the arrival of the mail. If you want a quiet breed, the Parson Russell is not for you. However, with patient training you can keep their barking at a level you can live with.
Parson Russell Terriers can learn to swim and most of them love going into the water. Each dog is different, however, and the small Parson Russell may be overwhelmed by big bodies of water. Be sure to take your dog's lead when it comes to swimming and always watch them closely when they swim or go near water.