Posts Tagged ‘Jack Russell terrier’

jack russell wolf

Yes. For real, apparently.

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I’ve been visiting with relatives who have come up from the Southland.  Cammie and Bear came up form Baton Rouge.

Bear is a nice, thick-coated Labrador.  A hard core water dog, who went swimming today in 35 degree weather.




And Rhodie and Willie from North Carolina. Cammie and Rhodie are litter sisters.


And Willie– of course.





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Not a snow dog

Cammie is not a snow dog.


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wire fox terriers john emms

The painting above is by John Emms. a British dog artist whose work chronicled many of the scenes and dogs of the dog fancy of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

These dogs are not Jack Russell terriers.

Well, allow me to qualify that statement:

In the nineteenth century, there was no such thing as a Jack Russell terrier.

There were fox terriers, and the Rev. John Russell (“Jack Russell”) was a sporting parson who rode to hounds in Devon.  Foxhunting in the UK is today an illegal and much maligned pastime.

But at the time, it was the most quintessentially English sport.  Americans emulated their mother country and imported both foxhounds and foxes*, and the only reason why there are foxes in Australia today is because someone wanted to bring foxhunting Down Under.

It wasn’t until the seventeenth century that foxhunting became a sport of the nobility. Before that, hounds were run on deer, but as the wool industry became more and more important to the country, there became a need to control foxes. Yes, foxes do occasionally take a lamb, but occasionally is far too often.

And deer parks became very expensive to maintain, and it was much economically sensible to turn those forests into agricultural land for growing grain or pasturing sheep. In this environment, deer became scarce, and foxes became numerous.

So if you have this tradition of riding to hounds after deer, why not train the dogs to take on a fox?

And thus began the British tradition of foxhunting began.

Now, foxhunting ends with the hounds killing the fox– at least that’s the tradition. In America, where red foxes have to compete with all sorts of native predators, the numbers have always been fairly low, but on the island of Great Britain, foxes existed in very high numbers. So American hunts usually never end with the dogs killing the fox.

The fox just goes in a den, and the chase is over.

In the traditional British hunt, the foxes goes in a hole, and when the hounds discover it, another dog is brought in to do some dirty work.

This would be the canine equivalent of the ferret– the earth dog

The earth dog’s job is to go into the den where the fox is and make it run out– the traditional term is “bolting.”

When the fox charges out, the hounds either catch it or start running it again.

This is not an efficient way to hunt at all. The best way is to call the foxes in and shoot them, but hunting in this way was meant to be a replacement for hounding deer. In Medieval England,  access to these deer forests and the right to keep hounds for hunting was always a right of the nobility. Commoners were given some access to the forests over time, and at different times, these rules were relaxed. However, during the reign of the Hanoverian kings, these laws were quite draconian.  Poaching became not only a crime, it became a sort of way of class resistance. The hunts were symbolic of being part of the upper class, and this simple fact is why the Labour Party (the mainstream socialist party in the UK) has always had issues with hunting, especially riding to hounds.

With the fox replacing the deer as the primary quarry, there became a need for the earth dog to help finish the hunt. Deer don’t go to ground. Hounds can cut them off or wear them out pretty easily, but once a fox goes into a den of some sort, the hounds have no chance of catching them.

So the terrier is needed to flush out the fox.

Now, England always had terriers. Their primary purpose was to kill vermin– rat out of the granaries, bolt out badgers, rabbits, foxes, and otters to the gun or into nets or lurchers’  jaws.

They were dogs of the small farmer.  Probably the best way to think of these dogs is the general Jack Russell type terriers that aren’t registered today, as well as the Patterdales, borders, and fells. Some of these dogs were dwarfs. Others were wire-haired. Some were smooth.  These were commoners’ dogs and were definitely associated with poachers. When deer chasing was the main noble sport, there was no way one of these little dogs would be on a hunt.

But things had changed, but the nobles began to modify these terriers.

Almost none were predominantly white. Red and red sable coloration is very common in these dogs even today, and they had to be common in the early terriers used on fox hunts.

And this presented a problem for the foxhunters:

When a fox is spotted running on the ground, the hunting cry is “tally ho,” and the chase starts again.  But if you have a terrier that resembles a fox in anyway, there is a risk that a huntsman might see the terrier, call “tally ho,”  and start a false chase.

But if the terrier is mostly white, then there is no way you’re going to mistake this dog for a fox.

Further, a white terrier is by nature that used for hunting foxes on mounted hunts then it is not the dog of a poacher.

And that’s how we got this white hunt terrier, which has since become several breeds.

The original name was “fox terrier.”

In the past hundred years, there are now two kennel club breeds called “fox terriers,” which are the wire fox terrier and the smooth.

These dogs have rather long muzzles, but that is not what they looked like at all when they were being used on mounted hunts.

They looked like the dogs in painting above. We would call them Jack Russells, but what North Americans call a Jack Russell is just this old type of fox terrier.

This is the type of fox terrier that the parson loved, and because this type of fox terrier was used on a regular basis, it retained the old type.

The fox terrier, according to the Rev. John Russell, was a four way cross of farm terrier, beagle, bulldog, and Italian greyhound.

The fact that this type of fox terrier still exists in juxtaposition to the two breeds of fox terrier that are in the kennel club is a really good example of what happens when a dog exists solely for the show ring.

These three breeds are all essentially the same breed, just bred to different standards. The long muzzles, upright shoulders, and stilted gaits of the show fox terriers are quite uncommon in long-legged Jack Russells.

In the show ring, selection pressures for performance can become released, and selection pressures for novelty, even deformity, become more evident.

Both of these breeds of show fox terrier have entirely left their roots.

And that is precisely what got rewarded at Westminster last night. Winning Best in Show last night was a wire fox terrier named GCH Afterall Painting The Sky.  This breed has won Best in Show at Westminster 14 times, so it’s not particularly a shocker.

GCH CH AfterAll Painting the Sky

This dog has the typical stilted gait of a wire fox terrier, and she looks nothing like the dogs in the Emms painting.

And if you saw the Emms painting, you’d say they were Jack Russells.

Of course, in the UK, hunt terriers are out of work. Foxhunting as it was once practiced is illegal. They can still be used to rat and control vermin.

They have essentially fallen from their noble rise back into their common roots.

The earth dog as it once existed is largely out of a job, especially in North America where we now coyote chase  with hounds and shoot groundhogs. We turned out terriers into treeing dogs, the rat terriers and the feists.

But it’s interesting to me that we celebrate this breed:

It is as English and elitist as anything we can imagine over here. It’s an elitists’ terrier used for an elitists’ sport.

And that’s our show dog of the year.

It tells us that the kennel club system as it exists right now is pretty foreign institution. Most dog people in the country really don’t take it seriously.

And that, I can say, is going to be the thing that saves dogs in this country.


*At one time it was believed that most red foxes in the Eastern US were English red foxes, but a recent genetic study revealed that they are actually native red foxes that wandered down here from Canada.


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Maddie and Timmy

All photos courtesy of Laura Westfall Atkinson.


  Timmy was a nice little dog. I spent many, many hours walking him on the beach between Atlantic Beach, North Carolina and Fort Macon.

Maddie was his mate. Both very nice dogs. Maddie and Timmy had several litters together.

Maddie was his mate. Both very nice dogs. Maddie and Timmy had several litters together. 

Maddie with Catie. Catie is now a chemical engineer in Baton Rouge.

Maddie with Catie. Catie is now a chemical engineer in Baton Rouge. 

Good ol’ dogs.

Just memories now.



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toy fox terrier

It’s well-known that I have my own opposition to religious tenet of blood purity that has unfortunately poisoned so much of dog culture.

If it were acceptable that golden retrievers could still be crossed with flat-coats or Labradors and still get the puppies registered with the AKC and the entire FCI system, I’d be all for it. But if you do any crossbreeding within these breeds, the descendants can never be registered as any breed. There use to be an “Interbred” retriever classification with the Kennel Club (of the UK), but now, if you cross a golden with a yellow Labrador, none of the descendants of that cross can ever be registered as golden retrievers, even if they look just like normal golden retrievers.

Not this was not always the case.

In the 1920’s, when both golden and Labrador retrievers were recognized as distinct breeds by the Kennel Club, the Haulstone line of golden retrievers experienced an outcross to a field champion yellow Labrador retriever, FTCh Hayler’s Defender. If you play around on pedigree databases enough, you’ll find descendants of this dog in both golden and Labrador pedigrees.

But right now, an outcross between two breeds is a genetic dead-end, and you cannot use this tool to make improvements on the strains or increase genetic diversity.

I want this tool back in the hands of dog breeders, and I would be willing to buy a dog that looked like a golden retriever but had a Labrador three generations back in the same way I’ll eat a “Black Angus steak” that came from a steer whose great, great, great grandmother was a Hereford.

However, I’ve found that even among “working dog” writers that there is a resistance to outcrossing that so resembles that of the kennel club aversion to it that it’s really quite disconcerting.

And this doesn’t include those who are against all outcrossing.

Some of those who are okay with outcrossing with other breeds, or at least claim to be, are very adverse to crossing things into there own breed.

For example, there is a well-known “working terrier” expert who keeps Jack Russells for groundhog digging operations.

His biggest lament is that Jack Russells are getting too big for the job, and it’s harder and harder to find one small enough to do the work.

Well, there is an obvious solution to this problem.

The Jack Russell is a fox terrier. It’s a specific type of fox terrier that resembles those that were first distilled into a breed in the late eighteenth century, but fox terriers became a global breed.  And now there are dozens of offshoots of the family.

One of these is called a toy fox terrier. It’s a toy breed, which isn’t much larger than a Chihuahua, and it’s not technically a working dog, though they are known for their intelligence. They may not be as game as Jack Russells, but they aren’t as far removed from Jack Russells as say a mastiff or a greyhound would be.

All one would have to do is a little crossing with toy fox terriers and Jack Russells, and then one could select for both small size and gameness and have the perfect sized terrier for the job.

The JRTCA even would allow descendants of those crosses to be registered, so long as they were within the JRTCA’s conformation requirements.

But I’ve never heard this terrier writer say anything about the potential of this cross, though I’m pretty sure he’s excoriated the existence of toy fox terriers as an anathema to “real terriers,” which includes only about 4 or 5 breeds and dachshunds, which are actually small Central European hounds, not terriers. (A full-sized dachshund would be something like a Hanoverian schweisshund.)

The Germans had no problems crossing miniature pinschers with dachshunds to make the little rabbit dachshunds that are used to hunt in rabbit warrens.

So why would someone be opposed to crossing toy fox terriers with Jack Russells to make a groundhog specialist-sized Jack Russells, especially when one can eventually get the descendants of the cross registered as Jack Russells with the JRTCA?

The truth is I really don’t think many of these working dog people are as opposed to the closed registry system as they claim to be.

Sure, some of those crosses are going to be too docile to do groundhogs, but in Europe, when breeders cross low drive conformation golden retrievers with higher drive working goldens, they get some pups in the litter that aren’t any good at retrieving.

But they still do it, because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be getting new blood in.

If you want to turn a dog into a ferret, the opportunity is there.

The truth is both “working dog” people and “show dog” people are operating under the same paradigms.

It’s the same old song.

And we have to get out of this mythology on both sides if we are to confront the problems dogs face in a rational manner.




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These Jack Russells are very typical of the kind that English ratters have always used, and lurchers and retriever crosses can rat, too.

Highly bred and trained retrievers aren’t used to rat, though they certainly can do it.

The reason is that it teaches the dog to do a killing bite, also known as “hardmouth.”

However, there are retrievers that can adjust what kind of bite they use and can be used to retrieve live birds and to kill rats and other things.

One of the reasons why the curly-coated retriever got such a bad reputation for hardmouth is because they were owned by keepers as their personal dogs, which they used in ratting forays like this one.

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This is not Willie

This is not Willie:

(Source for image)

This is Willie:

Amazing isn’t it?


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The first JRT I’m watching this weekend is Spike.

No one told me that he would attack the water hose if you use it.

I turned it on. He yapped.

And charged into it.

He’s wanting me to turn it on again.


He’s Cammie and Rhodie’s half brother. It was not known that he was of this particular coat. It  just sort of developed.

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I’ve been watching the girls and Willie this evening.

I thought I’d post this series of videos to show you how they much they have grown.

Rhodie has some pipes. LOL!

Rhodie and Cammie are littermates. Cammie has short legs like Willie, and Rhodie is long-legged and very greyhound-like.

Cammie belongs to my cousin who is studying in Denmark this summer.

Cammie is very well-behaved. She is Miss Affectionate Appeasement.

Rhodie, on the other hand, is a wild animal.


Rhodie and Cammie’s dad is a wire-haired JRT. Cammie is a smooth, while rhodie is very lightly broken-coated.

However, Spike, their half-brother, is wire-haired just like their dad.  He lives with my aunt’s sister’s family.

The breeder who bred Cammie, Rhodie, Willie, and Spike has selected his dogs to be good with other dogs and to be of a very gentle disposition.

They also very widely in appearance, for he includes short-legged and long-legged dogs in his program, as well as wire, smooth, and broken-coated dogs.

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