Parsons Terrier vs Jack Russell: What’s the Difference and Which One is Right for You?

Parsons Terrier vs Jack Russell: What’s the Difference and Which One is Right for You?

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Terriers are beloved by many for their relatively small size, their affectionate nature, and their athletic, high-energy personalities. There are many types of terriers, however, and learning about their differences will help you decide what breed of terrier is right for you!

Jack Russell Terriers and the Parson Russell Terriers are so closely related that they are often confused for one another, but there are actually a number of differences between these two breeds of terriers.

Read on to learn what makes these two breeds different from one another.

What are Terriers anyway?

Like many other dog breeds, the terrier was originally bred for a specific work-related purpose. Their small size, high levels of energy, and general fearlessness meant that terriers were the perfect dog for hunting down vermin such as rats as well as assisting in the hunting of smaller game animals such as foxes and rabbits.

The types of terriers bred for this type of activity are known as “hunting-type terriers.” Hunting-type terriers are a category that includes not only the Parson Russell Terrier and Jack Russell Terrier, but also other terrier breeds such as the Fox Terrier, Scottish Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, and others.

Terriers can vary significantly in size, ranging anywhere from 4lb, 9-inch Toy Fox Terrier to 55lb, 20-inch Bull Terriers. They are, in general, on the smaller side of the spectrum when it comes to dog sizes. The Jack Russell Terrier and the Parson Russell Terrier are both on the smaller side of this spectrum, though they are not as small as some toy terriers.

Where do Jack Russell Terriers and Parson Russell Terriers come from?

Where do Jack Russell Terriers and Parson Russell Terriers Come From?

For a long time, the Parson Russell Terrier was not recognized as a distinct breed from the Jack Russell Terrier. Both breeds can have their origin traced to a famous priest, fox-hunter, and dog breeder named John “Jack” Russell. Also nicknamed “The Sporting Parson,” Russell was an avid hunter of game animals—particularly foxes—who began breeding dogs in an attempt to develop an intelligent, athletic breed that could be more easily distinguished from the foxes he was hunting.

In 1819, Jack Russell purchased a female terrier named “Trump” and began breeding in order to create an energetic, courageous terrier to help in fox-hunting. By 1850, the Jack Russell Terrier was recognized as a distinct breed from other terriers. All current Jack Russell Terriers and Parson Russell Terriers can trace their ancestry back to this time period.

Until the 1980s, the Parson Terrier was not considered to be distinct from the Jack Russell Terrier. Eventually, however, a group known as the Parson Jack Russell Terrier Club noted that there was enough consistent variety within Jack Russell Terriers that they should be considered two distinct breeds.

Between 1983 and 2008, Kennel Clubs throughout the world gradually began recognizing the Parson Russell Terrier as a distinct breed with its own defining physical characteristics, one that deserved to be recognized as different from the Jack Russell Terrier. 

Temperament and Behavior

Jack Russell Terrier Temperament and Behavior

Jack Russell Terrier Temperament and Behavior

Due to the fact that these dogs originated as a working terrier meant for helping with fox-hunting, Jack Russell Terriers are fast, fearless, and athletic dogs who enjoy playing fetch and running around. As such, owners of these dogs should be aware that if deprived of regular exercise and play, Jack Russells can become restless and will look for ways to amuse themselves.

Because of this, you should consider buying some kind of chew toys for them if you intend to leave them unsupervised for any noticeable amount of time. Moreover, and for these reasons, this particular breed might not be suitable for owners who live in apartments or other cramped spaces.

It is also generally recommended that Jack Russell Terrier owners bring their dog to some kind of obedience class while they’re still young. This breed will occasionally become stubborn or display aggressive behavior if they are not properly socialized and trained at an early age. Despite this fact, if your dog is properly trained and socialized, your Jack Russell will be a very playful and affectionate breed who will make an excellent addition to your household.

Parson Russell Terrier Temperament and Behavior

Parson Russell Terrier Temperament and Behavior

Much of what was said about the Jack Russell Terrier also applies to Parson Russell Terriers due to their shared lineage. Like their Jack Russell Terrier counterparts, a Parson Russell Terrier is an intelligent, energetic, and playful breed. They enjoy games such as fetch, tug-of-war, and frisbee. They also love vigorous outdoor exercise such as running or being taken on walks.

Unlike Jack Russells, however, Parson Russells are slightly less familiar with its working origin. Because of this, some Parson Russell Terriers will display less of the hunting instincts they were originally bred for, but this oftentimes depends on the individual dog.

In general, this means that while still energetic and playful, they will occasionally be more easily broken out of aggressive, disobedient habits.

Physical Differences

Size Differences

Size Differences

One notable difference between Parson Terriers and Jack Russells is in the realm of size.

Jack Russell Terriers can vary in size to a more significant degree than Parson Russell Terriers. While Jack Russells range from 10 to 15 inches, Parson Terriers generally only fall between 12 and 14 inches.

Both breeds are, however, similar in terms of weight, with the Parson Russell Terrier weighing between 13 and 17 pounds and the Jack Russell Terrier weighing between 14 and 18 pounds.

While there is some variation in size between the two breeds—and indeed, between members of their own breed—there is very little chance of this variation affecting your lifestyle. If you’ve decided that a smaller dog like the terrier is the dog for you, then both of these breeds will similarly meet your needs.

There are also a few other physical differences between the two dogs that you may want to know, as shelters or other owners will occasionally mistake the two for each either. Unlike Jack Russells, Parson Russell Terriers have relatively long legs for their body size.

Parson Russell Terriers can also be told apart from Jack Russell Terriers as the former often have longer heads and broader chests.

If you are unsure of whether or not you have a Jack Russell Terrier or a Parson Russell Terrier, you should consider consulting a veterinarian or contacting a local kennel society for information.

Fur and Coat Differences

Another notable difference between the two terriers is that Jack Russell Terriers possess a wider array of coats. The Jack Russell Terrier can possess either a smooth, rough, or a broken coat (a broken coat is a coat that is smooth in some parts and rough in others.) The Parson Russell Terrier, however, can only have a smooth or broken coat. If you think you’re dealing with a Parson Russell Terrier, but they have either a rough or curly coat, you’re most likely dealing with another type of terrier. There are also some differences in color between the two breeds.

Health Differences

Lifespan Differences

Lifespan Differences

Both breeds are known as generally healthy dogs who can live long lives. Assuming they are provided with a good home, fed a properly balanced diet, and taken in for regular vet checkups, a Parson Russell Terrier will have an average lifespan of between 14 and 15 years, while the Jack Russell Terrier’s average lifespan will be between 13 and 16 years.

Health Conditions to Look Out For

While both breeds are generally healthy dogs, owners should also be aware of potential health issues that may arise for both breeds. Both the Parson Russell Terrier and the Jack Russell Terrier are known to occasionally suffer from eye conditions. Lens luxation, progressive retinal atrophy, posterior vitreous detachment, cataracts, and corneal dystrophy are eye conditions to be alert for.

Owners of either of these breeds should also be aware that deafness is occasionally an issue among older terriers. While both of these breeds are well known for their high energy and athletic nature, hip and leg issues can still be a risk.

Like all dog breeds, Parson Russells and Jack Russells should be taken to the vet for a checkup on a regular basis. A professional veterinarian will be able to assure that your dog is physically well and suggest any type of medication or physical therapy that your furry friend might require.

Diet and Feeding

The diet you keep your Parson Russell or Jack Russell Terrier will depend not only on the exact size of your dog but also on its age. When they are still puppies between 8 and 12 weeks old, they will require four puppy-sized meals in 24 hours. While this might seem like a lot, it’s important to remember that this is a vital time for dogs when they do a lot of growing.

As they grow, you should gradually reduce this. Between 3 and 6 months, consider reducing it to 3 meals in 24 hours, and then reducing it 2 meals when they’re between 6 months and 1 year old. Once your Parson or Jack Russell Terrier has turned 1 year old, you can make the choice between feeding them one larger meal a day or two smaller meals.

You should not, however, treat this is unchangeably true. Owners should consult the packaging of the dog food they’re buying for information on how much of it they should give their dog based on their age and weight class.

Additionally, if you have any more specific questions regarding your dog’s diets, you should reach out to an expert such as a veterinarian who will be able to prescribe a specific diet based on your dog’s unique age, size, and activities.

So, which breed is right for me?

which breed is right for me?

This is a complicated question and one that depends on a number of factors including your household in lifestyle. Here are a few things to consider when making your decision:


Due to the wider range of coats possessed by this breed, some Jack Russell Terriers tend to shed more than others. If this is a big concern for you due to allergies, or if you simply want to cut out dealing with shedding as much as possible, you should consider a smooth coat Parson Russell Terrier as their coats tend to involve the smallest amount of shedding.

Obedience and Training

Both the Jack Russell Terrier and the Parson Russell Terrier are extremely intelligent dogs who respond well to obedience training. The Parson Russell Terrier does, however, show a bit more willingness to give up bad habits. This should not dissuade you from adopting a Jack Russell Terrier, as they may only need a bit more training, but it is worth considering.

Frequently Asked Questions

I live in an apartment but still really want a terrier, is there any way to make it work?

Absolutely! While it may be easier for people who live in houses with backyards, living in an apartment may still work if there are suitable parks near you where your terrier can get plenty of exercise. You should, however, be aware of the fact that you will have to spend more time out and about as a result of this. Additionally, you should make sure your apartment has enough space and toys to keep your terrier entertained.

Are Jack Russell Terriers and Parson Russell Terriers good dogs for families with children?

Both of these breeds are playful, affectionate dogs who can easily match the energy of children. Children should, of course, always be supervised when around any breed of dog, but with a bit of training and a lot of affection, Jack Russell and Parson Russell terriers can be great family pets.

Do Jack Russell and Parson Russell Terriers get along well with other dogs?

If trained properly, both breeds of dogs can live or play peacefully with other dogs. Their lively, athletic personalities mean that they are always willing to play!

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