The Parson Russell Terrier, often simply referred to as the Parson, is a breed of small white terrier that was originally bred for fox hunting in England. A breed with an active and lively personality, they have a strong work ethic and can be quite tenacious. Named after the Reverend John Russell (""The Sporting Parson""), who developed the breed in the early 19th century in Devonshire, England, the Parson Russell Terrier was used for hunting foxes. Reverend Russell sought a terrier with high stamina, intelligence, and a size that would allow them to chase foxes even into their underground dens. Parson Russell Terriers are distinct from Jack Russell Terriers, a related breed that Reverend Russell also had a hand in developing.
Parson Russell Terriers can suffer from degenerative myelopathy and progressive rod-cone degeneration. A specific hereditary condition for which they should be tested include severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), enamel hypoplasia, primary lens luxation, and late-onset spinocerebellar ataxia.
Parson Russell Terriers are known for their energy, intelligence, and determination. They are spirited and game dogs with a friendly and affectionate nature. These dogs are known to be fearless, and if they are not given enough mental and physical exercise, they may become bored and destructive. Despite their small size, they require plenty of exercise, and they love to play and chase.
While they are often good with children and other dogs, their strong prey drive can make them a poor fit for homes with smaller pets unless they are socialized from a young age. They are independent thinkers and can be stubborn, so they need an owner who can provide firm, consistent training.
It wasn't until 1990 that the breed was recognized by The Kennel Club in the UK, and it was accepted into the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 2001. The breed's name was initially the Jack Russell Terrier in the AKC, but was changed to Parson Russell Terrier in 2003 to avoid confusion and distinguish it from the smaller Jack Russell Terrier, now recognized as a different breed.
This breed is excellent at "earthdog" trials, a competition where terriers enter tunnels to hunt for vermin (without actually coming into contact with them). This simulates the breed's original purpose of hunting foxes in their dens.
The famous dog from the TV show "Wishbone," which features a dog living out famous moments in history and literature, was a Parson Russell Terrier.
Despite their size, they're known to be very good jumpers, capable of leaping five times their own height.