Parson Russell Terrier

Canis lupus

Last updated: May 2, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff

The root stock of the breed was a dog named Trump

Parson Russell Terrier Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Canis lupus

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Parson Russell Terrier Conservation Status

Parson Russell Terrier Locations

Parson Russell Terrier Locations

Parson Russell Terrier Facts

Fun Fact
The root stock of the breed was a dog named Trump
High voltage

Parson Russell Terrier Physical Characteristics

  • Black
  • White
  • Tan
Skin Type
15-18 years
17 lbs

Parson Russell Terrier as a Pet:

General Health
Energy Level
Tendency to Chew
Family and kid friendliness
Yappiness / Barking
Separation Anxiety
Preferred Temperature
Average climate
Exercise Needs
Friendly With Other Dogs
Pure bred cost to own
$1000 +
Dog group
Male weight
15-17 lbs
Female weight
13-15 lbs

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The Parson Russell Terrier was bred in England in the 1800s for the purpose of hunting foxes. These hunts were largely formalized affairs involving riders on horseback and packs of hounds pursuing an individual fox to his eventual doom.

While there were many breeds of hounds that served well in the pursuit of the fox, they were too large to actually ferret them out if they got into an underground burrow. What was needed in the mix was a very specific type of dog that was capable of running as fast as a man on horseback could gallop yet still small and fearless enough to dig down after any foxes that were run to ground.

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The breed draws its name from a well-known sportsman of the time, the Reverend John Russell, who created this swift little terrier to work in tandem with the larger dogs present in the hunt pack. Required to match wits with the wily fox, the Parson Russell Terrier, or PRT as it is abbreviated was created to run with the pack but think independently and solve problems on its own when confronted with them.

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Owning A Parson Russell Terrier: 3 Pros And 3 Cons

Very playful and friendly.
These are very high-energy dogs who have been bred for life in a pack setting. In addition, their progenitors were chosen for independent thinking and adaptability. Playing around helps burn energy and fills the need for them to use their brains.
Dominant personality requires strong human leadership.
There is really no other way to put it than to say that any terrier needs to know who its master is. If their human owner is not prepared to maintain a firm grasp of this concept, the void will be filled by the dog itself.
Good with children and other pets.
They do not have the same level of selfish possessiveness that some other terriers are afflicted with. This makes them a safe bet for playtime with the youngest members of the family.
Needs large amount of exercise.
Any small animal whose breeder wants it to outrace a thoroughbred horse must have a lot of energy built into its basic nature. This energy can be burned off via exercise or it will find an outlet in nervous habits at home.
Low maintenance coat and good overall health.
Their wiry, weatherproof coat makes all dog groomers sad since there is little or no need for their services. These dogs shed very little. Their original breeder obviously took great care to only include the healthiest and most vibrant stock in the mix for his program. It shows in the very low list of afflictions the breed is known to suffer from.
Not recommended for beginners.
For those who are new dog owners, it is not easy to understand that the happy, playful PRT that loves every moment of its time interacting with humans has another side to its character. This other side can lead it to doing very much as it likes if it is not kept properly focused. The price of neglect is a disobedient hyperactive animal.

Types Of

The Parson Russell Terrier is one of three Russell Terrier breeds, the other two are the Jack Russell and the Russell Terrier. There are two different coat types that the Parson Russell Terrier comes in – broken and rough. The most common color is white but they also come in the following other colors:

  • Black
  • Brown
  • Tan
  • Cream
  • Tri-Color

Size And Weight

Parson Russell Terrier isolated on white background
This breed is small, averaging heights of 13-14 inches.

©Eric Isselee/

Health and Entertainment for your Parson Russell Terrier

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Because its ultimate purpose was to dig out creatures it has run into a burrow, the PRT is a small dog standing only about 13-14 inches high. Healthy specimens are found to weigh up to 13-17 pounds depending on the sex of the animal.

Height (Male)14” Tall
Height (Female)13” Tall
Weight (male)17 lbs, fully grown
Weight (female)15 lbs, fully grown

Common Health Issues

Ataxia is the major threat to the health of a PRT. This is a type of nerve damage or disease related to inner ear imbalances or spinal cord constrictions. Ataxia takes the form of a disruption in the smooth coordination of the four limbs necessary for quadrupedal animals to move fluidly.

Patellar luxation, or slippage of the kneecap, is another ailment that occurs in many small dog breeds. The kneecap essentially dislocates and can either snap back into place on its own or may require external force to return it to its proper positioning. Needless to say, this can be quite painful both when it happens and when the kneecap goes back into place.

Deafness is another issue that Parson Russell Terriers face. There are many causes of deafness in dogs as a result of infection, infestations, or various ear ailments but the majority of cases with a PRT occur simply due to their very long lifespan.

None of these conditions are common but they do occur in the breed at a higher rate than in some other dogs. Thus the major risks to the health of the breed are:

  • Ataxia
  • Deafness
  • Patellar Luxation

Temperament And Behavior

Types of terrier dogs
The Parson Russell Terrier is not only affectionate and charming, but likes to be kept busy.


If there were only one word to describe the Parson Russell Terrier, it would probably have to be busy. If there is nothing happening in its life, this breed will find something to occupy its time. Given the chance, it will wander and hunt out beyond its normal domain. They live to chase things and it doesn’t much matter what it is. Digging is also part of their normal temperament.

They have enough playfulness and energy to tire out a five-year-old. These dogs can relate well with just about anybody or anything except for very small creatures that it may not recognize as fellow pets but as something to pursue. PRTs know how to be around horses but are hit-or-miss when it comes to cats that it didn’t grow up with.

How To Take Care Of Parson Russell Terriers

The key to caring for a Parson Russell Terrier is to keep them occupied. These are not couch potato dogs that can lay around all day doing nothing. If they are not provided opportunities for vigorous play and exercise, they will create their own. This is a dog that will play a very big part in your life.

The Best Dog Food For Parson Russell Terriers

Three Parson Russell Terriers side by side on an autumnal meadow
This breed is usually rewarded with treats for good behavior so they might be fed a bit less at mealtimes to avoid overfeeding.

©Christian Mueller/

Somewhere between 1 ¼ and 1 ¾ cups of dry dog food is the usual maintenance ration for these dogs. This should divide up between breakfast and dinner. Adjust the quantity based on how much of an active lifestyle the particular dog is living at the time. Smaller dog breeds can become obese quickly.

Since training a PRT may well involve the provision of treats for good behavior, this should reduce their overall everyday supply of dog food. As high energy as they are, an occasional serving of real meat can help keep them in top form.

A-Z Animals finds that the best dog food for Parson Russell Terriers is Purina Pro Plan Small Breed Shredded Formula Lamb & Rice Adult Dry Dog Food.

We appreciate that this diet contains a sufficient amount of manganese and potassium, which are vital for neurological function since the breed can suffer from ataxia. Additionally, this recipe has lamb with poultry, which provided glucosamine, a nutrient that should help prevent your Parson Russell Terrier from dealing with bad knees.

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Best for Small Breeds
Purina Pro Plan Small Breed Shredded Formula Adult Dry Dog Food
  • Nutrient-dense bite-sized kibble and small tender, shredded pieces for a taste and texture dogs love.
  • High protein formula with real chicken as the first ingredient.
  • Fortified with guaranteed live probiotics to support digestive and immune health.
  • Used to be known as SAVOR Shredded Blend Chicken and Rice Formula.
  • Formulated high in protein to meet the needs of highly active small dogs.

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Maintenance And Grooming

Exercise and attention are the two main things you will need to provide for dogs of this breed. Their coats are rather weatherproof and do not require more than an occasional brush out in most cases. They do not shed very much provided they have a proper diet. If it becomes unbalanced, they will begin to shed a little bit more than usual. So long as they get proper care, they are not hypoallergenic but can be very little trouble to look after. Their nails will need trimming This is especially true for indoor animals that do not have any opportunity for digging.


Parson Russell Terrier standing on grass
This breed requires specific training to ensure they have a definitive role in the family.

©Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/

Very few people are fox hunters these days. It is necessary to provide a PRT with an alternate purpose in life. Training must take into account their need to fit into a definite role in the family without straying.

This does not equate to cruelty or punishment, but it does mean that you have to be firm and consistent in the things you teach these dogs and also in the things they cannot do. If there are any gray areas or inconsistencies, their own inquisitive personality will produce their own solution to the challenge. It may be one that you do not appreciate. Get on top of them early and keep it that way. In turn, you will have a loving, vivacious, and superb life companion. Simply put, the extra training effort you put in early will pay dividends for life.


How much exercise is enough for one of these dogs? There might be no solid answer to that question. They can keep going and going so long as you are willing to let them run and play. This is what makes them so ideal for juvenile companions. The dogs and the kids can tire each other out and then go to bed happy. The important thing to remember about exercise, in this case, is that these dogs need exercise as much mentally as they do physically.


Parson Russell Terrier puppy in the garden
Parson Russell Terriers, like all puppies, require a lot of time and a balanced diet of puppy food.

There are no major differences when it comes to raising PRT puppies rather than any others. The most important requirement is to put in the time necessary to mold their character as you would like it to be. Of course, you need to provide a properly balanced diet of puppy food and make sure they get plenty of exercise. Obtaining a rescue dog, provided it was properly raised, can greatly reduce the time and effort to obtain a satisfactory canine-human balance.

Parson Russell Terriers And Children

These energetic dogs are very good companions for children. They are small, so they are not likely to accidentally hurt anybody through the application of simple mass in motion. They love to run, jump and play. Most importantly, they do not need special instruction on how to behave around small humans. They can simply dive right in and become part of the family.

Dogs Similar To Parson Russell Terriers

There are a large number of dog breeds that share similarities with the Parson Russell Terrier.

  • Jack Russell Terrier – The most obviously similar dog is the Jack Russell Terrier.
  • American Foxhound – Next is one of the PRT’s big brothers on the hunt, the American Foxhound. Although more beagle-ish in appearance, the larger, longer-legged Foxhound shares many of the Parson Russell Terrier’s finest attributes. This is not surprising since they both exist for the same original purpose. The most famous breeder of the American Foxhound was George Washington.
  • Rat Terrier – Conversely, the Rat Terrier is like a PRT’s little brother. It was bred for the pursuit of smaller game and vermin, as its name clearly denotes. Apart from that, however, it is a very similar dog that fits apartment living in particular as long as it gets a healthy dose of daily exercise.

Parson Russell Terrier Versus Jack Russell Terrier

All such terriers from the offspring bred by the Reverend John “Parson Jack” Russell were once known as Jack Russell Terriers. Due to brand dilution, it was eventually decided that the name “Jack Russell Terrier” covered too broad a spectrum of dogs to count as an actual breed, so a new category began. Thus the Parson Russell Terrier became a recognized breed while the Jack Russell Terrier became nothing more than a catchall phrase that can, but does not only, include Parson Russell Terriers.

For The Boys:

  • Jack or Jackie
  • Rusty
  • Khan
  • Dasher
  • Jerry

For The Girls:

  • Sam
  • Vixen
  • Princess
  • Paris
  • Chrissy

Famous Parson Russell Terriers

The organization of the PRT as a specific breed only happened very recently. This has given it little opportunity to obtain celebrity or even notoriety on its own. One of its forbears, however, may be the most famous dog image of all time. It is an 1899 painting of a small dog listening to an old-fashioned gramophone entitled “His Master’s Voice”. A version of this image later became the trademark of RCA.

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All energy levels are great -- I just love dogs!
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About the Author

Melissa Bauernfeind was born in NYC and got her degree in Journalism from Boston University. She lived in San Diego for 10 years and is back in NYC. She loves adventure and traveling the world with her husband but always misses her favorite little man, Peanut, half Chihuahua/half Jack Russell, all trouble. She got dive-certified so she could dive with the Great White Sharks someday and she's hoping to swim with the Orcas as well.

Parson Russell Terrier FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How much do Parson Russell Terriers cost to own?

The price of puppies will start at $1000 and go up from there. Finding a rescue dog can of course drop this price considerably. Basic maintenance and care for a PRT are not much, but the price can go up if it is necessary to hire someone to walk them every day. In that case, expenses can be much higher than for a more laid-back animal.

Are Parson Russell Terriers good with kids?

These are excellent dogs for children to be around. Rescue dogs also generally do well with children, but it is best to introduce everyone before making the final decision.

How long do Parson Russell Terriers live?

This is a very long-lived breed and can last anywhere from 15-18 years.

What is the difference between a Parson Russell Terrier and a Jack Russell Terrier?

Semantics, in some cases. Both dogs were originally called Jack Russell Terriers. Eventually, however, the Jack Russell brand had been stretched so far that it was no longer regarded as a pure breed but rather as an aggregate of general terrier characteristics. So a stricter definition was adopted. This became the Parson Russell Terrier. A Parson Russell Terrier is always a Jack Russell as well, but not all Jack Russells are Parson Russells. So far as the AKC is concerned, there is no such purebred dog known as a Jack Russell Terrier any longer, only a Parson Russell.

Are Parson Russell Terriers good dogs?

As a general rule, yes. Unless you’re a fox, then the answer is no.

Do Parson Russell Terriers bark a lot?

They do not bark to excess but they do bark.

Are Parson Russell Terriers aggressive?

In the sense of going after people, they are not aggressive. They were born and bred to be indefatigable hunters, however.

What is the difference between a Jack Russell terrier and a Parson Russell?

The main way to differentiate a Jack Russell from a Parson Russell is by their size. Jack Russells weigh between 11 to 17 pounds, with their heights ranging from 10 to 15 inches. Their legs are also shorter compared to Parson Russells’.

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