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24 September 2014

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Famous Devonians

You are in: Devon > Discover Devon > Famous Devonians > Parson Jack was a breed apart

Rev Jack Russell

Rev John (Jack) Russell

Parson Jack was a breed apart

Parson John Russell (1795-1883) was vicar of Swimbridge for 40 years from 1832. But he's better known as the huntsman who bred the famous Parson Jack Russell terrier.

Have you ever wondered why Parson Jack Russell dogs got their name?

The answer can be found right here in Devon, where the breed's creator was born and lived most of his life.

John, also known as Jack, Russell was born in Dartmouth in 1795. Following his university days in Oxford, he returned to the county to work as a churchman in North Devon.

He came from a hunting family and became determined to find a hard working breed of terrier which could flush out the fox.

A Parson Jack Russell terrier

A Parson Jack Russell terrier

Russell acquired his first fox terrier, Trump, from a milkman while studying at Oxford around 1815.

The story goes that Trump was crossed with a Devon hunt terrier to create the Parson Jack Russell breed - also known as a Parson Terrier.

The Parson is distinctly different from the Jack Russell - being sufficiently long in the leg to keep up with the pack, but small enough to pursue its quarry to earth.

Rev Russell was adamant that his terriers would not maim or kill the fox, preferring them to nip and worry it to the point that it would bolt its den and take its chances above ground.

Parson Russell is still remembered at Swimbridge, near Barnstaple, where he was vicar at St James Church for 40 years from 1832.

It's said his sermons were brief by Victorian standards, because his hunting horse was usually saddled and waiting in the churchyard.

The parson, who was a founder member of the Kennel Club, died in 1883 and his body is buried in the churchyard at Swimbridge.

The village has a pub called the Jack Russell Inn, and its sign is a reproduction of a painting of Trump which was commissioned by the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). The original still hangs at Sandringham.

These days, Jack Russell dogs are hugely popular pets.

last updated: 29/01/2008 at 15:38
created: 29/01/2008

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