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Parson Russell Terrier: Info, Pictures, Characteristics & Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Parson Russell Terrier

Height: 12-15 inches
Weight: 13-17 pounds
Lifespan: 12-15 years
Colors: White, with brown markings, white with black markings, tricolored
Suitable for: Active families, outdoor enthusiasts, experienced dog handlers
Temperament: Tenacious, brave, loyal, strong-willed, feisty, independent, sensitive

Parson Russell Terriers are the larger version of Jack Russell Terriers, yet they’re quite rare compared to other breeds. Taller and stockier than Jack Russells, Parson Russell Terriers were selectively bred for breed show competitions. While their history is a bit complicated, they are recognized in multiple countries as a separate breed from the Jack Russell Terrier. These small Fox Terrier derivatives are quick and clever, often showing off their terrier temperaments. Let’s take a closer look at the Parson Russell Terrier to see what it takes to own one.

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Parson Russell Terrier Puppies


Parson Russell Terriers are purebred dogs that come from a long history of working and showing lines, so the price range will be quite wide. Coupled with the fact that some people misidentify them for the slightly-more popular Jack Russell, Parson Russell Terriers can be very expensive.

It is essential not to buy a Parson Russell Terrier from a backyard breeder or puppy mill because this breed has a laundry list of genetic conditions it can easily inherit, as well as temperament issues due to poor breeding practices. Finding a reputable breeder can be tough, especially for rare and uncommon breeds, but it is so important to prevent issues that happen with puppy mill and backyard-bred dogs. A reputable breeder will answer any questions with knowledgeable answers, have a facility that you can visit, and will have all documentation about the puppies up to date.

Adoption is an alternative to purchasing a puppy, but it may be difficult to find a purebred Parson Russell Terrier. Due to the rarity of this breed compared to its smaller cousin, there may not be any shelters or rescues with Parson Russell puppies. However, if you do manage to find one, adopting fees are much lower than purchasing.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Parson Russell Terrier

1. Parson Russell Terriers were once the same breed as Jack Russell Terriers.

Although they’re two separate breeds with different breed standards, Parson Russell Terriers were once the same breed as Jack Russell Terriers. These two terrier breeds were originally called Parson Jack Russell Terriers, which were derived from selectively bred White Fox Terriers.

2. Parson Russell Terriers used to be the “showing” lines of Jack Russells.

Before their historic separation as two different Terrier breeds, Parson Russell Terriers were considered to be the “show” lines of Jack Russell Terriers. To this day, Parson Russell Terriers seem to be slightly less energetic and hyperactive than Jack Russell Terriers.

3. Parson Russell Terriers are great farm dogs.

While their size may not be handy for farm work, Parson Russell Terriers make great farm companion dogs. These small terriers are not afraid of big animals, so they’re often a great choice for horse, cattle, and sheep farms.

Parson Russell Terrier puppy
Image Credit: Christian Mueller, Shutterstock

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Parson Russell Terrier 🧠

Parson Russell Terriers were bred from high-energy hunting Fox Terriers but are usually not as high-strung as Jack Russell Terriers due to their show-ring bloodlines. That being said, Parson Russell Terriers are still as bold and brave as the others in the massive Terrier family.

Parson Russell Terriers are spunky little dogs that have a lot of personality, known for their cheeky, happy-go-lucky attitudes about life. With little to no fear and boss-man demeanors, Parson Russell Terriers will stand their ground to anyone with a lot of barking. To prevent overprotectiveness, Parson Russell Terriers need early socialization as well as a stop-bark command to save your ears. These little dogs mean business and make great watchdogs, but they can become aggressive even if socialized frequently.

Parson Russell Terriers have a tendency for wanderlust and following quick movements, so off-leash play needs to be in an enclosed area if their recall is not reliable. These small dogs come from a very long history of hunting and working breeds, so any quick movement will catch their attention immediately. If the recall isn’t perfect, any commands will fall on deaf ears to hunt instead.

Bold personalities and wanderlust aside, Parson Russell Terriers are much calmer and affectionate once indoors for the day with their families. They enjoy human interaction and need it on a daily basis since separation anxiety is a major issue with this breed. As long as they’re exercised and given enough affection, Parson Russell Terriers can be quite a fun breed to have.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

Yes, but only for families with calm, older children. Parson Russell Terriers are active and playful, but they have that classic terrier tenacity that will not put up with overly aggressive roughhousing. If your children tend to tease or roughhouse with dogs, then this breed, as well as many others, is not suitable for your home. We recommend waiting until all children are old enough to understand how to play safely and responsibly with pets, especially with smaller or high-strung dogs.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽

Yes, Parson Russell Terriers usually get along well with other animals, even animals as large as horses. The issue may lie with small cats and small pets like guinea pigs. While Parson Russell Terriers were selectively bred for show, they still exhibit a high prey drive similar to the Jack Russell Terrier.

Parson Russell Terrier
Image credit: Parson Russell Terrier by Foto-Rabe, Pixabay


Things to Know When Owning a Parson Russell Terrier:

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Parson Russell Terriers are active, energetic dogs that will burn a lot of calories throughout the day, which means they’ll need a diet to support that. Additionally, Parson Russells are prone to dental problems, causing tooth decay and other dental-related diseases. We recommend feeding a diet of wet canned food as well as dry kibble, specifically fortified for active small dogs. If you’re not sure whether or not your dog is getting enough nutrients, we recommend contacting your veterinarian for a more customized diet plan.

Exercise 🐕

Exercising your Parson Russell Terrier is very important to have a happy, content dog, especially with this breed. Though they were bred for showing and companionship, Parson Russell Terriers do come from a strong foundation of hunting dogs. You should exercise your Parson Russell for at least one to two hours of playtime, plus a few brisk walks to stretch the legs. That may not be enough, but your Parson Russell will have no problem asking for additional exercise.

Mental stimulation and exercise are also crucial for your Parson Russell Terrier’s health. These dogs are dangerously smart and will get themselves in trouble, so you’ll need to tire out that terrier mind. Puzzle games are a great way to encourage natural hunting instincts while working on their problem-solving abilities.

Since these dogs are naturally athletic and highly intelligent, consider starting up a canine sport like agility or dock jumping. Parson Russell Terriers are rarely afraid of a new challenge and can easily excel in these sports, as long as they’re given the chance to learn and succeed. Contact your local dog training center to see what your options are, especially if you do plan on getting an energetic terrier breed.

Parson Russell Terrier
Image By: Jeannette1980, Pixabay

Training 🦮

Training your Parson Russell Terrier will be a challenge, which should be met with patience and persistence. Parson Russells, as well as most terriers, can sense frustration and will simply shut down. Using food-based rewards and positive reinforcement methods on a routine basis is the best place to start. If you’ve never owned a dog before or have never trained a terrier before, we highly recommend hiring a professional trainer to assist you.

Early socialization is crucial to prevent an aggressive, overprotective Parson Russell Terrier, especially if your puppy is already exhibiting these behaviors. In addition to early socialization, it’s important to train your Parson Russell a stop-bark command, or else they’ll bark nonstop. For those living in an apartment, this is important to prevent noise complaints from your neighbors.

Grooming ✂️

Grooming your Parson Russell Terrier will be a breeze with their shorthaired coats. Brushing out the coat once a week will help remove loose fur and debris while massaging the skin and stimulating natural oil production. Bathing once in a while is safe, but these terriers are prone to dry, irritated skin. After the coat is cared for, your Parson’s nails will need to be trimmed at least once a month. Since Parson Russells are prone to dental issues, a toothbrushing routine is highly recommended to prevent dental decay and tooth loss.

Health Conditions ❤️

Minor Conditions
  • Dental Disease
  • Deafness
  • Obesity
  • Allergies
  • Hip/Elbow Dysplasia
Serious Conditions
  • Bladder and Kidney Stones
  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Hemolytic Anemia
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy



Male vs Female

There are plenty of arguments as to what sex is “better” than the other, especially when it comes to training. However, most issues do not stem from a dog being a female or male and usually come from a lack of training or exercise. Aside from a slight size difference between males and females, the choice of female versus male should be a personal matter to make with all individuals involved.

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Final Thoughts

Parson Russell Terriers may not be a well-known terrier breed, but they’re starting to gain popularity amongst the Jack Russell community. Often considered the calmer and less feisty of the two, Parson Russell Terriers are still quite tenacious and have no problems proving it. While they may be small, Parson Russell Terriers can be a real challenge for first-time dog owners due to their strong-willed, stubborn natures. Temperaments and attitude aside, these small canines can make excellent companions for those who have the time for them.

Featured Image Credit: Kristyna Mrazkova, Shutterstock

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