Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Wire Hair Jack Russell Terrier: Facts, History & Origin (With Pictures)

Jessica Kim

By Jessica Kim

wire haired jack russell terrier dog on white background

Jack Russell Terriers come in several different coat types. The Wire Hair Jack Russell Terrier, or Rough-Haired Jack Russell Terrier, has a coat with coarse, intermediate-length hair. Their unique coat type gives them a charming and more rugged appearance than Smooth Hair Jack Russell Terriers.

Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers come from a long line of working terriers, and they were originally bred to hunt foxes. They have a rich and fascinating history, and there’s much to learn about this dog breed.

Breed Overview

Height: 10–12 inches
Weight: 9–15 pounds
Lifespan: 12–14 years
Colors: White with black, brown, cream, or tan markings
Suitable for: Active families, families with children, experienced dog owners
Temperament: Energetic, intelligent, curious, strong prey drive

All types of Jack Russell Terriers have a double coat, but what makes the Wire Hair Jack Russell Terrier unique is their coarse top coat. The top coat grows to a longer length than Smooth Hair Jack Russell Terriers. Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers that are kept as pets don’t require too much extra grooming, but show dogs have to keep a more thorough grooming regimen that consists of carding and stripping their coats.

Wire Hair Jack Russell Terrier Breed Characteristics

Energy
Trainability
Health
Lifespan
Sociability

hepper-dog-paw-divider 3

The Earliest Records of Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers in History

Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers are English dogs that are native to North Devon. They come from a line of fox terriers that existed in the 1800s and were first developed by Reverend John “Jack” Russell after he purchased a small white fox terrier named Trump. As a fox hunting enthusiast, he started to develop a breed of small fox terriers with Trump as the basis of his breeding program. By the 1850s, John Russell’s fox terriers became a distinguished and recognizable dog breed.

While John Russell’s breeding program developed the first Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers, it’s difficult to prove if the Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers of today are descendants of John Russell’s Trump. Due to unfortunate financial circumstances, he had to sell most of his breeding dogs later in his life. However, a few breeders continued to develop John Russell’s fox terriers in the late 1800s, and most Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers we see today are descendants of these fox terriers.

wire haired jack russell puppy
Photo Credit: dezy, Shutterstock

How Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers Gained Popularity

Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers quickly became popular hunting dogs because of their unique hunting abilities. They were specifically bred not to be overly aggressive, and John Russell put a significant amount of effort into breeding fox terriers that never tasted blood. Because Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers could bolt and chase down foxes without shedding blood, they could make fox hunting last longer. So, many fox hunters preferred hunting with them.

The years following World War II saw a decline in the use of hunting dogs, which affected the Wire Hair Jack Russell Terrier’s popularity. It eventually became more common for them to live as family pets and companion dogs. The establishment of several Jack Russell Terrier clubs around the world ensured that these dogs remained protected. To this day, they remain a popular family dog and a widely recognized dog breed.

Formal Recognition of Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers

In 1984, Arthur Blake Heinemann founded the Devon and Somerset Badger Club, which created the first breed standard for Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers. This club was eventually renamed the Parson Jack Russell Terrier Club.

In 1976, Ailsa Crawford founded the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTCA). Attempts to get the breed recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) were first opposed by the JRTCA because the breed would lose its working characteristics if it gained official recognition.

In 2001, motions to make the Wire Hair Jack Russell Terrier a recognized dog breed began. The AKC created a more specific set of standards for the breed and formally recognized the Russell Terrier in 2012. Therefore, despite being a well-known breed, the Wire Hair Jack Russell Terrier isn’t formally recognized by the AKC. The main difference between a Russell Terrier and a Wire Hair Jack Russell Terrier is that Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers have maintained their working characteristics, while Russell Terriers meet the AKC’s show dog standards.

wire haired jack russell terrier dog going for a walk
Image Credit: Jolanta Beinarovica, Shutterstock

hepper-dog-paw-divider2

Top 3 Unique Facts About Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers

1. Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers were specifically bred to hunt red foxes.

John Russell worked diligently to produce the perfect fox terrier. He bred his fox terriers to be able to go wherever a fox could go. Therefore, Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers are quick and nimble. Their short legs and small size enable them to chase and drive foxes out of their burrows.


2. Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers share a common ancestor with many other terriers.

Many distinct dog breeds have branched from the 19th-century fox terriers. Along with Parson Russell Terriers and Russell Terriers, Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers share common ancestors with Brazilian Terriers, Japanese Terriers, Miniature Fox Terriers, Rat Terriers, and Tenterfield Terriers.


3. There are many famous Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers.

While they may not have formal recognition by the AKC, Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers are a dog breed that’s widely recognized by the general public. Many Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers have made appearances on television and in literary works. Some famous Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers include Arthur from Beginners, Skip from My Dog Skip, and Bothie, the first dog to go to both the North and South Poles.

Wire Haired Jack Russell Terrier dog playing with its toy
Image Credit: evrymmnt, Shutterstock

Does the Wire Hair Jack Russell Terrier Make a Good Pet?

Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers are most commonly found as family pets. Despite their small size, they’re very energetic and athletic. Their friendliness and playfulness make them popular companion dogs for people with active lifestyles. While they’re quite intelligent, they can be challenging to train because they tend to have a mind of their own and can have a stubborn streak.

With that being said, Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers are a good fit for experienced dog owners who have the time to invest in dog training and develop a daily routine that incorporates a lot of exercise and mental stimulation for them. They also do best in homes with a lot of space and a fully fenced backyard. Because of their curious nature and strong prey drive, they can develop a habit of digging, and they can easily clear fences less than 5 feet tall.

hepper-dog-paw-divider2

Conclusion

Wire Hair Jack Russell Terriers are charming dogs that initially rose to popularity as ideal fox hunting dogs. They’ve remained popular over the years and are more commonly bred as companion dogs. While they may not engage as much in hunting, they’re still lively, high-spirited dogs that add a lot of excitement and playfulness to one’s life.


Featured Image Credit: evrymmnt, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database